michael mina's XIV in west hollywood
8117 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
since moving home to l.a. i am often asked what my favorite restaurant is, and each time i say, i haven't found it yet. when i was living in l.a. back in 2000 i really didn't have the luxury or time to eat my way around the city because i was taking care of my mom, who had cancer, and of course my dad and the household. so eating out wasn't my priority...it was all about my mom.
so now that i am back, i am on a mission to find the best food possible, ranging from mom & pop places, trying a variety of cuisines, pizza, burgers, fine dining, comfort food, desserts...basically anything and everything! if i haven't made it clear...i am in love with food and i am going to travel where it takes me to eat the best of something, anything.
so my next fine dining experience was in west hollywood at michael mina's restaurant - XIV. i often frequented his restaurant in vegas, but as the years went by, so did the food and i stopped eating there because the food just started to suck for a lack of a better word.
dine l.a. was extended another week, so my foodie and wine friend greg and i needed to set up a meeting about food and wine, so what better place to do this? reservations were made, we arrived on time and were promptly seated. we got an early seating, 6 pm. i am really glad we started early, because as we perused the menu, and let me just say, greg didn't even bother to look at the dine l.a. menu and went straight to the wine list first, then the regular menu. they also had a vegetarian menu which i thought was really thoughtful to people who don't eat meat.
then our waitress gloria came over and told us about the different tasting menus available to us also. 8 courses, 11 courses, and 14 courses. hmmmm...what to get. 3 courses for $44 or 11 courses for $88...you do the math! 8 more courses for twice the price! that was an easy decision! but what really pushed us towards the tasting menu was that we were able to pick each of our courses...how cool was that. so our original 3 course dinner now because this lovely 11 course dining experience. i was excited and smiling like the chesire cat! i was starving and ready to eat.
compliments of the chef, naan with feta and greek yogurt...
eaten together it left you wanting salt, the feta and yogurt didn't have much flavor at all. finally when we ate the naan by itself, we finally got that hit of salt we so desperately wanted. we had 11 courses coming, so i didn't want to fill myself up with this.
course I - heirloom beets, burrata, wild arugula, aged balsamic, new olive oil...
i loved how they presented all our food in its own little tray. these beets were slowly roasted for 24 hours and they were cooked beautifully. the dark red beets had the most flavor...but they were all delicious. burrata is a fresh mozzerella mixed/soaked in cream so it has a very soft texture that is spreadable. it is so light and fresh, it does need be salted when you serve it and when you close your eyes, you can taste the cream in this cheese. i love well cooked beats, and this is a dish that i would eat anytime. the aged balsamic brought in just a bit more sweetness. the combination of everything worked really well together and was a delight to eat.
course II - hamachi sashimi, pickled straberies, grains of paradise, green onions...
i don't typically mix my savory foods with sweet things like fruit, but this was very unique and i thought the flavors worked really well together. you might be wondering, what is grains of paradise? i didn't know either, so i will give you a brief summary and you can read up on it more from the link below. it is found/grown in the swampy areas of the west african coast and is referred to as a "cheaper" version of black peppercorns. it is said to be closely related to cardomom, but it still has that peppery flavor.
when i ate it, i thought it was black peppercorn but was wondering why i wasn't getting that really spicy peppery feeling you normally get, and neither was my eating partner, greg. we kept saying, wow...even with all these peppercorns and scallions, the predominant flavor we both keep getting was the taste of the fresh hamachi. the pickled strawberries also added just a hint of sweetness but didn't overwhelm the palette with sweetnes. i didn't get any tartness which i would've assumed when i see the word pickled, but it all the flavors were really well balanced and while still allowing the taste of the fish to shine through. i really enjoyed this dish.
course III - sweet corn soup, pork belly, apple cider, cilantro, sea salt...
i wasn't fast enough to get the picture before our waiter started pouring the soup...so i got one in mid pour on the second bowl. so light it looks like a cream soup, but was super light and frothy looking at first.
this was made from fresh corn, because i could taste the little bits of minced up kernals and it was just apparent in the flavor. this soup was so light that it left me wanting more. more corn, more body, more depth, more flavor...you get the idea. so as i'm tasting this soup and wishing for more flavor, i had high hopes before i put one of the two little chunks of pork belly into my mouth. i thought perhaps, they kept the soup really light because the pork was going to give this dish that salty punch it so badly needed. the pork belly was very tender, but sadly, lacked much flavor. the cilantro was a nice burst of flavor...finally! some flavor! i told the waitress, "so far of the first three courses, this is my least favorite..." another reason why i am so thankful we are doing the tasting...i would have picked this as my appetizer and i would've been incredibly disappointed.
