Thursday, February 5, 2009

Birthday Celebrations... keep 'em comin'!

by Xani

My birthday is tomorrow.  "The Big 3-0," as everyone keeps calling it... and they use this weird, somber tone when they say it.  They're just trying to freak me out, right??  I expect that tomorrow morning will be just like every other morning, except for WAY better because it's my birthday and I love birthdays!  This probably stems from my childhood-- as a kid GENIUS I started kindergarten a year early, at four years old.  This meant that growing up I was always a year younger than all my classmates, and so all through school I was the last to reach various "landmark" ages: 16, 18, 21.  When I would whine about this my Dad would tell me "but you'll be the last one to turn 40," a thought which I still relish.  But I don't want to think about 40, yet.  The point is that, since I was always last, it was always important to make a big deal about my birthday-- parties, presents, and of course, fabulous birthday dinners.




And 30 is no exception.  As you might recall, I already took one trip to Vegas last year to celebrate 30 with some of my closest girlfriends, where we dined at the fabulous L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon.  But another trip was in the works, to celebrate not just my birthday, but also BCD Mom's (January 25) and BCD Great Uncle Sheldon's (January 21).  So we packed our bags, made our reservations and headed out to Vegas, Baby!

While many, many meals were eaten on this trip, the immediate BCD family wanted to do one meal, just the four of us, to celebrate.  Much research was done, and we finally decided to dine at Michael Mina, in the Bellagio.  Mina has several restaurants in Vegas, with his namesake restaurant being the most upscale and formal, and has a reputation for doing amazing things with seafood.  So our first night in Vegas, we headed over to the Bellagio to see what it was all about...


We were seated in the lovely, understated dining room.  It didn't have much of a "theme," other than simple and classy.  A signature cocktail or two later, and the meal began!  Michael Mina offers a selection of different five-course tasting menus, and we decided to ordered two each of two different kinds (The Cookbook Tasting Menu and The Seasonal Tasting Menu), rotating dishes half-way, so that we could each try 10 total dishes.  This behavior is not unusual for us, and the Michael Mina staff seemed happy to accommodate us.  We also went with the wine pairings for each course-- so get ready to get loopy!


The meal began with a delightful amuse bouche of lobster bisque and a selection of yummy breads.  And then...


First course:
Cookbook Tasting Menu

TARTARE OF AHI TUNA

SESAME OIL, TOASTED PINE NUTS, GARLIC, CHIFFONADE OF MINT

Seasonal Tasting Menu

NANTUCKET BAY SCALLOP CEVICHE

COCONUT, KEY LIME, MINT
 

What a way to start the meal!  Both of these dishes were great first courses-- bright, flavorful, good texture contrasts, and not too heavy.  The tartare had a small "performance" element where the servers, in unison, mixed all the elements together on the plate during service (this was a theme at Michael Mina).  It was also one of the best tuna tartares I have ever had.  I rarely order this over-exposed dish, because it's usually so predictable and boring.  Not so this time-- great flavors, textures, a little heat and ridiculously fresh, high-grade tuna. 

The ceviche was also a hit-- acidic, spicy, and bracing, it really got the palate going.  If I have to eat scallops, this is how I want to eat them (or just straight up RAW).

Second Course:

Cookbook Tasting Menu

MAINE LOBSTER POT PIE

BABY CARROTS, FINGERLING POTATOES, BLACK TRUFFLES

Seasonal Tasting Menu

POACHED MAINE LOBSTER 

SWEET POTATO CRÊPE, THAI COCONUT CREAM


So lobster pot pie is Mina's "signature" dish (and the full-size version, a la carte, will run you 78 bucks!!  I'll explain why in a moment), and we couldn't miss it.  Luckily it showed up on the cookbook tasting menu, and so when the second course came around, two mini-versions were set down in front of us, and two servers, in unison, cut the pastry tops off the souffle dishes they were served in, gave us a quick peek inside, and then replaced the rounds of pastry on top.  Then we DUG IN.  What's not to like about lobster pot pie?  Big chunks of lobster meat, rich broth, potatoes, truffles, and pastry.  Yum!  (We saw several other tables get the full-sized pot pie-- it was served in a much larger dish and contained an entire lobster and had a much more elaborate presentation where the servers deconstructed the pot pie and then REconstructed the lobster on the serving plate-- in unison!)  As good as this dish was, I'm gonna say it right here, I think I could do better!  The lobster could have been more tender, the sauce thicker (this was more like of a soup-like consistency), the pastry flakier.  I think I see a new challenge for Kitchen Stadium...!

