Sunday, May 25, 2008
Bourbon Steak, Detroit Michigan
There are good meals, there are great meals, and there are meals that you talk about 10 years later with stars in your eyes......prior to yesterday I'd had only one or two of those types of meals at a restaurant. Then Michael Mina added another. For me, the best way to show a customer that you really are a step above other "fine dining" experiences is to go above and beyond not only what is expected, but even what isn't.
Calling two weeks ahead, reservations for two were made at Bourbon Steak for 6:00pm on a Saturday night. As the event grew closer, it suddenly became apparent that not only was this trip going to be special for the food and hanging out with my oldest friend for the first time in 6 months, but also for the atmosphere....Wings in the Finals, Pistons in the Semis, and Tigers at Comerica....for once Detroit was THE place to be. In order to confirm our reservations I e-mailed three days prior to the meal and having read glowing reviews of Mina's famous pot pie in the past I inquired if there was any possibility of ordering this item at Bourbon Steak despite it only being on the Saltwater Menu. Within 45 minutes of my mailing, an individual named Zac responded that not only could they make the Lobster Pot Pie, but they would also gladly provide anything from Saltwater's menu to accommodate our dining experience.
As Bourbon Steak and Saltwater are both located within the MGMGrand Detroit Casino, the place was alive, vibrant, and bustling. Having been to Vegas thrice, I must say the MGMGrand Detroit is every bit as "Vegas" as a place outside Nevada can be. Shiny, bright, boisterous, and classy yet accessible.....plus I don't need an aircraft to get there. Arriving at the Mina 'complex' on the casino floor, we were warmly greeted and quickly seated in a private back room in the maze of lattice-worked hardwoods. While it wasn't noted at first, a later look at the restaurant layout showed a large back dining area, open kitchen, and beautiful bar/lounge at the front; everything was dynamic, dramatic, and gleaming while the staff was attentive, well dressed, and smiling at all times. Our server was prompt, knowledgeable of the entire menu (though less-so of Saltwater's menu as she didn't work there,) capable with her suggested wine pairings, and willing to find out anything she didn't know in short order. Additionally the manager, water and bread servers, and even Zac from my e-mail stopped by multiple times to make sure all was perfect.
For starters my buddy opted for a glass of cabernet which he was allowed to sample prior to purchase and we were served the trio of Duck fat fries - Smoked Paprika and Mustard, Saffron and Garlic, and Rosemary and Onion with trio of sauce - Smoked Paprika and Mustard Crme Frache, Saffron and Garlic Aoli, and Onion Ketchup. The fries were perfectly executed with subtle flavors vastly enhanced by the three sauces and crispy on the outside with a baked potato texture within. Our second starter was an absolutely glorious cornbread served in a small iron skillet. The corn was pureed and undetectable aside from the wonderful flavor and we finished the pan before our service team delivered the salted maple butter...thankfully our server was more than willing to bring a second pan, as good as the first, and complimented beautifully by the creamy butter.
For our mains, after much debate (There were 11 options that sounded appealing,) I selected the Lobster Pot Pie from Saltwater's menu while my friend chose the 18oz dry age bone-in Ribeye, King Crab, and Truffled Mac n' Cheese. As the Pot Pie requires half an hour cooking time, we chatted and my friend enjoyed another glass of wine.
Much to my delight, the Pot Pie arrived with a show as the manager from Saltwater came over, chatted with us, and proceeded to cut the top off the pie and rearrange the lobster anatomically on the crust, then ladling the incredible mixture over the crustacean. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this video should suffice nicely: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38ms5mCL_fY To call the flavor glorious would be a vast understatement as the perfectly butter poached lobster literally melted in the mouth while the scallions, fingerling potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, green beans, truffles, butter, wine, and crme fraiche formed a complex yet smooth medley on the buttery crisp crust. As the dish is charged at market price based on lobster weight (2.5lbs) the price was the most I've ever spent for a meal, but I can honestly say every aspect of it was worth the cost.
While I was beyond pleased with my selection, my friend noted that his steak was merely okay and wished that he had splurged for the Kobe (which I'd originally suggested anyhow.) He did note that the King Crab was amazing and was gracious enough to allow me to taste the Mac n' Cheese which was absolutely sublime with its mixture of cheeses, al dente pasta, and crispy truffled topping. Portion sizes for all items were larger than expected for fine dining and even before dessert both of us were quite full.
Noting the quality of the meal and the specialness of the day, dessert was not to be missed, no matter how full. Once again, our wonderful server gave us the menus for both Saltwater and Bourbon Steak and my buddy chose Saltwater's Chocolate Molten Cake with Cream Cheese Mousse and Cinnamon Ice cream (devoured quickly and noted as "just enough,") while I chose the Beignets from Bourbon Steak. As the beignets normally come with one of 3 dipping sauces, I inquired which was best and after hearing an explanation still could not decide. It was then that our waitress suggested she could simply bring out all 3 and let me decide. While this invariably led to me eating far too much, I once again have no regrets. While the beignets were soft on the inside and perfectly crisp and sugary on the outside, the show was definitely stolen by the accompaniments - Madagascar Vanilla Creme Brulle, Chocolate Pot De Creme, and Macallan 12yr butterscotch pudding.
The Brulle was good enough to be served on its own and easily the best vanilla version I've ever tasted. The Pot De Crme was incredibly rich with a thick top layer that had cooled slightly and an underlying dark chocolate cream that exploded on the tongue with hints of cinnamon and spice the texture of brownie batter. While those two were stellar, the butterscotch was mindblowing with a thin skin on top of a rich, full, and creamy vanilla butterscotch with tones of bourbon and perhaps honey. Dessert was taken with a stellar Italian coffee service with a thick body, minimal acidity, and rich flowery undertone.
All told, the meal took approximately 2:15 and a hefty hit on the credit card, but every aspect of it was worth the time and expense. The check was delivered with two hand crafted bourbon caramels that melted in the mouth and provided one last exclamation point on a flawless meal. In my opinion, time with friends or family and time with great food and great service is always time worth spending and I am grateful that Bourbon Steak provided such a wonderful experience. Michael Mina is a very established restaurateur and his menu speaks for itself, yet clearly this fame has not led to complacency as the meticulous staff still continues to bend over backwards to make your experience wonderful. I would strongly recommend this restaurant to anyone as the very best restaurant experience I've had in the Midwest, and possibly ever.