Donna and I tried out AGB on Saturday night for Detroit Restaurant Week, and we really, really enjoyed ourselves. I've got to start with Paul, their FOH guy who I spoke to on Friday morning, an extremely late time to try to book a reservation for the weekend. Due to his work on my behalf, and his flexibility with time, Donna and I were able to book for early Saturday night, and that just thrilled the heck out of me. Great job by Paul.
I should also mention that out of all the menus present on the DRW sight, the options (as well as the number of choices) at AGB really stood out from the rest. There was honestly something from every course that I was really interested in trying, and in several courses, there were multiple appealing choices. I'd been into AGB before, but I was exhausted and disheveled when I stopped by. I looked at the menu then (a year ago or so?), and the choices sounded interesting then, too, but I just wasn't in the "proper place" to eat pretty high end that night, even at the bar. Regardless, I've been wanting to go back since then, and this was a pretty good reason.
Donna and I arrived at about 5-10 minutes after our reservation, and were promptly seated, which being early in the evening, wasn't that big a surprise. We knew that by the time we were done, the place would be full and bustling, and so it was. We took a bit less than two hours, so we surrendered our table by around 7PM, and there were people waiting for it. AGB has apparently been packing them in, and rightly so.
Our server, Jackie, was fantastic. She really knew about the menu, could make recommendations, and worked hard for us. We did keep her busy, but not in a bad way. Her pleasant demeanor, her knowledge, her there-when-we-needed-her-not-when-we-didn't ability...well done, by a practiced professional. She was ably assisted by a couple of gents for whom filling our water glasses and retrieving our finished plates was their spot-on job. Never unwelcome, or obtrusive, and working hard, just as Jackie was. Service, as you might understand, was top-notch here. Kudos.
As for the bar service, knowledge of alcoholic beverages is not exactly my forte, but I do enjoy something sweet (basically, a "chick drink") now and again, and I tried something that sounded good on the cocktail menu: an Addison. Didn't thrill me, but that's *hardly* anyone's fault. I'd say 80% of all alcoholic beverages wouldn't get any kind of rise out of me at all. Still, I wanted to try it, I wanted to support Atlas' bottom line, and I did end up finishing it...by the very end of the meal. It just wasn't my thing, and that's not their fault. Donna ordered herself a Sidecar, which she said was really, really good, and I found yucky. You can see the difficulty, here. I probably should have ordered something else, and in the future, I will. I can just cross the Addison off my list of drinks to try again in the future. As they were, they were nicely presented, and potent.
I should pause here to reflect on the presentation job done here, in all courses. Everything they plated was visually beautiful. I do wish I'd thought to use my cell phone's camera, but I really didn't want to slow things down due to time constraints. Suffice it to say that everything had a "It's a crying shame I'm going to aesthetically ruin this!" regret...up until you tasted it. Taste rules, and is far more important than looks. In the looks department, though, Atlas is no slouch.
For our first course, I was all set to order the Duck Leg Confit, and in hindsight, that's probably what I should have stuck with. Upon pouring over the menu, I noticed that it came served with an espresso demi-glace that, when I thought about it, didn't sound like a good combination with the duck, so I changed my mind and went with another interesting-sounding choice: the Vietnamese Fried Noodle & Spicy Sausage. Donna went with the Roasted Beet & Horseradish Lollipops. Again, both were very pretty to look at, and Donna raved over her roasted beets, which I did try, and thought it was pretty good, but I've never been all that huge a beet fan. To me, the horseradish sauce that came with it wasn't strong enough for my tastes, but the beet itself was good, as was the light battered coating that came on it. Liked it, but was glad I didn't order it.
My noodle and spicy sausage was *nothing* like I thought it would be, and that's on me. I should darned well know what egg noodles are by now, and for some reason, I had pictured actual flat, pasta-esque noodles that were going to be wrapped around the sausage, and then pan fried. Completely different presentation, and while it was fine, the best part to me, aside from the prettiness of it, was the spicy dip sauce served beneath it. I liked that, but the sausage and noodles were just sort of good. Nothing to write home about, but *certainly* nothing worthy of complaining about, either. You win some, you lose some. Live and learn, Skippy.
On to the main course! Among the several good choices here, Donna and I both decided, based on the menu's description (and our server's rec), that the escolar was the choice we both wanted. We'll often try to get different things so as to allow each other to try something else, but in this case, we both wanted that fish. While the pork dish, beef dish, and duck dish all sounded good, too, the escolar sounded the best, and I can get beef and pork any old time. The duck just didn't have the same "call" to me as the escolar did.
