Bruce Hill’s grilled quail.
A gaggle of chefs who had all worked in Michael Mina’s (and George Morrone’s) kitchens over the years, starting at Aqua twenty years back, gathered last night with an army of sous chefs and helpers — we hear there were about 60 people in the kitchen, give or take — to fete chef Mina and his two decades in the business. Many of Mina’s friends, fans, and fellow chefs were in the dining room, and though Mina didn’t give any direction to the chefs cooking the seven-course meal, the majority of the dishes created for the occasion were sweetly nostalgic, pointing back at trends from the 80s and 90s when Mina was first coming up in the culinary world.
The dishes were all modern in some respects, but between Chris L’Hommedieu’s colorful presentation of an uni-avocado-caviar parfait, and Ron Siegel’s rack of lamb with Genovese pesto and confit tomato, we couldn’t help but feel like this was a menu that pointed backwards with a certain playfulness, and affection. We’re not trying to say the whole thing felt dated, by any means, just that diners were treated to a procession of plates that shared a collective respect for flavors and presentations from days gone by, back when everything was still stacked vertically on the plate, and pesto was still a novelty.
Proceeds from the dinner went to All Stars Helping Kids.
Earlier: Alums of Michael Mina’s Kitchens Return to Fête Him at October 9 Dinner
Mina posing for the paparazzi with Denise Hale
For each course, diners received alternating dishes at each table – so each diner only got one of each of the two dishes, prepared by two chefs, for each protein/course.
The first course following canapés: caviar. Here was L’Hommedieu’s uni and avocado panna cotta parfait, with caviar and a Meyer lemon chicharrone.
Caviar & Chilled Sunchoke Veloute toasted shaved hazelnuts, chive creme fraiche, and potato crisps
Baby Abalone escabeche, cucumber, buttermilk, hushpuppies
Spot Prawn Tartare olive consommé, citrus caviar
Dayboat Scallop & Hudson Valley Foie Gras smoked matsutake broth, kabocha squash, and a spiced duck dumpling
The dish will be featured on a special $125, seven-course 20th Anniversary Menu, available at Michael Mina throughout the month of October.
Hudson Valley Foie Gras & Grilled Ahi Tuna potato shallot cake, Bloomsberg spinach, Portabella Pinot Noir reduction
Wolfe Ranch Quail corn pudding, chanterelle escabeche
Grilled Quail erbette chard & butternut squash bread pudding, figs, vin santo
Watson Farm Leg of Lamb roasted fennel mash, chanterelle mushrooms, black mission figs
Rack of Sonoma Lamb confit heirloom tomato, Genovese basil pesto
French Butter Pear honey, almond, elderflower, rosehips
Inverted & Smoked Apple Tart bourbon, buttermilk, and hazelnuts … kind of more amazing than it looks.