Another thing that hurt the pot pie experience was the butter-poached lobster served as the second course of the seasonal tasting menu.  This was SO GOOD.  The texture of the lobster was just unbelievable-- then again you could probably pach my shoe in butter and I would gobble it up.  The crepe and the thai coconut creme/foam were subtle and just perfect with that sinfully rich lobster.  Our only complaint was that there were one or two bites of this dish that had something very vinegar-y/acidic, almost like a pickle.  It was a total shock and did not fit with the rest of the gentle flavors on the plate.  But every bite except for those-- heaven.


Third Course: 

Cookbook Tasting Menu

MISO-GLAZED BLACK COD 

SHIITAKE CONSOMMÉ, SHRIMP AND SCALLOP RAVIOLI

Seasonal Tasting Menu

POTATO CRUSTED JOHY DORY 

‘CHIPS ON FISH’, TARTAR SAUCE, VIDALIA ONION PUREE


 


These dishes must have been my least favorite because I remember the least about them.  I recall that the miso-glazed cod was better than I expected, as I have had some sickly-sweet versions of that dish, and this one was nice and light.  The John Dory-- total blank.  Maybe I'm just not a fish person-- unless that fish has a shell and/or is served raw?

Fourth Course:

Cookbook Tasting Menu

AMERICAN ‘KOBE’ RIBEYE

ROSSINI, SEARED FOIE GRAS, SPINACH, PINOT NOIR SAUCE

Seasonal Tasting Menu

BLACK OLIVE POACHED LAMB 

RICOTTA CAVATELLI, CERIGNOLA OLIVE JUS


Alright folks, prepare to be shocked.  Here we are at a nationally renowned fish restaurant, and we get to the meat course... and the meat. is. Un-freaking-believable. So good.  SososososoSOOO good.  We were absolutely swooning.  The beef was like the best steak you can ever imagine, and topped with the rich, soft, indecribably foie gras... it was off the charts!  And as good as that was, the lamb was... better??  I don't know, it was pretty close.  SO tender, not gamey at all, just melt in your mouth flavor.  Micahel Mina may be a fish guy, but I'm tell you, the man knows his meat.  Next time I'm in Vegas, I'm going to Stripsteak!

Fifth Course:

Cookbook Tasting Menu

TASTING OF MICHAEL MINA DESSERTS

MINI ROOT BEER FLOAT, BUTTERNUT SQUASH CAKE, CHOCOLATE POT DE CRÉME

Seasonal Tasting Menu

CARAMELIZED FIG BREAD PUDDING 

ORANGE, FIVE SPICE, WHITE PEPPER, AMANTILLADO SHERRY 

and

TOMME CRAYEUSE (cheese)

PARSNIP, FENNEL, CHERVIL 




Dessert-- I don't know if I was just completely sated at this point, or if these desserts just didn't do it for me.  Probably both.  I'm super-picky about desserts and none of these are the kind I really drool over, so they were all just ok (although the mini-root beer float was pretty fun... so tiny!).  The cheese was yummy.  I think I was just DONE with food at this point.  But overall it was a really, really great meal.  A little different than what I would normally pick (see my comment re: Stripsteak) but fun, fancy, and delicious nonetheless.  It's always a treat to celebrate with my wonderful family.  Happy Birthday Mom and Happy Birthday to ME!!!


 

Even MORE Birthday celebrations coming SOON!!

X

4 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday to all! A nice meal with family is the best way to celebrate.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love your descriptions and having shared a meal recently with you, I can even better feel the experience.

    Your comments on the things you didn't like hit a chord with me. I know I'm on the cheap side but whenever I pay top dollar for a meal at a place like this, it bugs the hell out of me when things come in anything less than great. I think it is especially worse because we all can cook.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Happy Birthday Xani
    Great to read about such a tasty sounding celebration.

    ReplyDelete
  4. 3 Researches SHOW How Coconut Oil Kills Belly Fat.

    The meaning of this is that you literally burn fat by eating coconut fats (in addition to coconut milk, coconut cream and coconut oil).

    These 3 researches from big medicinal magazines are sure to turn the traditional nutrition world upside down!

    ReplyDelete

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