So you're planning a trip to Las Vegas. You've got a nice big chunk of change burning a hole in your wallet. How can you spend it, other than gambling and shopping of course? Why, there's restaurants — and have I got the place for you. Call the Bellagio hotel and casino and make reservations at one of the finest dining establishments in Sin City.
Enter through the Bellagio's lobby and walk through the world-famous botanical gardens. At the end you'll see a restaurant tucked in the back called Michael Mina. The sister restaurant to the critically acclaimed one in San Francisco, Michael Mina is an opportunity that those who appreciate fine dining and have a fat wallet must not miss.
The decor is simple but elegant, as you can see in the photograph. It's a relaxing atmosphere, and you forget that you're in a hotel with hordes of noisy tourists outside. The dress code is business casual, though it's not strictly enforced. I wore very dark, dressy blue jeans and a nice top. I noticed that some of the male diners wore sports jackets over both T-shirts and dress shirts.
The excellence really begins with the service. When you walk in, a hostess warmly welcomes you and walks you and your guests to your table. Immediately after, your waiter appears and greets you by your last name, and proceeds to describe the specials of the evening. The sommelier then approaches your table to help your party choose a wine. Throughout the course of the meal, you and your guests are well cared for, as your waiter and other servers attend to your every need.
While the decor and the service are wonderful, what really makes Michael Mina shine is the food. Check out the sample menu selection on their web site. One cool aspect of the menu are the "Signature Trios", which are sample platters with a specific theme for all three courses. My party and I didn't partake in any of the Trios, but judging from what we saw at the other tables, they looked pretty darn good. Another feature that Michael Mina's offers are the themed menus, such as the Ocean Beach Menu, or the Vegetarian Tasting Menu. Admittedly I don't recall seeing all of these features on the menu that night I was there, so perhaps these themes are seasonal.
Although we didn't order from the Signature Trios or the themed menus, I'd say that we did pretty well with our choices. In my case, I ordered the Dungeness Crab Tortelli as an appetizer, followed by the Maine Lobster Pot Pie, and topped it off with the Old Fashioned Root Beer Float for dessert. As an extra bonus, the four of us split a half-order of Roasted Hudson Valley Foie Gras.
Let me just say that everything I had was absolutely, positively delicious. The tortelli was al dente, with a light cream sauce that wasn't overpowering. I was pleased that I didn't find any little crab shells, which can sometimes happen even at a nice restaurant. But I have to talk in great detail about the foie gras, which was outstanding. I'm used to having foie gras in very small, cracker-sized portions, but at this restaurant they bring out this shiny copper dome on a wooden cart. All eyes in the room fell upon the cart and our table, as the server lifted the dome to reveal a monstrous 10-inch slab of foie gras. We gasped. And to think that this was the half serving! The foie gras was perfectly roasted and tasted so buttery sweet, served with caramelized apple rounds and toast points.
The Maine Lobster Pot Pie is Michael Mina's specialty, and if you have the money, it's a dish not to be missed. All four of us ordered it and to be honest, I almost didn't. I'm not a big fan of pot pies in general. I definitely don't like chicken pot pie, because most of what I've had are so boring — little bits of chicken and some vegetables in a dish covered with a crust. Whoopie. I expected the lobster pot pie to be the same. I'm glad I changed my mind, because at Michael Mina, they put an entire two-and-a-half-pound lobster – shells and all – inside the pot!
Furthermore, they don't just dump the whole thing in front of you. There's a full presentation involved. Like the foie gras, the lobster pot pies are brought out on a cart. The waiter carefully cuts out the crust and places it on your plate. He then removes the lobster parts one by one and reassembles it on top of the crust. Finally he arranges the vegetables around the lobster and pours some of the divine, black truffle enhanced sauce over everything. It's a beautiful sight, and I wish I had taken a picture of it. It was superb. I couldn't eat everything on my plate, but I sure as hell finished the sweet, succulent lobster.
Of course we had to have dessert, even though we were so full that we could barely breathe at that point. Since everything we'd had was so rich, we decided on something light, hence, the Old Fashioned Root Beer Float, another house specialty. While the root beer float itself tasted like a normal root beer float, the chocolate chip cookies that came with it were warm and chewy — yum!
Needless to say, this was a very expensive meal, in the high three digits. I'm glad I didn't pay for it! But it was so worth every penny, not just because of the quality, but because you get a whole lot for what you pay, in quality and in portions. It's rare for a restaurant to excel in all three courses of the meal; usually they have one weakness. In the case of Michael Mina however, all three courses were delicious. And in terms of the portion sizes, you don't feel cheated when you dine at this establishment. I've been in so many nice restaurants where I feel that the amount of food you get doesn't justify the price. In this case, you will walk out stuffed to the gills. In fact, next time we go to Michael Mina, we've decided to forgo the appetizers and split a lobster pot pie between two people. The foie gras we're definitely getting again!
Michael Mina is open seven days a week, 5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. For reservations, call 877-234-6358.