It is hard for me to sit down to a tasting menu — only because I usually want to TRY everything and SHARE everything, so a tasting menu seems like a less exciting option where you are both stuck ordering and eating the same dishes. (You may argue that most tasting menus are the only option at some restaurants, but work with me here.)
Therefore, it is no surprise I can’t take credit for leading the charge to visit The MINA Test Kitchen for “Middle’terranea,” a tasting menu pop-up concept. I’m a complete and total planner with everything I do in life and, this time, the whole evening was out of my control. From choosing the actual destination to the foods brought in front of me, I made no decisions. And I loved it.
Course after course was presented to us. Each was beautiful, but not overly crafted (read: not small portions and no artsy foam or other such nonsense). Served were simple ingredients that were elevated by the cooking technique used and the combinations of unique flavors. I was floored.
The whole concept is a $45 tasting menu with 5 courses, though it really feels like 10 as a few of the courses had multiple dishes or accompanying side dishes. Michael Mina is using The MINA Test Kitchen as a test space where he will work with different partner chefs to test new concepts and feature different menus, rotating a few times throughout the year.
The Middle’terranea meal began with a refreshing basil, white peach and lemon popsicle of sorts. Then a brilliant laffa came out — a flat bread with salmon, red onion, beets and fried zucchini (!). Next was the salatim course with 3 different vegetable salads, featuring a variety of ingredients across the dishes including pistachios, watercress, halloumi cheese, avocado, tomatoes, and toasted sesame.
The third course was probably the best hummus I have ever had. Crispy chicken skins were mixed into the chickpea blend and topped with fried cauliflower for crunch and dried cherries, providing a contrasting sweet taste. Served with fresh flatbread, this was just unreal.
Are you full yet? Main course next. A harissa-marinaed whole roasted chicken. Did I mention there were 3 more sides with this? THREE MORE SIDES. Vegetable dishes of roasted eggplant and cherry tomatoes, smashed fingerling garlic potatoes, and a Moroccan street corn. Yes yes yes.
Dessert. A refreshing mango-infused frozen greek yogurt. The flavor intensity on this was so, so unexpected. Alongside the dish was a toasted sesame mango tarta that was a dry, crispy contrast to the frozen yogurt, pairing nicely.
Stuffed to the brim and very happy (perhaps helped along by the $30 beverage pairing we also opted for), this was honestly one of the best dining experiences I have ever had — in San Francisco and the world at large.
CRAVE: Warm salmon flatbreads and unreal crispy chicken hummus
The romantic interior and tables for two
Welcome to Middle’terranea
Frozen limonana and olive-oil drizzled Tenbrink white peach with sea salt and basil
Warm flat bread with za’atar-cured salmon, red onion labneh, pickled beet and fried zucchini
Heirloom tomatoes, shaved spring onions, crunchy farrow, toasted sesame and coriander blossoms, with a Tahina spicy lime dressing
Watercress, lovage and mint salad with toasted pistachios, Persian cucumbers, watermelon and olive oil-soaked halloumi
Brokaw avocado with pickled hot peppers, summer vegetables, and fried walnuts
Crispy chicken skin hummus with fried cauliflower, roasted garlic, dried cherries and fresh marjoram
A whole roasted, Charissa-marinated chicken
Moroccan street corn with yogurt, feta, cayenne pepper, orange zest, mint and green onions
Smashed fried fingerling potatoes hiding under garlic aioli and smoked paprika
Roasted baby eggplant and slow-cooked cherry tomatoes with sumac, sesame and oregano
Toasted sesame mango tarta atop frozen greek yogurt with preserved lime and cardamom honey
The classy, mysterious bar
Learn more about The MINA Test Kitchen and what menu they are currently featuring on their website here.