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Big tastes on little plates at Mina's XIV


For months, anyone who's driven by the northwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards has seen the construction. Finally, the wraps are off to reveal the latest restaurant from Sam Nazarian of SBE and in-house French uber-designer Philippe Starck (Katsuya, Katsuya, Katsuya -- yes, all three of them). This one -- called XIV -- was custom-built for Michael Mina, the San Francisco-based chef with a slew of restaurants in California, Vegas (of course), Miami -- and even one in Mexico City.

XIV is quite the glam newcomer. Starck's decor is meant to evoke a chateau -- Louis XIV's, one presumes. I love the topiary in front spelling out the Roman numerals of the name.

Inside, crystal chandeliers hover over the bar. Mirrors and gewgaws clutter mantels. Servers are everywhere, though explaining the concept takes a bit of doing. Your waiter may tell you that, as opposed to tasting menus, XIV features "social dining." The distinction isn't obvious.

Everything is small plates (and probably smaller than anything you've encountered since the last gasps of nouvelle cuisine) and $8. That's $8 times the number at the table: Everyone is required to eat the same dishes, making for some lively negotiations over what to order.

For our table of four, white ruler-shaped plates arrive grouped as a foursome on a silver-handled platter. Each of us removes a dish, eats his or her three bites and places it back on the tray. The plating is elegant and some of the dishes startlingly delicious. Salt-and-pepper big-fin squid features the tender, sweet seafood with ginger-accented glass noodles. Ice-cold shellfish -- an oyster, a bite of sashimi, a miniature shrimp panna cotta -- is a lovely tease too. And fat lardons of crispy pork belly scented with orange will leave you longing for more.

Eight to 14 dishes (remember, that's per person) is about right, says our waiter. We did eight. You can also allow the chef to decide on a light eight-course menu, or a heftier 11-course or 14-course option culled from items on the regular menu. And for foodies who really want to put a big notch in their belt, there's always "the gamut," i.e. everything on the menu -- all 35 courses -- for $250 per person. So that no one is left out, the kitchen also turns out vegetarian and vegan menus on request.



XIV by Michael Mina

Where: 8117 Sunset Blvd., L.A.

When: 6-11 p.m. Sun.-Wed., 6 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Thu.-Sat.

Price: Selections $8 each per person. Tasting menu: eight courses, $55; 11 courses, $75; 14 courses, $95; 35 courses, $250; all per person.

Contact: (323) 656-1414,

-- /guide

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