EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 26. MICHAEL MINA


Originally opened as Aqua, this was once all about expensive things that swim—whole lobes of foie gras, caviar tastings, lobster pot pies—and wine prices that would choke a horse.

Gone are many of the trios (and their exotic presentations) that defined Mina’s style for over a decade. In their place is something akin to comfort food, made with the best groceries, and plated beautifully. The new Michael Mina is less of a wallet-bender but no less beautiful than it’s always been.

Through it all, some things have remained constant. The Tony Chi-designed room is as sleek and elegant as it was in 1998, and there’s always top talent at the stoves (these days Ben Jenkins helms the kitchen). But this is now a leaner and meaner Michael Mina—a place that serves top-flight food at prices that don’t intimidate.

Of the seven starters and mains currently offered, and only half of them are seafood. Those wanting to splurge can do so, but you can make a beautiful meal out of a platter of hamachi crudo, followed by a truffle-stuffed Jidori chicken, or enough braised pork short ribs to feed two, and still feel like you’ve actually gotten a bargain.

As good as they are, we now go here for the classics: ahi tuna tartare (mixed tableside);  miso-glazed sea bass; American Wagyu bib eye “Rossini” — topped with Hudson Valley foie gras in an ethereal pinot noir reduction; butter poached, and pastas that take a back seat to no Italian in to”Rossini:” Crispy Quail With Harissa; Milk Shakes And Cookies.wn. If you leave without having Michael’s Root Beer Float and a candy bar or two, you will really be missing something.

Max Jacobson says: “The kitchen here is still accomplished and innovative, and the staff, still spearheaded by longtime General Manager Jorge Pagani, rarely misses a beat. From start to finish, a meal here is orchestrated with grace and skill, the way a symphony orchestra plays a tone poem. The roasted-beet salad is a brilliant starter; Mary’s chicken is the best roast-chicken dish on the Strip, and the Wagyu beef New York strip is as flavorful a steak as you’ll find in the city.”

Favorite Dishes: Roasted Beet Salad; Hamachi Crudo; Tartare of Ahi Tuna; Lobster Pot Pie; Miso-glazed Chilean Sea Bass; Butter-Poached Lobster; Truffle-Stuffed Chicken; Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli;Dungeness Crab Tortellini; Rib Eye.