Chef’s Choice 14-Course Tasting Dinner at Michael Mina, San Francisco

Alright, something to blog about that’s lot’s of fun and very life affirming; just like it should be most of the time. It’s too bad there’s so many distractions caused these days by people who literally don’t value this life and what’s possible in, and everywhere, around it.

We celebrate nonetheless. This was a family event of 11, including my parents. My brother—with important business ties to one of the partners in the  Mina Group of high-end restaurants—made the arrangements.

Beatrice and I have done tasting menus before, wine pairings as well, but this was so damn over the top we talked, laughed, and re-celebrated how damn amazing it was over and over, today.

We got to Michael Mina in the San Francisco financial district just after 7pm last night, after a 90-minute drive in holiday traffic on a Saturday. Kettle One—up & dirty—martinis for Bea & I and the tasting commenced. Here’s their standard tasting menu, but we were served far more & way different (brother arrangements). This is how it went down, in order. Click on images for higher resolution and larger size.


Caviar, potato cakes, creme fraiche. Champagne.


House made tofu (very creamy) & tuna tartare.


Pan seared scallop, dollop of caviar…and I forgot the sauce garnish.


Bluefin tuna sashimi. Various cool garnishes including what seemed like dried squid.


Ahi tuna tartare with the obligatory quail egg yolk. Pine nuts, and a miso consume.


A sort of interlude of crusty whole grain country bread with a ricotta, mascarpone, butter & honey spread or dip, as you prefer.


Bransino (crispy skin) with king crab garnish, radish, and a red miso consume.


Sea bass & seared broccoli with horseradish. Light fish broth.


Abalone, Wagyu beef tortellini, and grilled parsnip in red miso broth.


One in our party came with a bottle of The Macallan—a 25-yr-old. So, it was time for a sipping break, neat.


Lobster, smoked duck breast, and squash purée.


Quail, cauliflower, carrot, and Brussel’s sprout. Can’t recall the sauce.


Japanese A5 Wagyu (the highest possible grade) seared Mongolian style (crispies). Celery root purée, daikon.


By this point, it’s midnight. At table for 4 1/2 hours, different wine pairings with every single dish, leftovers were beginning to stack up.


Light sorbet, tapioca, and seared pink grapefruit (awesome).


Crazy dessert and final taste. Chocolate cake, light and dark chocolate mousse, pan fried dark chocolate, and paper thin green apple.

In all, we were at the table for 5 hours.

I don’t know about you … and I’m quite sure that praying 5 times per day to bad, monotone, A cappella music in dirt-scratching, 14th Century primitive conditions with all the human and social dysfunction implied, is just a really damn fine thing … but I’ll pass.

I truly wouldn’t want to do this all the time or even very often, but crazy and over the top in a most civilized and upscale execution is obligatory now & then.

Go live, celebrate, love…and take time to reflect, laugh, and cry. Hope for the day when those who would destroy that, and the foregoing example of it, have either died by attrition, or been soundly exterminated with purpose of malice.


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  1. James on December 7, 2015 at 08:19

    Looks and sounds amazing, Richard. My wife and I had a similar experience many years ago at the French Laundry in Napa. I’ll never forget it. Here’s to good living.

    • Richard Nikoley on December 7, 2015 at 09:13

      Have not yet done French Laundry but I just got an email from Mike Eades discussing this, and he did that too.

      Also, see his post from years ago about a similar experience at the Fat Duck.

      Another one we did was the 3-Mich-star Manresa in Los Gatos. I think I blogged that as well.

    • Patricia on December 8, 2015 at 10:26

      Ditto on the French Laundry. It’s been ten years and I still dream about that meal.

  2. hello on December 7, 2015 at 08:30

    Hedonism is (mostly) overrated too IMHO.

    • Richard Nikoley on December 7, 2015 at 09:14

      Which is non-sequitur, so fuck off.

      • hello on December 7, 2015 at 12:50

        Fallicious? Ok then. Self flagellation is always overrated. Better?

      • Richard Nikoley on December 7, 2015 at 14:51

        No, and still non-sequitur.

  3. Brian on December 7, 2015 at 08:47

    Did the tasting menu with wine pairing at Fleur de Lys in SF years ago when it was THE fine dining establishment in the city. Your experience looks to be all that and more. Congrats!

  4. Barbara on December 7, 2015 at 11:08

    Family and fantastic food. Looks like it was a great night. Hope there was lots of laughter!

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