Yes, it’s true. There is another man in my life. He is someone I almost always see every time I go to Las Vegas, which is often. And yes, Goldfarb knows about him. Actually, he has a little man-crush on him, so all is well. If you don’t know about Michael Mina, let me introduce you to a talented chef and restauranteur. Born in Cairo and raised in Ellensburg, WA Michael Mina has become one of my favorite chefs. Bourbon Steak in Scottsdale [oh my goodness, it was delish!], Strip Steak in Las Vegas…but the place that is my favorite is Michael Mina at the Bellagio. Trained at the CIA, he studied on the weekends under Charlie Palmer at Aureole. It is no wonder that he has a knack for perfectly marrying American cuisine with contemporary techniques and flavor profiles. Much of his menu highlights fresh, seasonal seafood which may seem out of place in Las Vegas, but after all, he was one of the chefs responsible for making the city the dining hot spot it is today. The result of all Mina’s imagination and training is magnificent food that is impeccably presented.
I first discovered Michael Mina about four years ago after an afternoon of gaming and cocktails. Hungry and without a dinner reservation at the time Las Vegas’ culinary world was starting to explode could have proven to be a bad combination. But as I wandered into the packed restaurant nestled behind the Bellagio’s conservatory, hoping they’d have some room…anywhere…I was escorted to seats at the beautiful marble bar. A great glass of wine was soon followed by a meal so memorable that today I still pine for that trio of lamb entree. And so I’ve gone back, over and over and over again.
Unlike many of Vegas’ haute couture restaurants, Michael Mina is a relatively small space. Let me rephrase. It is the perfect size and not cavernous. Who wants to go to dinner and feel like you’re just a number on a busy night? Move them in and move them out. Maybe that is why this is one of my favorite places in a city that moves at warp speed nearly 24 hrs a day. Amber lighting, exposed light wood everywhere, open kitchen and immaculate, crisp white linens. It’s a warm, inviting place that serves as a haven from the casino. Wonderful menus, comfortable ambience together with attentive and knowledgeable food and wine service [courtesy of their Master Sommelier]: it’s a culinary trifecta.
Renown chef Michael Mina has a talent for creatively reinventing classics and also presenting familiar ingredients in new, exciting ways. On our last visit, my starter was a the above pictured caviar parfait. Layers of smoked salmon, crème fraîche, lots of osetra caviar atop the most delicious potato cake. It was a little stack of heaven paired with a glass of Veuve Cliquot. But if there could only be one example from this chef of a simple dish transformed into a modern delicacy it would have to be Mina’s signature Lobster Pot Pie. Imagine the most delicate but flavorful lobster bisque riddled with precisely cooked vegetables and tender lobster meat, a hint of brandy and cream all topped with a thin puffed pastry pyramid. I am not a food writer so my words could never do this dish justice. So you’ll just have to try it at either one of his 18 restaurants around the country or in your home courtesy of this recipe.
There are rumors the two-time James Beard Foundation award-winning chef will be bringing his RN74 wine bar restaurant concept to Seattle this spring. I hope the rumors are true. I like the idea of only having to travel a couple of miles to get my Michael Mina fix.