What: American; tapas/small plates Where: XIV by Michael Mina in West Hollywood
Must-Order: Steak sliders; Stuffed Avocado; XIV Grilled Cheese
The Verdict: XIV can be best described as an ideal second date place. A first date here would have your date wondering if eat exclusively at posh, trendy restaurants; but a second date here says you're a classy, fun-loving foodie. At least, that's how I'll describe myself if I ever take a date here. And sure, it'll likely end there, but, what a way to go!
A large establishment with a huge "XIV" sign that you can't miss, the Michael Mina restaurant is located on the northwest corner of Sunset Blvd. and Crescent Heights -- smack dab in the middle of West Hollywood. (So if you meet your date here, neither of you can pretend you couldn't find the place.)
The inside is exactly what you think it would be: elegant, classic, cool and cozy. The menu, a wide range of eclectic offerings, makes for fun topics for conversation. What do you like? Is there any food you dislike? What are pickled cherry peppers? How good could sliders possibly be?
And that is exactly what you need to order: The Classic Steak Burger Sliders ($12 for 3 burgers). The brioche is fluffy, the sharp cheddar cheese is melted just right, and the meat, grilled medium-rare, is thick yet delicate and incredibly juicy. A full bite is succulent, hearty and small enough to keep you wanting more.
My second favorite dish: The Stuffed Avocado ($16). The crisp freshness of the stuffed avocado will immediately transport you to a breezy summer day by the beach. It's stuffed with fresh dungeness crab, lightly marinated in a lime vinaigrette, and paired with crispy rice to give the firm yet yielding small plate added texture. It's a dish I'd order every time I dine at XIV -- and I don't even like avocado. I cringe whenever my girl friend mashes it and spreads it on toast. The only other way I can eat the fruit is when it's guacamole; this way, it's doused with lime juice and garlic, and covered with tomatoes and onions.
And don't miss The XIV Grilled Cheese ($14). Bringing the old-school homemade treat to new heights, small slices of grilled pimento cheese are served with caramelized short ribs and crispy shallots. It's salty, gooey and best of all, substantial.