Now that Michael Mina has moved into the old Aqua space, I got a chance to dine there the other night. For Mina fans, it's a true second coming. You should have overheard the reverent foursome at the next table over from me who practically passed out when Mina, the man/the legend, walked over on water to greet them.
And though there was a whirlwind of activity going on around me (the servers might be wearing jeans and a bottle of self-serve water might be set on your table, but that doesn't mean the old tableside service is over), I became particularly fixated on the beautiful plates.
Turns out, they've commissioned local artisans to do the tableware. No more Royal Doulton china. The Mina Group has clearly become hip to the Heath trend that's become almost ubiquitous at more casual restaurants around town.
My favorite of all the plates were solid ones made of off-white porcelain made from California earth (no less) by Jered Nelson who has a studio in old gas station Berkeley. The ones the former South Dakota native did for Mina have a Heath simplicity to them. They also speak to the Japanese aesthetic Mina is trying to bring to the table. Nelson has also made plenty more for Mina, from cups to bowls.
Nelson's studio is open to the public on Saturday and Sundays from 12 to 6 pm. Also, mark your calendar for Nelson's holiday studio party from 11 am to 6 pm, Saturday, December 4. (2720 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley)
Although his website is being updated right now (it doesn't all reflect the style of tableware he's made for Mina), should you want to do a little shopping, click here. Expect much more on the Etsy site soon.