course IV - sea scallops tempura, cauliflower, passion fruit, edamame, almonds...
the coloring on this scallop is perfect, but it wasn't crisp to the bite like you'd think it would be. they did cook the scallop perfectly in the sense that it was so tender and juicy. i actually thought they used cashews versus almonds, i guess my palette was totally off! i liked the crunch of the nuts, and i actually didn't get any strong flavors from either the cauliflower or edamame. i couldn't taste any of the passion fruit glaze which really should've brought a nice tart acidity to the dish...but i didn't get it.
my least favorite part of this dish was the tempura "balls". so sad, because i love anything fried, but it tasted like grease...grease that has seen better days and should be put out to pasture, never to fry another piece of food that people would ingest. it was so heavy tasting that i thought perhaps it was the strong grease taste that wasn't allowing my tastebuds to get any of the passion fruit. that is possible! this dish was good, but not a super stand out dish, because i had forgotten about it when we were on our seventh course or somewhere around there.
course V - tai snapper, tapioca-crusted, broccoli rabe, white soy vinaigrette...
this was sitting on a crispy rice cake, a spicy red pepper sauce, scallion, black sesame seeds and fried ginger. just from the ingredients i have already described you can tell that this is very asian inspired. while we were eating this, i didn't know that it was crusted in tapioca and could not really taste it. there was something chewy in the texture of the fried fish...and when i see a fried piece of fish like this, i automatically think that i want it to be light and crispy.
the spicy red pepper sauce tasted like roasted red pepper blended with some cayenne or sirracha, but it didn't have that distinct sirracha taste. the crispy rice cake was ok, and mine was soft on the inside, but it also soaked up whatever broth was on the bottom of the dish. my favorite element on this dish was the fried ginger...i felt like it livened up the fish and was a key element in making this dish pop. this particular dish was too reminescent of asian cuisine that i eat so often, thus my palette wasn't blown away by something new and different.
course VI - tataki of american wagyu skirt, moroccan spiced vegetables...
i don't know about moroccan spiced vegetables, but they tasted more like just plain pickled vegetables. the meat, so beautifully cooked and seasoned. this was seasoned in a variety of moroccan spices (secret tho) and then grilled. do you notice how simple this dish is? just meat and the veggies. the best thing about food is knowing how to season it, find the perfect compliment and serving it simply.
this meat had the perfect amount of spice that was perfectly paired with a colome malbec 2007 from valle calchaqui salta, argentina. wow! what a terrific recommendation gloria! everytime i hear that name, that song pop's into my mind. when you had a taste of the meat which had a bit of heat to it, the wine brought out and enhanced the seasonings of the meat and just a perfect combination. even with the pickled veggies, which was awesome with the meat, especially the onions! all of it worked so well with the wine. thank you gloria! i am not doing this dish justice...this was one of my all time favorites of the night. "simple" but not really because of all the spices used, the meat was cooked perfectly and was so tender. there was not one knife on our table at any time, so everthing was fork tender. loved this dish! if i could have giant steak of this and have all those pickled onions chopped up and eaten together.
the view from my seat...
course VII - piedmontese filet mignon, padron peppers, creamed corn, chanterelles, onion ring...
on a porcini mushroom sauce and a touch of chipotle (at least i got that smoky flavor). the creamy corn soup was nice, it almost seemed like the chopped up the corn so they weren't full kernals. the chanterelle mushrooms were huge slices, so meaty, earthy and wonderful. the padron peppers reminded me of shishto peppers, and when i took a bite into my first one it had some heat! and i told greg, but he thought i was crazy because his weren't spicy at all. finally i gave him a bite of mine and it totally hit him...i felt better, i'm not crazy as he thought. well...that's debateable. haha
back to the pepper... and my palette...i totally eat spicy foods so i KNOW spicy! haha the second one wasn't spicy at all. the beef was tender, loved the crispy little onion ring, and of course eating the combination of everything except the pepper was great for me. greg and i were discussing how the pepper was the one ingredient that seemed to be out of place...but that alright. it was still enjoyable.
course VIII - prime ny steak - kobe short rib, figs, arugula, horseradish, hazelnuts...
