Under the auspices of star chef Michael Mina, SeaBlue’s cuisine is equaled by its sleek and tranquil ambience.
ATLANTIC CITY — It only makes sense that several of chef Michael Mina’s restaurant properties — most notably SeaBlue at the Borgata here in Atlantic City and StripSteak in Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay — are located within sprawling casino complexes.
Because if there is any culinary figure of that stature more willing, even comfortable, taking risks with his cuisine, we don’t know of them. Nowhere did this prove to be more aptly demonstrated than a wine dinner event hosted personally by Mina last weekend at SeaBlue.
His physical attributes — tall and dark with more than a smidgen of George Clooney — contribute to create a charismatic persona, too. This evening, formally titled “An intimate dinner with Michael Mina and wine director Rajat Parr” began with Napa’s Iron Horse vineyards’ Cuvee Michael Mina sparkling wine and passed hors d’oeuvres.
You know you have officially arrived in the world when a wine maker — especially one as prestigious as Iron Horse — creates a proprietary blend in your honor. Bright and light, with vanilla and pear essences, this blanc de blanc — meaning it is crafted strictly from Chardonnay — proved to be an ideal palate opener.
Our first plate of the evening, like everything on the menu, was locally sourced. Marinated scallops from Viking Village brought thinly sliced discs of pure protein. Blessed with an amazing candied grapefruit garnish, the scallops contained just enough citrusy kick to compliment their delicate natural flavor. Avocado and watercress were also scattered carefully, along with tiny dollops of black caviar.
Accompanying this course was a French Muscadet, Domaine de la Louvetrie Sevre et Maine. We’re not typically huge fans of this wine — which takes it name from a “musky” aroma associated with the grape — but this proved to be a lovely, outspoken accompaniment to the raw seafood.
A salad course admirably demonstrated something we’ve been saying for years: that the very best tomatoes don’t arrive until early September. These beefsteak pieces, in both red and yellow hues, were cut into interesting diagonal shapes. A slow-poached farm egg and a round of crisp pancetta sat at opposite sides of the dish. Broken open, that orangey yolk provided a sort of instant dressing for the sweet, late-season tomatoes.
It was served with a Cotes de Provence rose called “Whispering Angel” a wise choice with plenty of lush, berry tones.
We eagerly awaited the fish course, always something special in the Mina world. This poached black bass, from Brigantine, did not disappoint. Presented skin side up, a white fillet sat atop a blend of shaved fennel and rapini (aka broccoli raab). Clean and perfectly cooked, the bass was also served with a crisp, fried oyster. Continuing that theme, an aromatic oyster nage — essentially the poaching broth — rounded out this offering.
We took note of spicing and herbs in that pale-green liquid, Middle Eastern in origin, quietly reiterating the Chef’s ethnic background. A spectacular, smoky chardonnay, from Solomon Hills expertly played against the fish and those seasonings. The night’s most daring creation arrived shortly after. Remember what we wrote earlier about Mina being a risk-taker? This roasted squab duo nicely took the place of a traditional meat course.
Squab, for those unfamiliar, is young pigeon.
Two thick slices of deep red breast meat adorned the right half of the plate. A tiny, absolutely delightful drumstick was positioned to the left. Chanterelles, foie gras, almonds and pickled rhubarb all played stellar supporting roles.
In particular, the tiny stalks of rhubarb, a most underutilized ingredient, stood out. Their vinegary nature played with the rich, red meat like long-lost childhood friends.
The night’s only red wine, Domaine Jean Grivot Vosen-Romanee, was another fine choice for this unusual, gutsy selection. Like those earlier tomatoes, a honey roasted peach dessert reminded that summer’s bounty is nowhere near finished.
Professional kitchens are typically male-dominated environments with higher levels of testosterone than most NFL locker rooms. As a result, we’re always gratified seeing more “X” chromosomes involved.
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