This was the second time I’d been to Roast. It’s Michael Symon’s fine dining joint in downtown Detroit. They have pretty damn good food, I have to say. In my experience, there aren’t many restaurants this good in Motown, so if you happen to be headed that way for your next vacation (as many of us are these days:), I suggest you reserve here.
We started with the Scallops with Cauliflower, Almonds and Raisin Brown Butter. Admittedly, it’s not the prettiest dish I’ve ever laid eyes on, but it was quite delicious, none the less. The scallops were cooked perfectly, and although the sauce resembles something previously digested, it was deep and rich and not too sweet.
The next dish was my favorite one of all. The Baby Root Vegetable Salad was not what I expected, but I can’t imagine it being any more delicious. It was packed with beautiful, thinly shaved, raw veggies including carrots, beets, radishes, zucchini and radicchio. They were dressed in a lovely, light vinaigrette, fresh mint and dill, then sprinkled with salty feta cheese. The combination was just so bright and fresh, I could have eaten it all day. Crunchy, salty, acidic, bitter and fresh. Every once in a while you’d get a bite where the mint or dill would really pop, lending yet another layer of flavor. I can’t say enough about it. Fabulous. Just fabulous.
And of course we ordered the signature dish: The Roast. Apparently, the type of small animal slowly spinning away on the rotisserie changes quite often. They have a few that they rotate through, including goat (that I wish we could have had), lamb (from which the leftovers get made into a ragu for handmade pappardelle- yum!) and our roast beast of the day: suckling pig.
Tomorrow’s beast is on display as it cooks away near the kitchen window. Not surprisingly, the little piggy seems to be the popular choice of either the chef or the diners since this one was quietly spinning for the following day.
It was served very simply. Just the plate of the pulled, roasted meat with an herb jus, fresh parsley and pickled onions. I quite enjoyed it but found that a couple of bites was enough for me. I kind of wanted there to be something else with it to keep my palate entertained rather than having to taste the same bite over and over again. I get bored easily. Pretty, though, huh? (Note the morsels of crispy skin… mmmmm.)
As a side we chose the roasted Wild Mushrooms which were also delicious. Oh, how I love nicely roasted mushrooms! This mix had all kinds including oyster, shitake, cremini, enoki and others. So beautiful and meaty and earthy and caramelized! Yum!
We even went for dessert: Brulee of the Day, which happened to be made with mascarpone. As one would imagine it was rich and creamy, but also had a denseness due to the addition of the mascarpone that’s not often found in classic creme brulees. As you can see, the burnt sugar crust was as it should be: thick, sweet and toasty.
So here’s my gripe: We’re in this great place, with great food and a cool ambiance, enjoying ourselves and our dinner, and by 9:30pm, the restaurant starts to close down around us. WTF? As far as I’m concerned, this is totally unacceptable.
We were informed when we called to reserve that the last seating was at 9pm. Fine. No problem. We arrived at 8:45 only to be informed that the kitchen would be closing in 15 minutes. What?! I thought you said the last seating was at 9, not that service stopped at 9! Big difference. You accepted the reservation, sat us, now you have to serve us. I mean… it’s not as if we could pay half price for half an experience. Oh no! We paid full price (and don’t think it’s an inexpensive place to dine, either) and you’re going to give us half an experience? This is piss-pour business ediquite by any account, no?
So, as we (and other tables, too, mind you… it’s not like we were the only table still there) sat and tried to enjoy our dinner, lights were being turned off around us, candles were being blown out, and our service was sped up to the point of being pushy. From both a restaurant person’s and diner’s perspective, this is totally F’ed.
This is the reason that management exists… so that the singly concerned service staff isn’t left to their own accord. And where were they? Where was the person looking out for the good of the restaurant and its reputation? You know, the guy whose job it is to make sure that people have a nice experience and therefore, want to return? Nowhere to be found. I’m sure this was not the intention of those who spent their pretty penny making this place a real contender by the standards of the rest of the country even though its competition is basically nil within the otherwise depressed city of Detroit. But in the end, even the man with the soft spot in his heart for this city of hard knocks, the one who sees the potential and continually pulls for its revival, who wishes that others could somehow see the good through the rough, hung his head in disappointment. It was like, for just a moment, there was a certain pride in knowing that Detroit really did have, if even in a small quantity, some of the qualities of other attractive US cities, like nice restaurants to dine in. And then, it all got shut down when the restaurant proved to be completely unconcerned with its guests.
I think the last straw was when we expressed our discontent and the response we got was, “Well… you have to see it from our side…” Oh really?! We do? You mean you want to go home now? I’m sorry to bother you by dining in your restaurant! Ha!
Almost, Detroit. Almost…
The Short Version (Out of 10)…
Service: 9 (before 9pm), 2 (after 9pm)
Overall impression: I’m torn…
Would I go back?
Yes, but mostly because options like this are extremely limited in Detroit (ok, and the food was pretty damn good). Next time I would make sure to arrive early as to not disturb the service staff.