you already know how much i love short ribs, so both greg and i were totally looking forward to eating this dish. it looked beautifully cooked, it was very tender, easily breaking apart with our fork, had a nice amount of sauce laddled over it...man, i was ready to eat it. and then i put that little forkful into my mouth and closed my eyes, ready for the party that was about to unleash on my tongue. and then...nothing. what?! *eyes popping open...nice and big like i have graves disease big* i tried dipping it into everything on my plate to add more flavor! please dear God, how can this tender piece of meat have absolutely no flavor? who seasoned it?! did they fall asleep or walk away for a minute and then return only to forget they never salted it?! why didn't they taste it?
we were severely disappointed. nothing was helping this dish...and you know how i knew i was beyond unhappy and devastated with this dish...i didn't want to pick up my fork and continue eating. there was nothing pulling me to put another bite in my mouth...except for one thing...guilt. to leave that much of the dish uneaten. oooohhh...that makes a chef wonder...what the hell?! so i tried to eat as much as i could but then...i had a surprise arrive! woo hoo! move over tasteless kobe shortribs!
quick note, the malbec did not pair well at all with this dish.
well hello again course VI - tataki of american wagyu skirt. yeah baby! just what the doctor ordered to revive my tastebuds!
wait, why are you seeing this again?! well, the g.m. Jacob, was walking around and talking to all of the patrons and he came to ask how we were enjoying our food...and since i'm just a demure and undemanding eater, i told him how much i loved the tataki and would love another one! *shaking head* i know...so not subtle. i was just expressing my love for that dish...and he was so sweet and brought us another tasting of it! so really, we had 12 courses. so good...i think these were the end pieces so they were cooked a little more than the first ones we got, but still so flavorful and spiced...i ate it all!
course VIIII - xiv cheese selection, explorateiur, queso romero, st. maure. spanish cheese whose rind has been washed with pork fat...hmmm pork fat... sorry...i got lost in my thoughts.
on the far right is a little fried artichoke heart (artichoke confit), romesco sauce, the shredded cheese, green onion sprouts (?) and port sherry vinegar reduction to sticky, glossy state. this is a sheeps milk cheese, dry, nutty but not at all overpowering in flavor like goat cheeses. it was so interesting to have the little artichoke confit in romesco sauce and the finely grated cheese. dipping a forkful of cheese in the reduced port vinegar was lovely and brought a hint of sweetness but not overly by any means. the malbec still went well with the cheese too!
course X - nutella custard, popcorn ice cream, toast streusel, passion fruit foam, nutmeg financier and a little piece of toffee...
an you say fabulous dessert?! greg who is not a big dessert guy loved this dessert as well! so i'm not just some crazy chocolate freak. this was not overly sweet, the popcorn ice cream was fun and interesting...you get a hit of sweet and salty! i liked that. breaking a little piece of toffee, spoonful of nutmeg financier and a scoop of custard and ice cream....ahhh...a mouthful of a heavenly flavors and textures! this was so delicious. something else i might wake up dreaming of. hmmmm another stand out dish. denice...you gotta try this one too!
michael's classic rootbeer float, warm chocolate cookie...
the intense root beer flavor was great. warm chocolate chip cookie...who doesn't love that. the only down fall of this dish...it was served right after we ate the nutella custard. wow...there is no comparison. this was totally anti-climatic after eating the custard which was filled with so many flavors! so even though this is a fun one...it should be served first and then followed by the nutella custard. this will give everyone the chance to fall in love with the float as well. i have had this many a time from his other restaurants but today it didn't have that same spark it used to give me. so if you get this stuff...drink the float first then get the nutella last!
i hope i dream about eating this again tonight. hmmmmm....
there are super dishes and ok dishes, but overall, we had excellent service, thank you gloria, g.m. jacob's generosity, thank you so much for the extra tataki and just a terrific evening. the food was really good...and this is somewhere that i would definitely come back to again. so far in my search for fine dining restaurants, this is the best place i've had so far. but remember, i haven't had that many out here yet...so we shall see how it fairs as i continue to eat my way through southern california.
i thinks its worth getting the 11 course meal...i'm full but i don't feel like a stuffed pig.
i hope you find this blog helpful. but just to let you know, i have a friend who recently went and had a completely opposite experience and i am sad that that happened to him and his party. but all i can relay to you is what i went through and i hope that if you do go, you will have the same great experience i had.
i just took some lunesta and perhaps i should proofread this more, but i'm just going to post! so sorry for the typos and stuff!
till tomorrow...good night! dang it! its already after 3am!