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Situated in a grand post-1906 earthquake building on California Street, Aqua is located in the heart of San Francisco's bustling Financial District. At Aqua, owner Charles Condy and Executive Chef Michael Mina have joined forces to redefine dining and to pay elegant tribute to the flavors of the sea. The contemporary American design, combining a relaxed yet elegant ambiance, has set the stage for Chef Mina's imaginative menu.

Since becoming the Executive Chef of Aqua, Michael Mina's intensely flavorful and creative seafood cooking has earned him a reputation as one of the nation's most influential and respected chefs. Embracing a straightforward approach in coaxing lusty flavors from California's seasonal bounty, this young chef continues to capture hearts and palates of diners and critics. His culinary skills resulted in his designation as the James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Chef in 1997, and other prestigious awards have followed.

Aqua, 252 California Street, San Francisco, California. 415-956-9662.

Warm Asparagus and Morel Salad

This dish is perfect as the first or second course to any meal. Preparation time: 1 hour Cooking time: 30 minutes Yield: 8 servings

48 asparagus spears Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup balsamic vinegar 2 heads frisee

8 ounces morel mushrooms 1 to 2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon butter, plus 1 teaspoon to warm 'A cup olive oil asparagus

1 Peel each piece of asparagus 2 inches from the top to the base (you won't need to do this if you're using young, thin asparagus). Cut each spear, leaving a 3- to 4-inch tip. Use remaining asparagus by slicing !4-inch rounds. Do not use woody part of asparagus. Keep tips and rounds separate.

2 Boil water, adding salt to taste. Add asparagus tips to boiling water. Once tender but still firm, about 2 minutes, place the asparagus in ice cold water to cool. Proceed by blanching asparagus rounds another 2 to 3 minutes. Use same process to cool. Set the cooling tips and rounds aside, keeping them separate.

3 Over low heat, in a heavy-bottom saucepan, cook the vinegar for 20 to 30 minutes, never allowing it to reach a boil. Once the balsamic reaches a syrupy consistency, remove from heat. This process requires attention. It is quite easy to burn the balsamic.

4 Slice the morel mushrooms into !4-inch rounds and place in warm water to remove excess dirt. Dry mushrooms to get rid of the moisture. In a medium sauté pan, heat the butter over medium heat. When bubbly, add the mushrooms. Cook, occasionally stirring gently, until soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

5 Remove all outside leaves from the frisee, leaving only the inner white leaves. Separate the leaves from the stem, rinse under cold water, and spin or pat dry. Set aside.

6 To serve: Drizzle the balsamic glaze decoratively on each plate. In a medium sauté pan, warm the asparagus tips in the remaining butter mixed with 1 to 2 tablespoons water. Place the asparagus tips facing outward toward the rim of the plate. In the same sauté pan, heat the asparagus rounds with the morel slices. Then place the morels and asparagus rounds in a neat mound slightly overlapping the ends of the asparagus tips.

In a medium bowl, mix the frisee with the olive oil. Finally, top the mushrooms and asparagus with the frisee.

Nutrient analysis per serving: 133 calories; 3 grams protein, 13 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 4 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams fiber, 37 milligrams sodium.

Marinated Gritted Duck Breast

Although duck is higher in fat than other types of poultry, it still can be served as a dish for special occasions. Round out this meal with a cup of wild rice and sauteed vegetables.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Yield: 4 servings

1 cup balsamic vinegar 'A cup Worcestershire sauce V4 cup honey 1 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon chopped garlic A tablespoon lemon juice

1 For marinade: Place all ingredients, except for duck, in a large bowl and mix well. Score (make crisscross patterns with the tip of a sharp knife) skin side of the cleaned duck breast. Place the duck into the bowl, coat it with marinade, and cover the bowl. Refrigerate and marinate for 24 hours.

2 Preheat grill. Remove duck from marinade and pat dry with a clean towel. Season with salt and pepper. Grill for 10 minutes on skin side; turn, moving the breasts to cooler portions of the grill, and cook another 5 minutes, or until medium rare. (To sear duck rather than grilling, place 2 nonstick skillets over medium-high heat. When hot, add the duck breasts, skin side down. Cook for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat, turn breasts over, and cook another 5 minutes or until medium rare.) Slice just before serving.

