It's always fun to see what SF star chefs are doing abroad, so to speak. We recently checked out Michael Mina's newest outpost, XIV, on a bustling corner of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. While the design by Philippe Starck is an uncommon marriage of modern and French chateau (a nice play on the name, which derives from this being Mina's fourteenth restaurant), the food is classic Mina mini-portions, taken to the next level.
We're all familiar with Mina's themed trios: one stellar ingredient given three different treatments. Here he expands the concept to a complete menu of tasting courses. You can order however many you like, and each arrives on tiny plates, one for each person at the table. Yes, that's right, you and your tablemates must negotiate, compromise and agree. Mina offers a vegetarian option for every course so there are no excuses.
This produces a long, drawn-out dinner that fuses an intimate social experience with an introduction to haute gastronomy. I swallowed nearly a dozen of Mina's offerings, and I can tell you not to miss these: the bay scallops tempura, the chilled lobster tossed with potatoes and chestnuts, the carpaccio wrapped around slivers of Romaine hearts summer-roll style, and the pumpkin dumplings in brown-butter sage sauce, each containing a stewed cherry buried inside.
There's more of course, but that's just the point: Mina has made it so that you can have exactly what you want—as long as you concur with your friends, of course—just two or three perfect little bites before it's gone and the next little miracle arrives.