What a great plate. We both thought so, stem to stern. Even the bok choy, used here almost exclusively for its green color/aesthetic value here (as well as to "fill up" the plate a bit), was well prepared, and good. In fact, the bok choy was the worst part of the plate, and it was probably the best bok choy I've ever eaten. Yes, yes...bok choy seems to be the trendy veg of the moment, but it was still as good or better than any other bok choy I've ever had.
The fish itself was marvelous. Wonderfully cooked, with fantastic flavor, and flaky as all-get-out. Atop the two (rather small, but that's to be expected in a three-courses-for-$28 deal, dontchathink?) pieces of fish came a thinly-sliced slaw of leeks and red peppers, and the orange ginger sauce, dribbled around the plate with a scattering of sesame seeds, was pretty *and* delicious. In fact, the only thing I would have changed about the entire plate was a bit more slaw, which I asked for, and pleasantly received! That one little addition made the second piece just as perfect as the first piece, and Donna loved hers just as much as I did. This dish was just all-around a home run. I told them so. Couldn't have been happier, even if I hadn't gotten the extra little bit of slaw for the second piece. Solid "A" territory, here.
On to dessert! I had initially wanted to get the Chocolate Fondant Layer Cake, but was disappointed when, upon ordering, I was told that they wouldn't have that single dessert item this evening...it would be a chocolate mousse cake instead. Since that sounded rather pedestrian to me, I decided to stick with the chocolate theme and try the Italian Tartufo instead, and Donna ordered the Italian Almond Cake for herself.
Again, they both came looking beautiful, and Donna liked her almond cake, but it came chilled, and she'd rather it had been served at room temperature. Not much to complain about, there, by her own admission. It was quite good, but it was kind of a one-trick pony, taste-wise (as Italian almond cake often can be), yet it was served with some really good cinnamon sprinkled atop and around. Couldn't really find the rum taste, but it was some darned good almond taste, and I liked it as-is.
My Italian tartufo was...fine. It really was pretty good, but Jackie could tell that it just wasn't floating my boat, and she offered to get me something else. I accepted, but really didn't know what to go for, so I took a look at the menu again, and decided to go almost completely against what I'd gone there for, dessert-wise, and tried the Mango Tear Drop. This dessert wasn't even initially considered by me since Donna can't eat mango, and we always want to try each other's food, if possible.
Holy. Stinking. Cow. First of all, of all the beautiful things that were served that night, this was the prettiest, most color-infused thing I saw. It was *so* pretty. Then, in biting into it for the first time, I was just gob-smacked. It was yet another home run. All of the flavors just worked in perfect harmony together: the mango with the lime, with the vanilla, with the hazelnut. It was just so, so much more than I thought it would be. It was, in fact, so good, that I insisted Donna try a bite without the mango (which was conveniently sitting on the top so she could get down underneath it with her fork), and she, too, was amazed. Man, alive...once again, I practically licked the plate.
Did I mention that? That I practically licked the plate of the escolar, too? It's true. Two out of the three courses were pure straight-into-the-seats home runs. No doubters. To me, for $28, if even one course approaches that rarified air, you're doing really, really well. For two of them to reach those heights at that price, you're stone cold on your stinking *game*. Stay locked on, AGB...that's just marvelous.
Inbetwixt and between courses, they served some pretty nice rolls with butter, which I fully admit I ate several of. Some were plain, some had sesame seeds, some had poppy seeds...all were good, and I enjoyed them, too. Again: our server Jackie and her compatriots did an outstanding job for us, and AGB should be proud of their work. I'm sure that they are.
Just a bit after 7PM, with our plates cleared and the check paid for, we decided to move on, since the table was obviously needed, and we didn't want to take unfair advantage of the work that Paul had done on our behalf to get us in. We tipped our exceptional servers very, very well, and I suggested on the way out the door that the escolar and mango tear drop be brought back soon, or added to the menu. They thanked us for the suggestion, and for coming in.
No need: the service level and food were plenty of thanks, indeed. I'm sure we'll be back.
Recommended without even a *hint* of doubt or sarcasm, even at full price. There: I said it, and now it's written for all to see. This is the kind of experience that allows a place like AGB to increase its customer base...and rightly so.
I hope everyone is able to give them a try, or a second, or a third. Wow.
Atlas Global Bistro
3111 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201