/ bunch Italian parsley A bunch rosemary A bunch chives 4 duck breasts Salt and pepper to taste

Nutrient analysisper serving: 507 calories; 47 grams protein, 6 grams carbohydrate, 32 grams fat, 8 grams saturated fat, 177 milligrams cholesterol, 0 grams fiber, 300 milligrams sodium.

Grilled Swordfish with Worcestershire Vinaigrette and Roasted Vegetables

This dish is a delightful way to flavor both the fish and vegetables. It is a complete meal, but low enough in carbohydrate to include a couple slices of French bread.

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 8 servings


/ cup Worcestershire sauce 1 sprig rosemary, leaves only, chopped 'A cup chopped chives

Roasted Vegetables

8 new potatoes, cut in half

'6 baby beets, well rinsed and ends trimmed

24 baby carrots, peeled

'6 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed

'6 shallots, unpeeled and cut in half

1 clove garlic, minced 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar Juice of 'Alemon

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 pounds red and yellow cherry tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 swordfish, approximately 6 ounces each Salt and pepper to taste 1 pound arugula

1 For vinaigrette: Mix all ingredients together. This vinaigrette should be made 24 hours in advance. The nutritional analysis reflects only 2 tablespoons.

2 For roasted vegetables: Heat oven to 375°. Place iron skillet in oven until hot. Keeping vegetables separate, in a large bowl, toss the potatoes, beets, carrots, mushrooms, shallots, tomatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper, then transfer to hot skillet. Roast vegetables until tender, about 45 minutes. You can do this ahead of time and then reheat the vegetables when you're ready to cook the fish.

3 To serve: Reheat the vegetables in the oven if they're done ahead of time. Preheat the grill. Season the swordfish on both sides and cook until medium rare, about 3 minutes per side.

4 In a large sauté pan, heat the remaining olive oil over high heat. Add the arugula and cook, tossing or gently mixing with kitchen tongs, just until the greens start to wilt, about 1 minute. Mix greens with the hot vegetables and place in the center of the plate, dividing vegetables evenly.

5 Place swordfish on top of vegetables. Drizzle 2 tablespoons vinaigrette over each portion.

Nutrient analysis per serving: 519 calories; 48 grams protein, 36 grams carbohydrate, 22 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 126 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams fiber, 544 milligrams sodium.

Miso Marinated Sea Bass

This unique marinade adds a tremendous amount of flavor without the use of fat. You can add a tossed green salad with your favorite vinaigrette. This dish is also low in carbohydrate, so you can complete the meal with a cup of rice.

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

'A pound brown sugar 'Apound sugar 'A pound miso paste cup soy sauce 1 cup sake

1 cup rice wine vinegar 8 6-ounce portions Chilean sea bass Vegetable oil

1 cup chicken consommé I cup snow peas

1 cup carrots, sliced thin and boiled in salted water 3 to 4 minutes

/ pound baby bok choy, boiled in salted water 1 to 2 minutes

5 assorted radishes, thinly sliced 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced 18-ounce package enoki mushrooms

1 For marinade: In a large bowl, mix together the sugars, miso paste, soy sauce, sake, and rice wine vinegar. Place the fish into the bowl, coat it with marinade, and cover the bowl. Refrigerate and marinate for 24 hours.

2 Preheat the broiler. Rub a shallow roasting pan (large enough to fit the fish in 1 layer) lightly with vegetable oil. Remove the sea bass fillets from the marinade, place them on the roasting pan, and place under the broiler. Cook until the fish begins to brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook through, about 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets.

3 Combine the consommé with snow peas, carrots, bok choy, radishes, and shiitake and enoki mushrooms in a medium sauté pan. Simmer, covered, until vegetables are warm. Season to taste. Place a pile of vegetables in the center of each large serving bowl, set a sea bass fillet on top, and spoon the consommé around.

Nutrient analysis per serving: 295 calories; 37 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fat, .5 grams saturated fat, 82 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams fiber, 1,295 milligrams sodium.

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