The rotating playlist of hits keep coming out of the Mina Test Kitchen, with the latest incarnation, ~POSTCARDS FROM LA COSTIERA~, paying homage to a culinary research trip chef Adam Sobel took all over Italy with Michael Mina last year. Like earlier MTK pop-ups, it’s a prix-fixe and family-style menu ($59) that you book in advance on Resy (served Wed-Sat), and you can add supplemental dishes, cocktails, and wine.
The menu opened with one of the best bites I’ve had in ages: a warm zeppole topped with the creamiest burrata, red onion, lemon, and a hearty scoop of Osetra caviar. It was like Italian blini. They should offer you the opportunity to double down (I’d gladly pay for a second hit).
The crudo section had some of the most tender “tagliatelle” of cuttlefish, with pomelo, fried onion rings, a little hit from the Calabrian citrus brodo (Sobel and his crew always season things just so), and a scattering of dehydrated squid ink and leek ash on the plate.
At this point, I was having severe pangs for Italy in the summer. There is a definite disconnect with this sunny, seaside food and the rainy weather outside (and the candlelit cavelike dining room—even though they did try to lighten things up by painting the walls). But in the end, I’ll take it—it’s a welcome blast of sunshine vibes from the country that knows how to do coastal summer REALLY well, even though you’ll have to reluctantly wriggle back into your wool coat when it’s all over.
For the pasta course, I say go for the housemade spaghetti alla chitarra with Manila clams and spicy broccoli—I couldn’t quite justify the $19 supplemental charge for the agnolotti di granchio (Dungeness crab), now $24, even though they were gorgeous little pillows with luxury ingredients like truffle and uni. With this menu and vibe, I recommend sticking with the classics.
The main course is roasted wild fish, and the perfectly grilled red snapper with Livornese sauce (tomato, fat capers, and Gaeta olives in an onion soffritto) was the move; we asked the kitchen to choose for us—another option was wild black bass, or a supplement of lobster or steak. Based on the pics I am seeing of the lobsters they are getting in, that wouldn’t be a mistake.
No matter what, do not miss the side dish of the patate croccanti con bottarga—roasted and smashed potatoes are fried and served with Tuscan herbs, and the umami-salty punch from the bottarga shavings take it to the next level. The crispy and blistered texture is unreal, a true homage to the magic of potatoes.
Dessert is their version of tiramisù, although I’m a traditionalist when it comes to this creamy sexytime dessert and I want those ladyfingers soaked in espresso and not crispy like they were here. The star for me was the exquisitely fresh satsuma they served at the very end, which is delivered fresh daily. Almost all Italian meals end with fruit, especially when you’re at someone’s house, so it was a very personal and sweet touch, and a touch of Chez Panisse as well.
The wine pairings from the different seas (Ligurian, Adriatic, Tyrrhenian, Sardinian) feature all my favorites, like arneis and pigato and vermentino. You can go for it and have pairings for $40, or have fun with all the by-the-glass options. Postcards from La Costiera is running until the end of February, and will then be replaced with their next concept, so pop by while you can for a little trip to the seaside. Buon viaggio!