About once a year — usually when we’re gearing up for the next edition of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants — we drop by Michael Mina (the restaurant, not the man) to taste perfection on a plate.
These days, the kitchen is being helmed by a young Turk named Benjamin Jenkins, and we’re happy to report nothing has changed in the perfection department; the caviar parfait is still as creamy, crisp and salty as ever, the tuna tartare puts all others to shame, and the rest of the menu — be it a gorgeous, flaky Steelhead trout with English peas, or a lobster tortellini napped with a tangy, citrus brown butter — shows a deep, abiding respect for the character of its main ingredients without ever overwhelming them.
That, my friends, is what seasonal perfection in restaurant cooking is all about, and Mina and his minions get it right just about every time.
The only problem Michael Mina (both the man and the restaurant) has is being taken for granted. Both have been so good for so long (approaching fifteen years in Las Vegas), that they now seem like part of the furniture….if that furniture were hand-crafted, perfectly balanced and finely engineered to obsessive specifications.
His steelhead trout (not pictured) with English peas, pickled radish and ramp butter is case in point. No longer is Mina trying to dazzle diners with cartwheels from the kitchen. Gone on the trios and pirouettes on the plate. In their place is a very seasonal fish, with two other standard bearer for this time of year (ramps and peas) each providing a small accent to the fish and nothing more.
Instead of swamping you with side dish options, here they present but three — foie gras (black) rice, Spring succotash, and rainbow chard — and each is so shot through with savoriness you will forget that they’re supposed to be a supporting player to the star attraction. You’re tempted to call this food simple, but elegant is the right word — one that still describes the dining room (looking great since 1998) and a service staff that hasn’t missed a beat since then, either.
If you haven’t been to MM in a while, you’ll notice the menu has adopted the less is more philosophy, as seven starters and entrees are the order of the day. The signature lobster pot pie remains, but seasonality is the watchword and ingredients are the focus, not ingenious combinations and presentations. Not to take anything away from Mina’s other two joints in town (Nob Hill and Sea Blue), but the everything here just seems more finely tuned — no doubt in keeping with the namesake status of the place. (We are leaving Mina’s Strip Steak and American Fish out of this conversation because one is, well, a steakhouse, and the other rarely misses a beat.)
Michael Mina (both the man and the Las Vegas restaurant), are now firmly of middle age, and all the better for it. It remains a superstar in our galaxy of great eats, and, from the look of things, it should be humming along smoothly for another fifteen years.
In the Bellagio Hotel and Casino
3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109