At Mineral: Enjoy a Walk on the Wild Side
By Antoinette May Herndon
When Lucy, a Bay Area buddy, came visiting and asked to go some place “different for dinner,” I was forced to put on my thinking cap.
Hmmmm? Animal, vegetable, mineral . . . I’d heard rumours of a vegetarian restaurant called Mineral in Murphys. “You either love it or hate it,” people had said. That sounded a little scary, but Lucy and I are nothing if not audacious and my husband, Charles, does his best to accommodate us.
To three carnivores a vegetarian restaurant sounded pretty darned exotic.
We weren’t disappointed either. Mineral’s interior decoration is almost as original as the menu. It’s a tiny, narrow place with just a few tables and the rest bar seating. You can find its like easily in the city but the ambience comes as a surprise in a tiny gold rush town. I’d say the décor is minimal and modern. Think red banquettes, cool cement floor, exposed stone walls.
Knowing in advance that Mineral doesn’t serve cocktails, we’d stopped first at Murphys Hotel for a round of their excellent martinis, then strolled across the street feeling eager, even a little adventurous.
I can tell a lot about a restaurant by their bread and Mineral is no exception to that rule: Imagine delicate slices of olive oil drenched goodness with vegetable tapenade on the side. It immediately telegraphed the sense that the food at Mineral
is thoughtfully prepared and tastefully served.
Soon it became apparent that chef Steve Rinauro and his wife, Maya, show real creativity with their ingredients and flavours. Presentations are elegant and the food fresh as well as imaginative.
Charles began his dinner with Bouillon of Red Miso and Coconut ($7). It contained black sesame tofu and cilantro shoots. I shared a bit and liked it. Every sip was a tiny explosion to the tongue.
Lucy and I split the Papaya Salad with Vanilla Vinaigrette. It was almost too pretty to eat! The papaya was placed on mixed greens with avocado and little baby pansies. ($12).
Charles then opted for the Mineral Burger ($13) which consisted of Wisconsin cheddar cheese, shaved onions, sweet pickles, Napa cabbage, and herb aioli served on a homemade bun with pickled shitake mushrooms and homemade chips. It did not make a vegetarian of him, but then nothing would.
Lucy chose Indo Pacific Land Scallops ($16) which turned out to be peanut shiracha glazed tofu with pickled sweet corn ragu laced with mango.
My selection was Autumn Beet Risotto ($16), a combination of red and gold beets, Cowgirl Creamery fromage blanc and sautéed cashews. I love beets and found this unusual variation an unexpected treat.
Other entrees on the menu that night included Red Curry Mashed Potatoes ($10), and Red Quinoa Porridge (S10).
We concluded the evening with peanut butter Chocolate Truffles
($8). I’d say that chocolate is one thing that transcends veg-carnivore lines. We all love it and these truffles were great.
Plan on taking your time at Mineral. This is a place to experience the unique possibilities of food while savouring the company of your companions. Lucy and I, having just finished putting on a novel writing workshop, had lots to talk about. Steve and Maya didn’t rush the food out—which is great if you want to talk. I imagine a lot of people get proposed to or at least propositioned at Mineral. Anyway, plan on allowing a couple of hours for dinner; slow down to appreciate a different kind of dining experience.
Also, check out the wine bar which is exceptional. Maya is an excellent mentor.
I would describe the food at Mineral as edible art. It didn’t make vegetarian converts of any of us, but we appreciated the artistry and enjoyed the adventure. It’s easy to understand why this unique eatery is viewed as a hidden treasure by many aficionados.
VITALS: Mineral is located at 419 Main St. in Murphys. Phone: 728-9743. Dinner is served from 5 p.m. until 9 on Wednesday and Thursdays, from 12 p.m. until 9, Friday and Saturday, and from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays. Credit cards accepted.
Maya Rinauro, far right, is a driving force behind Mineral.
Cindy Bond serves it up at Mineral, a vegetarian restaurant in Murphys.