The Other Tale of a Vegas Restaurant

The second big dinner was at Michael Mina at Bellagio with H.o.P.  The ambiance was definitely typical of most fine dining establishments, and considering we kept hearing about the hard economic times taking a toll on the Vegas restaurant business, it was relatively busy.

The big debate for my family was deciding which Tasting Menu to choose from. It was a $30 difference between the Cookbook Tasting Menu and the Seasonal Wine Series Tasting Menu. A typical price range for a 5 course meal, but some may consider the $78 menu being a bargain. However, upon closer inspection, the $108 looked way more appetizing and ultimately was what we all ordered. Compare tartare of ahi tuna, lobster pot pie, miso-glazed black cod and kobe ribeye to yellowtail sashimi, shellfish canneloni, grilled duck, and tenderloin of beef. What would you pick??

As expected from high dining restaurants, we started the meal with an amuse bouche, corn panna cotta with tomato gelee. It was delicious and a nice little way to start. Hopefully, it was a sign of things to come.
I absolutely love tuna tartare, and generally speaking, you would think it’s a pretty simple dish to make with minimal chance of messing it up. Unfortunately, this dish did not quite live up to my expectations. It seemed promising with the smell of sesame oil and garlic. There was also some pinenuts and bits of mango maybe. However, once everything was mixed together, it ended tasting pretty bland. It was unfortunate really. Although it wasn’t bad… I can’t say it was really good either. It was definitely a below average execution of tuna tartare compared to what I’ve had in the past.

Next came the lobster pot pie. There was probably more show in the presentation of this dish as they rolled out the cart with all the pot pies and then proceeded to remove the crust covering of each pie. The pie crust was not very memorable, but the lobster inside with the broth and black truffle mushroom was fantastic! It was definitely the high point of the meal up to this point. The broth was flavorful and creamy, but not terribly heavy which was good. The lobster might have been a teeny tad bit tougher than I would like, but the combination of the broth and truffle really minimized that aspect. I slurped every bit of it up.
Everyone seems to do a miso-flavored white fish of some sort, either sea bass, Chilean sea bass or cod. They taste very similar for the most part, but I think the cod is a little bit less fatty in comparison to the other white fishes. It’s not really a bad thing, because ultimately, it’s the miso part that really makes the dish. In this case, I thought the broth and flavor was rather bland. It really needed a little bit more of a punch. The mushrooms and soba noodles were a nice addition, but unfortunately, the overall dish was not as appetizing as I have had at other places. I have to say that following the heavier lobster pot pie dish, this contrasted nicely in offering a lighter flare in the meal.
The last main course of the night was the Kobe ribeye which was served over a bed of creamy polenta and a nice juicy piece of seared foie gras on top. My goodness, this dish definitely felt like it was clogging up the arteries, but it brought the taste of the meal back up. The kobe meat was tender and well cooked, but the addition of the foie gras really brought the flavor to a different level. I definitely enjoyed it, despite the fact that my belly was on the brink of bursting by this point.
Desserts have never been my favorite part of the meal, and this menu went and served us a sampling of 3 mini desserts.
The cheesecake was okay. It was a coconut-flavored one, and for those of you that I know, I really don’t like coconut, especially those flakes of it that always goes on desserts.

The root beer float and cookie was okay too. Again, for those of you that know me, I also don’t like root beer either, so here is another strike against this dish. The strawberry panna cotta was probably the better of the 3 samplings, but unfortunately, I didn’t have a close up picture of it.

I’m never a fan of these candies and treats that they always give you in the end. It just tastes like old Xmas candy that you get in those tin boxes or something. These were not memorable and not really worth talking about, but I put them up for completion.

Considering that Michael Mina is a 1 star Michelin-rated restaurant, I was pretty underwhelmed with this outing. I’m not sure if I would go as far as saying I was disappointed, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a decent restaurant. I think considering the price and reputation, I expected to be wow-ed a little more. I have heard better things from his San Francisco outpost. Admittedly, I’m not as excited to try it out after this dinner, but maybe one day I will give Michael Mina another try.

PAFO Ratings for Michael Mina at Bellagio:
Price 4 ½ stars
Ambiance 4 stars
Food 3 stars
Overall rating 3 stars

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