Michael Mina is one of America’s most prolific high-end chefs, with more than 30 restaurants across America (and one in Dubai) running the gamut from upscale steakhouses (Bourbon Steak) to Japanese izakaya (PABU), from global-inspired barbecue (International Smoke) to traditional brasserie (Margeaux). But only two of his restaurants are called simply Michael Mina, and they’re his flagship fine-dining temples in San Francisco and Las Vegas. We had the opportunity to visit the Las Vegas location inside the Bellagio at the invitation of the restaurant, and it affirmed why exactly Mina is one of the country’s most respected fine-dining chefs.
The restaurant itself, which recently underwent a renovation and re-conceptualization, is located right off of The Bellagio’s whimsical art-filled foyer, and the dining room is bright and spacious, with a large display of fresh seafood on ice. As this bounty might imply, the restaurant is seafood-focused, with an emphasis on super-fresh seafood prepared using creative, global-inspired techniques. This approach is best exemplified in his Market List menu, which boasts a variety of hot and cold shellfish platters, a selection of crudos and toasts, and three unique whole fish preparations: applewood-grilled with heirloom tomatoes and shaved fennel; ginger- and scallion-broiled with bok choy, trumpet mushrooms, and fermented black bean; and spice-crusted and deep-fried, served with bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, Thai basil, and coconut green curry. Fish options include Arctic char from Norway, madai from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market, Mediterranean branzino, Montauk black bass, and Kona Kampachi from Hawaii.
A large group can order off of only the Market List menu and be very happy, but there are two additional menus: à la carte and a six-course Signature Tasting Menu. We opted for the tasting menu, which provided an ideal variety of signature Michael Mina dishes and new creations. And from start to finish it was a spectacular meal, timed out perfectly and served with finesse by our skilled waiter.
After a couple stunningly creative and delicious cocktails (try the Passionate From Miles Away, a mixture of gin, passionfruit, orange, lime, and Thai basil served in a whimsical blowfish-shaped glass (above); and the Red Skies at Night, with Maker’s 46 Bourbon and lemon, and topped with creamy passionfruit espuma), the meal started with a simple amuse-bouche of lemon meringue with a smattering of spring vegetables, a light and refreshing way to get the meal started. The first course was Mina’s signature Caviar Parfait, an elegantly layered dish of potato pancake, deviled egg, smoked salmon, crème fraîche, and a generous topping of caviar. As a New Yorker, it hit lots of familiar notes for me; I could eat this for breakfast every day and be seriously happy.
Up next was an ahi tuna tartare prepared tableside; it was tossed with mint, pine nuts, Scotch bonnet peppers, and sesame oil, and was essentially the highest-end poke you’ll find anywhere.
Next came phyllo-crusted sole, served atop mustard beurre blanc and king crab brandade and topped with a quenelle of crème fraîche and a handful of pea shoots. The phyllo gave the fish a crispy, flaky crust, the beurre blanc lent a hit of bright acidity, the brandade was full of fresh crab flavor, the crème fraîche added creaminess, and the pea shoots added a vegetal note; this was one spectacular piece of fish.
Next came another signature Mina dish, his lobster pot pie. A pastry crust was removed tableside to reveal a luxurious mélange of spring vegetables, mushrooms, herbs, and several large chunks of lobster in a creamy lobster stock-based sauce; an ample amount of shaved truffle perfumed the proceedings nicely. This dish is a centerpiece of several of Mina’s restaurants (it’s also served here in a large format), and it’s no wonder why: it’s about as high-end as it gets, and it’s infinitely adaptable as the seasons change. It’s also insanely delicious.
The final dish was a bit of classic steakhouse fare: a slice of wagyu ribeye, perfectly cooked to medium-rare, served with a potato pancake, creamed Bloomsdale spinach, and a hunk of seared foie gras, topped with an umami-rich demi-glace and truffle-laden sauce Périgourdine. This course really put the meal over the top; after so many seafood-centered dishes, such a perfectly-executed and luxurious beef dish was icing on the cake.
But there was still one more course to go: dessert. A thin pastry of black sesame and walnut was topped with sliced mango and finger lime and served with frozen Greek yogurt. The crust was the only misstep of the meal — its sesame flavor overpowered the rest of the dish (and wasn't helped by a jet-black swipe of tahini), and it was nearly impossible to cut through without a sharp knife — but by no means did it put a damper on the meal.
If Michael Mina is going to put his name on a restaurant, you know he’s got to stand behind it. And in a high-end dining capital like Las Vegas, the end result has to differentiate itself from the pack. This restaurant definitely holds its own, and our meal there was easily one of the best we’ve had in the city. For a fine dining experience, I'd recommend it without reservation.
Dan Myers is the Senior Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. To keep up with his eating adventures, follow hin on Instagram @sirmyers. The meal that is the subject of this review was provided at no cost to the writer.