Michael Mina's Arcadia in San Jose
When I heard that Michelin-starred Michael Mina had opened a steakhouse here at the San Jose Marriott (100 West San Carlos Street, 408-278-4555), I definitely wanted to come give it a try. But rather than taking the red meat route tonight, I zoned in on one of his classic dishes instead: the Whole Fried Chicken with Truffled Mac & Cheese. This wasn't battered fried chicken like the Colonel does. This was one whole bird dunked into hot duck fat and peanut oil, eliciting an evil grin on my face.
It turned out to be a delight to eat, especially since I wasn't expecting to find its thin crispy skin subtly separated from the moist meat underneath. In that sense, it was a bit like Peking Duck; in fact, the entire bird was carved tableside too, but was of course served without the scallion and wrapper treatment. Only afterwards did I realize that the skin separation was achieved by inserting sliced truffles under the skin before cooking - I'm quite surprised that I hardly noticed when eating it (too busy wolfing it down, I suppose), but in retrospect it was very fragrant. Either way, the truffle oil aroma was very pronounced in the delicious Mac & Cheese, making it a great extension and complement to it all.
But I was a bit let down by the duck fat fries that were screaming at me from the menu. Similar to my experience at Hot Doug's in Chicago, I didn't quite find any huge difference in aroma resulting from the use of duck fat; it just tasted like normal fries. I wasn't particularly overwhelmed by our appetizers either: a set of foie gras sliders and even lobster corn dogs. As playfully creative as they were, the pear chutney for the foie gras was a bit too sweet for me, while the minced lobster meat inside the little corn dogs wasn't exactly the solid chunk of lobster tail that I had envisioned.
Well, that chicken was definitely worth coming back for. And yeah, a quick taste of the filet mignon proved to be very tender, so I'm sure that the steak after all would be a good choice. As with most of these posh places though, try to come with someone with an expense account. No doubt this place gets a lot of its customers from the nearby businesses in downtown.