Best New Restaurant (Very Expensive) - 2005
Michael Mina, in a lush room in the St. Francis, is the big-news opening of the year, with a tricky concept sure to intrigue and annoy foodies: A three-course seasonal menu, with many choices offered for each course, presents you with an ingredient-based variation on a theme. It's ostensibly three dishes per course, but in practice, each dish is complemented with a "garnish" so carefully conceived that you'll find six different constructions vying for your attention. An example: a first course of three preparations of roasted foie gras, each paired with its own exotic fruit, and garnished with three smaller servings of poached foie gras à la torchon. (The three-course menu, which also includes an amuse-bouche with three variations on the theme of lobster and a post-dessert offering of tiny ice cream bars -- only two kinds, for some reason -- runs $88 a person, with $15 or $20 supplements for a few luxury items, such as the foie gras and Kobe beef.) There are also two seven-course tasting menus at $120 each -- a seasonal one and another devoted to such Michael Mina classics as ahi tuna tartare and Maine lobster pot pie -- which relieve you of the burden of making choices. Wine pairings are available from the dazzling 1,600-bottle list.