Finally did get down to try this place out tonight. I figured with no Tigers game at the CoPa, and this being a Tuesday night, it might be pretty dead, which is what I wanted. I'm not a see-and-be-seen person, and I'm afraid that I'll never be that way. To me, it's all about the food, and they have some pretty interesting-sounding small plates on their menu. Plus, I had a restaurant.com certificate to use, which knocked $10 off the bill if I spent $20 minimum, which helps a frugal twit like me.
I went tonight, and it was, indeed, dead in there. There *may* have been 10 people on the main floor tonight (myself and the bartender included), and that's about it. In fact, that aforementioned bartender was the only server, period. He was the bar guy, the wait staff, the busser...he was *it*. I'll say that he did a good job up front, and I tipped him at the 20% mark (of the original bill).
I had in my mind what I wanted to try: the Moroccan lamb chops (3 of them for $12) and the Beef Wellington ($9). Here are the menu descriptions:
MOROCCAN LAMB CHOPS*
(3) petite lollipops of lamb rubbed with warm north african spices and served with a sweet and savory fruit sauce - $11 (note that the price is now higher)
HOUSEMADE BEEF WELLINGTON
(4) beef tenderloin and roasted wild mushrooms hand-wrapped in puff pastries and finished with a burgundy wine-veal demi-glace - $9
Both of those sounded good/promising to me, and the bartender asked me if I wanted to order when I sat down at one of the tables, because the seats at the bar were just too, too low for comfortable dining. I felt like a kid at the adults table, it was that offset. The tables were far better this way.
Right away I was met with some minor disappointment: the Beef Wellington wasn't available as their shipment of puff pastry hadn't come in. Nuts...this really was a draw for me, too. However, there are a couple bright spots to be taken from this: A. the server informed me *right away*, which is a credit to him, B. there were other things on the menu that I was at least somewhat intrigued by, and C. it gives me a bit of a reason to return.
With that in mind, I chose the alternate of their mini crab cakes, which the menu describe as:
MINI CRAB CAKES
(5) classic maryland crab cakes with a red pepper remoulade - $10
I like crab cakes usually, and they can be a pretty safe bet, so that's why I went with them as the alternate.
Perhaps you've been on other foodie websites and read complaints about the wait for food at this establishment. These complaints are not unwarranted...I highly suggest that if you're absolutely starving, you go to Bucharest Grill a couple blocks down or Hot Taco next door. Either place will be more efficient, I can assure you, in terms of waiting. Remember: this place was really dead, and it *still* took a solid half hour to receive my two small plates. I think that it's quite ridiculous, and I daresay I shudder to think of how long it would take to get food on a busy or event-ridden night. An hour? Perhaps an hour-and-a-half? Really: it helped that I wasn't absolutely starving, but when I'm starting to wonder if my phone battery is going to die because I'm web-surfing while waiting on a *dead night*, I should think that the kitchen could use some help on timing.
My food eventually came, and I must say that it was, in fact, good. Nothing wrong with it. Of the two, the lamb chops were the clear winner, and that's saying something considering that I really wish that they'd been served at a hotter temperature. They were still quite tasty, and the spices were quite nice (perhaps a little heavy, but I'm not complaining at all...the preparation was very good aside from the temp). That "sweet and savory fruit sauce", though? Now *that's* good stuff. That plate, the most expensive on the menu (sans the caviar) was very nice. You wouldn't have to twist my arm to get that again, at all.
The crab cakes were fine as well, although they're nowhere close to unseating Brandon Kahlich's or anything. Different stratosphere, so to speak. These were better than functional, helped along by the fact that they were served far warmer than the lamb chops were, and the remoulade that came with them was well-received, too. At $10 for five of them, it wasn't a ripoff at all. Each was about 2.5 bites or so, and it worked for me. It just wasn't anything eye-opening or life-changing or anything.
My total bill after tax and tip (and the certificate discount) was $18 out the door, although since I paid $.72 for the coupon, I guess you'd have to include that as well. I didn't try any cocktails tonight, as I just wasn't in that big of a cocktail mood. I certainly might if I go back there, since the bartender did seem to know his way around.
So, while I wasn't blown away, I was happy with the end result. I'd go back again should the desire strike me, as there are still another four or five of their small plates that somewhat intrigue me. I probably wouldn't go with the crab cakes again, but I would go with the lamb chops again, along with another different plate or two. Good enough to try more of, anyway.
Last, waiting for my bill, I walked around the place: this place is very much a bar first, and winding your way through it is sort of impressive from the standpoint of how big it is. Three levels, and there's actually an impressive amount of space...but it's very much a bar before it's a restaurant. Very much so.
Walked down to Cliff Bell's to check out their new menu afterward, forgetting that this is Detroit Restaurant Week. Place was packed on a Tuesday night. That, my friends, is a good sign.