Celebrity Chef Michael Mina’s New Greek Restaurant Opens in SF Here’s a First Look Inside


Celebrity chef Michael Mina’s new restaurant in San Francisco opens on Saturday with the aim of transporting diners to the Greek islands – all the vibrant colors, Mediterranean flavors and fresh seafood flown in from the Aegean during the night.

Estiatorio Ornos a Michael Mina Restaurant is a collaboration with chefs Girair “Jerry” Goumroian and Nikolaos Georgousis, who run the popular Greek restaurant Meráki in Las Vegas, as well as executive chef Daniela Vergara, former executive sous-chef of Trailblazer Tavern. Much of the food is based on what Goumroian and Georgousis grew up eating.

It takes over the old Michael Mina space at 252 California St., and the former Michelin-starred restaurant has been transformed with a brighter, bolder, and more casual look. The neutral color palette has faded in place of crisp whites, seafoam greens, and coral pinks, with small Cycladic-inspired sculptures dotted around. The bathrooms, adorned with Greek myth-style wallpaper, amplify the playfulness. Despite the more relaxed atmosphere, Mina’s team always opts for cuisine worthy of a gourmet restaurant.

High-end Greek restaurants are relatively rare in the Bay Area. The main player, Kokkari Estiatorio, is just a short walk away in the financial district, but Mina’s new 72-seat location has a seafood emphasis.

Chefs Niko Georgousis (left to right), Daniela Vergara, Michael Mina and Girair Goumroian collaborated on Estiatorio Ornos.

Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle

A fish cart, led by what the restaurant calls San Francisco’s first “fish sommelier”, will move from table to table to help diners choose from the fish-of-the-day options, as well as four potential preparations: simply grilled, whole roasted, phyllo- crusted or in salt.

Beyond the fish section, the full menu covers traditional Greek dishes like the whipped feta known as tirokafteri ($ 12) and other spreads; a simple Greek salad ($ 19); and grilled lamb chops ($ 56).

There are also more creative preparations. A moussaka ($ 34), traditionally a casserole of meaty eggplant topped with bechamel sauce, goes vegetarian with wild mushrooms instead of lamb. A spinach salad ($ 16) is reminiscent of spanakopita, the puff pastry pie with cheese and spinach. It starts with a puree of goat cheese and spinach, then is topped with a herb spinach salad and crispy crouton-like phyllo pieces.

While the Estiatorio Ornos focuses on seafood, the San Francisco restaurant also serves classic Greek meats like lamb chops.

While the Estiatorio Ornos focuses on seafood, the San Francisco restaurant also serves classic Greek meats like lamb chops.

Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle

Goumroian said he generally wanted to focus on simplicity and the right Californian ingredients – “teaching local fish to speak Greek,” he said. “Emotionally, we want that flavor of grandma’s house. “

In addition to these plates to share, the restaurant will also offer a tasting menu, but it will not be as formal as the former Michael Mina. Some dishes will be served for individuals, others for the table, with the possibility for the guests to select their ideal fish. Considering the fluidity, there is no number of courses or fixed price, but Mina says it will likely be around $ 95 per person.

Estiatorio Ornos takes over the former Michael Mina space in San Francisco with a light and airy aesthetic.

Estiatorio Ornos takes over the former Michael Mina space in San Francisco with a light and airy aesthetic.

Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle

The redesigned space sports white plastered walls, coral velvet banquettes and draped pillars, with the aim of channeling Ornos Beach on the party island of Mykonos. Mina hopes this will come to life at night, with people flocking for a casual drink at the bar or an all-out group dinner, as opposed to the leisurely tasting menus from the previous iteration.

In this sense, the chef seeks to capture some of the energy of Aqua, the restaurant he opened in the same space 30 years ago that has made him a household name in San Francisco. After winning several James Beard Awards, he has operated more than 40 restaurants nationwide, including Pabu Izakaya and International Smoke in San Francisco. His restaurant group is known for opening up ambitious and vibrant restaurants that combine high-end cuisine with thoughtful interiors.

“I thought I wanted to do a timeless design,” Mina said. “Now I think things can go through an evolution. I’d rather have the pop, the excitement of something that you will absolutely remember.

The bar at Estiatorio Ornos is decorated with coral accents.

The bar at Estiatorio Ornos is decorated with coral accents.

Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle

The bar will focus on a blend of Greek and Californian wines, as well as Greek spirits like ouzo, the anise aperitif, and mastiha, a sweet pine liqueur. In addition to cocktails, there are some intriguing seltz for designated drivers. Achladi ($ 16), for example, contains fermented pear and jujube as well as herbs like cardamom and Thai basil.

For those ordering the tasting menu, there is a wine pairing option that specifically highlights Greek wines as well as a reserve pairing focused on rare vintages.

Here is an overview of four dishes.

Greek spreads are a perfect way to start a meal at Estiatorio Ornos, according to the owners.

Greek spreads are a perfect way to start a meal at Estiatorio Ornos, according to the owners.

Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle

Tasting of lives ($ 38): For Mina’s team, the Greek spreads are already so perfect they didn’t want to interfere. They recommend that groups start with a tasting of five spreads: tzatziki (garlic and cucumber yogurt), hummus (chickpeas brightened with lemon), melitzanosalata (charred eggplant dip), tirokafteri (whipped feta aged in cask. garnished with grilled peppers) and taramosalata (lemon fish roe dip). The restaurant is also planning to unveil a dedicated roving cart for spreads and pitas, but it won’t be ready on opening day.

Marinated tuna is one of the raw preparations at the Estiatorio Ornos in San Francisco.

Marinated tuna is one of the raw preparations at the Estiatorio Ornos in San Francisco.

Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle

Marinated bigeye tuna ($ 21): After the spreads, the next section of the Estiatorio Ornos menu is devoted to raw seafood. Here, the squares of tuna are brightened up with touches of lime and dressed at the table with an unexpected flavor: pistachio oil. “The clean simplicity is really what makes this food,” Mina said.

Grilled octopus is a Greek classic from the Estiatorio Ornos in San Francisco.

Grilled octopus is a Greek classic from the Estiatorio Ornos in San Francisco.

Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle

Grilled octopus ($ 19): Any good Greek restaurant should serve a version of this classic octopus and bean pairing, according to chefs at Estiatorio Ornos. The grilled octopus arrives with charred and smoky edges on giant beans, capers, red onions and a basin of quality olive oil.

Lemon promises to be an Instagram favorite dessert at the Estiatorio Ornos in San Francisco.

Lemon promises to be an Instagram favorite dessert at the Estiatorio Ornos in San Francisco.

Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle

The lemon ($ 12): The most visually striking dessert, Lemon is essentially a sponge cake filled with a potent lemon jelly. It is covered with a cookie crumble flavored with vanilla for added texture. Goumroian said it was a closer ideal as it is “perfectly balanced between sweet and tangy, and refreshing”.

Estiatorio Ornos at the Michael Mina restaurant. Opening Saturday. 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. 252 California St., San Francisco. michaelmina.net/restaurants/estiatorio-ornos/estiatorio-ornos-san-francisco/

Janelle Bitker is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @janellebitker

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