Vegetarian Decadence at Michael Mina

While Megan and I were in Vegas relaxing at the end of our Southwest tour of hiking and mountain biking, we had made plans to celebrate both our 3 yr anniversary and Megan’s birthday at Michael Mina.  We chose his Vegas restaurant that is located in the Bellagio hotel because they offer a 5 course vegetarian tasting menu.  The atmosphere was very relaxed but the service was exquisite and prompt. It was one of those fine dining experiences where the wait staff just seems to sense that you need something without you having to ask.  In addition to the tasting menu we purchased the wine pairings to go along with each course. With the pairings you had a choice of the regular (R) or the premium (P) selections, so Megan and I got one of each to share, so we had the opportunity to taste more wines.


So unfortunately I forgot my camera when we went to the restaurant so I don’t have pictures of the fabulous food presentation but below is the menu and the wines that we received with each course. It was pretty cool, with each pairing the sommelier came out and told us about each wine and why it was paired.


1st Course – White Crane Ranch Lettuces with Ellie’s Reserve Blue Cheese, red wine poached apples and hazelnuts. The blue cheese was done in a foam along side the greens while slivers of the poached apples lay hidden beneath the salad waiting to be discovered. I like salads but am not usually a huge fan, but this was a damn good salad and it went beautifully with the wines. The wines that were paired with this course were the 2007 Huia Sauvignon Blanc (R) and the 2005 Leeuwin “Artist Series” Riesling (P). Both had nice levels of acidity that complimented the salad with the Riesling being more complex and layered with a longer finish than the Sauv. Blanc.


2nd Course – Fava Bean Cavatelli with porcini mushroom, brown butter and shaved summer truffles. The dish was served piping hot and was rich without being too rich.  All the ingredients blended perfectly together, no single one was overpowering, but all were present in each individual bite.  The wines for this course were the 2006 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis “Vieilles Vignes” Burgundy (R) and the 2004 Arnaud Ente Meursault. Again both wines went perfectly with the dish. The Arnaud was a little bit more rich and fuller bodied with slightly less acidity, but both had great pear, apple and almond flavors and were capped with loads of minerality. Of the two the Meursault was my favorite with the dish and was an excellent Chardonnay.


3rd Course – Artichoke Souffle with Parmesan Cream, Pickled Baby Artichoke.  The soufflé came with a little table side service, always a nice treat. Two waiters brought out our plates that the soufflé, pickled artichokes and the parmesan cream were all on and set them down in unison. Next the waiters, again in unison, cut a small tunnel into the soufflé and proceeded to pour the hot parmesan cream into the soufflé until it bubbled out of the top. I think this was probably my favorite dish. The soufflé had a nice crispy top and was exotically rich with the cream that infused each bite. Paired with this dish were the 2006 Dopff & Irion Pinot Blanc (R) from Alsace and the 2005 Albarino Lusco (P).  Both wines had a nice acidity that cut through the richness of the creamy dish and had clean crisp minerality that went well with the often difficult artichoke. The Albarino was different than most I have had with this one being more full bodied and layered, but still had a great acidic backbone.


4th Course – Roasted Vegetable Pot Pie with Braised Fennel, Baby Carrots and Gold Beets. The pot pie also had table side service that was done in unison. After it was set down on the table, the waiters simultaneously cut a perfect circle out of the top of the pie and set it just off to the side of the top giving you the opportunity break off a perfect piece of crust with each bite.  The pie was bottomless as the crust was just over the top of the ramekin and was chock full of rich veggie goodness.  To go with the pie which was technically our entrée, we had two Pinot Noirs to work with.  First was the 2006 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley (R) and the 2002 Domaine Bertagna Vougeot “Clos du Perriere” (P).  These two wines were both excellent but you could really tell the dramatic difference between an old world and a new world Pinot Noir.  The Bethel Heights was more fruit forward with hints of fresh herbs at the finish while the Clos du Perriere was more earthy and good funky up front with darker fruit across the mid palate and great green bean notes at the finish. Both went great with the dish and both were great Pinots in their own resepect.


5th Course – Trio of Michael Mina Signature Desserts – This was fun because instead of getting one dessert we got to taste three.  They were all really delicious and there was just enough of each to make you decision on your favorite but still wanting just one bite more.  Our three selections were the warm chocolate cake, coconut panna cotta and a mini root beer float.  Our favorite was the panna cotta!  To pair with this we both got the same wine, it was the Fonseca 20 Year Tawny Port. Surprisingly to me it went well with all the deserts, even the root beer float.  It was a great Port, very rich with caramel, cola nut and almond extract flavors. A great way to end the meal.


Although that wasn’t technically the end, we each had a cup of coffee while we sat and tried to decide which was our favorite dish and I think for both of us it was the soufflé. The entire meal was a perfect progression both in the food choices and in the wine pairings.  The meal was definitely expensive, the most expensive meal that Megan and I have ever had, but it was definitely the most exquisite dining experience that we have had to date.  It sucks you have to pay an arm and a leg to get ridiculously good service and food, but I am sure it pricey for restaurant owners to have multiple people waiting on 1 single table.  If you want to have a special dinner and a great dining experience I would highly recommend this restaurant the next time you are in Vegas, especially if you are a vegetarian.




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Richmond Vegetarian Update

Last Thursday I went to TJ’s at the Jefferson for my mother-in-law’s birthday for the first time. I was very excited to go as I have ogled at their unique vegetarian and vegan entrees they’ve had on their menu for quite some time. Unfortunately when we sat down, we were disappointed to see that TJ’s has changed their menu to include a total of ZERO vegetarian entrée choices. Although they did have some great veggie appetizers, I don’t recall anything vegan. The waitress felt very bad as just an hour before we had looked on the website to refresh our memories of what options we had waiting for us, an now we had almost nothing. The chef was able to create a nice trio of vegetables with brown rice for us that was quite tasty, which in addition to the nice goat cheese stuffed plum tomatoes and roasted red pepper terrine was all in all fairly filling. In addition, their wine list is decent with good selections and reasonable prices, and for desert, the pear tart was simply fantastic.

So unfortunately fellow Richmond vegetarians, TJ’s is no longer a place to go for a slightly upscale vegetarian meal.

The former chef Jannequin Bennett is now the executive chef for Ellwood Thompson’s, so her cuisine is not gone, it has just changed locations. Also, as of Monday the TJ’s menu now reflects the correct (new) menu.


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