If you're even slightly tuned-in, you're no doubt aware that Michael Mina is widely regarded for his skills as a chef, most notably with fish and seafood.
But you may not know that he absolutely rocks french fries and onion rings.
No lie, french fries and onion rings, two of the standouts of our recent dinner at Stripsteak at Mandalay Bay. The skillful preparation of them proved why these two simple things -- often deservedly scorned -- have solid footholds in the culinary landscape.
The french fries were a lagniappe, served shortly after we ordered our wine. Fried in duck fat, they had an extreme crispness that sharpened the contrast to their fluffy interiors. They were served as a trio (a favorite Mina conceit) with one portion dusted with smoked paprika and served with barbecue sauce, one served with aioli, the other with homemade ketchup. Servers at Stripsteak point out that entrees are served a la carte, but with a lagniappe as generous as this, that point is easy to argue.
The onion rings were a side dish ($9), and again a generous serving. They were very thinly cut, the flavor sharp, the coating brittle as glass.
But our other dishes were no less carefully prepared. A spinach souffle side ($12) was brought to the table much as a dessert souffle would be, presented with its Parmesan cream sauce in a little pitcher. And, just as in the traditional serving of a dessert souffle, a server broke through the top crust and gently spooned on the sauce. The flavors were of the savory persuasion, but with umami bursting out all over the place, we felt as indulgent as though we really were having dessert.
And while we're on the subject of indulgent: That's not an adjective likely to be applied to a salad of roasted beets and arugula ($16), but it was indeed, owing not only to the two mounds of burrata that anchored the plate but also to the fact that the roasted multicolored cubes of beet had been tossed in a very assertive walnut oil. So had the arugula, and the oil added a lush element to the normally austere green.
Heck, even the bread was indulgent. Served in a little cast-iron skillet, it was a potato focaccia, dense, moist and rich.
With all of this going on, it was fitting that our entrees were somewhat simply prepared. King salmon ($36), with a lemon butter and light sprinkling of herbs, had been left on the wood-burning grill just until it was medium rare, nice and moist and pink inside.
A Kansas City strip ($44) -- a 16-ounce bone-in cut -- was a triumph of Mina's entrepreneurial bent. He uses poaching devices at Stripsteak, so that beef, for example, is poached in butter before being placed on the wood-burning grill. The butter adds a richness that only accentuates the beefy goodness, and what resulted was a tender, very flavorful steak.
Our affable, efficient and nice-all-around-guy waiter brought dessert menus and we gave them a look, but just couldn't muster the enthusiasm. But perhaps another french fry?
Well, why not?
Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.