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Michael Mina’s Trailblazer Tavern, which opened Dec. 3 inside San Francisco’s Salesforce East Building, carries you away to the islands the minute you step into the 72-seat mezzanine dining room, with its free-standing lanterns, topographic map-like flooring and ohana vibes. If they pumped plumeria through the vents, you’d swear you were on Maui.
The restaurant, a collaboration with James Beard-nominated Hawaiian chefs Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka of Honolulu’s MW Restaurant, is massive by San Francisco standards, with more than 200 seats divided among the mezzanine, bar and wrap-around dining room. This is Mina’s 10th Bay Area restaurant and the husband-wife duo’s first outside Hawaii.
THE VIBE: You enter the main dining room under a carved inscription: “E komo mai, e noho mai, e ‘ai a e, wala‘au.” It means “Come in, come sit, eat and talk.” And on the second night of business, that’s exactly what this lively post-work crowd is doing at the white and teal bar. Colorful tropical cocktails are in hand, and there’s lush, green foliage everywhere. Natural trellises and woodwork draw the eyes up to a bright mountainous island mural.
THE FOOD: The menu is divided into Pupus & Dim Sum ($12-$16), Raw Bar ($11-$18), Salads ($11-$17), Sea ($21-$39), Land ($25-$42) and Noodles & Rice ($8-$15). Our favorite for sharing: Spam Musubi ($14), a yolk-topped, mochi-crusted, super-savory smoked pork arabiki meatloaf. We also loved the King Crab Sunomono ($17), with its oversized discs of hearts of palm, sliced Persian cucumber and macadamia nuts, and found the Vegetable Poke ($11), a mix of baby tomatoes, long beans and slivered shishito peppers, surprisingly loaded with flavor.
A NOD TO COCKTAILS: Brian Means’ artful, evocative drinks ($14 each) deserve kudos, especially the Mr. Pickles, a blend of aperol, coconut cream and lime, and the HRS 5-7.5, made with Plantation Pineapple Rum, mezcal, passion fruit, papaya and pineapple. It’s named after the aloha spirit law on the books in the state of Hawaii, which says that citizens and government officials are obliged to conduct themselves in accordance with the aloha spirit.
DON’T MISS: Karr-Ueoka’s desserts ($9 each). She’s known for Coffee & Cream, an update on Hawaiian shave ice featuring rum panna cotta and Vietnamese coffee ice cream, but the standout is her Tropical Creamsicle Brulee, made with layers of lilikoi sorbet, dragon fruit, pineapple and haupia tapioca pearls. It’s the signature treat at MW Restaurant and it tastes like you’re there.
DETAILS: Open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays for lunch and 5 to 10 p.m. for dinner Monday-Saturday at 350 Mission St., San Francisco; www.michaelmina.net.