Restaurants Now: 54 Mint, Miroir, Coda

A spin around the world reveals a positively transporting Italian job in San Francisco, the neighborhood bistro of our dreams in Paris, and a Melbourne restaurant that pairs Asian tradition with modern Aussie style.
54 mint

San Francisco: 54 Mint

54 Mint, helmed by Alberto Avalle of New York City’s Il Buco and chef Salvatore Fraterrigo, sits on a corner of Mint Plaza, or piazza, as I came to think of it by the conclusion of my refreshingly real Italian meal. Having missed the lunch rush, we were greeted warmly in the sparsely populated dining room (a black and white marble bar dictates the palette upstairs; downstairs evokes a wooded wine cellar). The caprese salad, a litmus test for Italian restaurants, was superb—a basil-scented heap of sweet organic heirloom tomatoes topped with slices of impeccable Fior di Latte mozzarella. A swift grating of tuna bottarga created a surprising foil to the creaminess of the cheese, a glimmer of umami in each bite. But the pastas were the real standout, particularly the housemade trenette with Sicilian pesto: long noodles generously coated in a sauce of equal parts basil and tomato and studded with coarsely chopped almonds. The paccheri al baccala, large tubes of perfectly al dente durum pasta filled with pieces of cod and whole green olives and doused in a spicy tomato sauce, was also wonderful. We had no room for dessert, but we ordered it anyway and were delighted with the rustic ricotta pound cake. I emerged, feeling, for a moment, transported to Rome as I gazed up at the Neoclassical façade of the Mint, backlit by a pure blue summer sky. 16 Mint Plaza, San Francisco (415-543-5100, —Fanny Singer

Paris: Miroir

It’s a sunny Saturday in Montmartre: Children scamper around the merry-go-round on the Place des Abbesses, their giggles and chatter filling the air; a trumpet player works the crowded café tables along the rue Yvonne le Tac; and the rue des Martyrs, which stretches uphill through two arrondissements, is packed with people out to enjoy the street’s boutiques and little restaurants. The smart, or lucky, ones will end up at Miroir. It’s a small, casual place, hung with red and black cartoony abstracts and lots of miroirs (mirrors)—the neighborhood bistro you wish your neighborhood had. Miroir was opened last fall by Sébastien Guinard, a former chef at Alain Ducasse’s Parisian bistro, Aux Lyonnais, along with that establishment’s sommelier, Mathieu Buffet, and Buffet’s partner, Charlotte Dupuy. The pedigree shows. Guinard gets just about everything on his daily blackboard menu right: generous slabs of homemade duck terrine, moist and delicious; langoustines, barely cooked and bathed in lemongrass cream, that taste fishing-village fresh; juicy patte bleu chicken with woodsy morels and a couple of irresistible little “sausages” made from chopped mushrooms and chicken giblets; pig’s feet boned, thinly sliced, and fried until crisp; confit leg of lamb with a whole garden’s worth of perfect vegetables; wickedly dense chocolate mousse. Prices are fair, too: about $35 for two courses, about $45 for three, with a glass of wine (the list is small but savvy) and coffee thrown in. 94 rue des Martyrs, 18th arrondissement, Paris (01-48-06-50-73) —Colman Andrews

Melbourne: Coda

The name might suggest an ending, but Adam D’Sylva—a young chef who has long been one of Melbourne’s culinary it-boys—is really just getting started. At Coda, recently opened off the hipster highway of Flinders Lane in the city’s heart, his menu explodes with Asian flavor and modern Australian wit. Vietnamese and Thai (and to a lesser extent Japanese and Cantonese) elements rule here: Consider the yellow curry of roast duck with lotus root, or the “crisp parcel” (let’s call it a spring roll) stuffed with bone marrow, ginger, shiitakes, and rice-paddy herb. But D’Sylva’s enthusiasm crosses cultural bounds, as shown by his the inclusion of San Daniele prosciutto and a steak tartare with quail egg, mustard cress, and caper Melba toasts. Quality drinks flow thick and fast: It’s all good, clean, vibrant fun, carried off with the kind of aplomb that’s hard to resist. 141 Flinders Lane, Melbourne (03-9650-3155) —Pat Nourse

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