From a meal before new puppy.
I have known Michael Mina for years. I have many fond memories of wonderful meals at the original Aqua restaurant in San Francisco. One of my favorite dishes was his tuna tartar with diced tuna, pine nuts, pear, sesame oil, ancho chile topped with a quail egg. At Aqua, they mixed the ingredients table side and it was always an A+ dish plus you knew you were in a chef driven restaurant that was all about fine dining. I have also known executive chef, Steven Fretz, for years when he was with George Marrone at Fifth Floor – I remember his pig tail! So this post is very, very difficult for me to write
XIV is the equivalent of fast food masquerading as fine dining. Everything is prepped ahead of time and the “chefs” are just putting the ingredients on the plate or at least that is how it tasted. Hot dishes were an abomination, particularly the risotto.
This is “scene” food, but not done well. At Bazaar (the same SBE group) it was a scene, but the execution was spot on. At XIV, it was an ordeal and I kept wishing for the “old” Aqua.
A word about the service. They couldn’t have been nicer. Christopher Lavin, the sommelier, was terrific. Steven Fretz was cordial and enthusiastic. Michael Mina was in house and as welcoming as ever. But great service and a great welcome just can’t substitute for poor execution.
We did not do chef’s choice as I was looking forward to having some of Michael Mina’s signature dishes that I had loved so much at Aqua.
Naan Bread is served as a bread course with Feta and Fenugreek on top – this was an auspicious beginning and delicious.
Michael’s caviar Parfait – on a potato pancake, a layer of hard boiled eggs, house-cured salmon, chives mixed with creme fraiche and in the interest of economy, topped with American paddlefish caviar – the potato pancake was soggy and the salmon completely overpowered the dish.
See here for original:
Ice Cold Shellfish – At the back, white shrimp panna cotta, Kushi Oster and Alaskan King Crab with orange aioli sauce – excellent course
Close-up of shrimp panna cotta
I don’t have a picture but below is a link to the original.
This wasn’t even close to the wondrous tuna tartar at Aqua. (see above)
Foie Gras Terrine, Cranberry, Cardamom, Greek Yogurt, Flatbread – Good, but not the equal of Manske’s foie at Church and State. Also it was a miniscule portion of foie in relationship to the accompaniments.
White Asparagus, Risotto, Porcini, Chervil, Castelmagno Cheese – This was awful – undercooked risotto – think tiny hard bits of rice.
California Lamb skewer loin, Merquez sausage, Chickpea, Raita – The standout in this dish was the Merquez sausage.
Rabbit – I have no notes on this dish, but remember eating just a bite. I think that speaks volumes.
A word about the concept of having to order the same dish. If I am choosing my own menu and not doing a tasting, I hate having to order “for the table only.” Maybe, you are better off letting the “chef select” from the options of 8 courses, 11 courses, 14 courses or 35 courses. But, overall, I was disappointed. I think I was expecting the precision and finesse of Aqua and it just wasn’t close.