michael symon’s roast: a celebration of the flesh

Vegetarians, mosy along, nothing to see here…

Do you love meat?  I mean, do you really love meat?  Do you lay awake at night, thinking of what you could do to a side of wild boar or a tender baby lamb?  Michael Symon almost certainly does.  His newest restaurant, Roast, in downtown Detroit’s Book Cadillac Hotel, is a celebration of all things meat.  It’s a perfect example of taking an ingredient, treating it simply but respectfully, and thereby elevating the whole dish beyond the sum of its parts.  Symon’s farm-to-table philosophy ties in with the idea that quality ingredients don’t need a lot of embellishment or fuss to make a memorable meal.

I had heard good things about Roast, and had gotten a bit of a preview from Marvin, who photographed Symon and the restaurant for an article in Model D.  So when he suggested going there for a Mothers’ Day dinner, I was all for it.  (I apologize for the lack of photos, but I didn’t want to be interrupting his mom’s nice dinner with a photo shoot, so you’ll just have to check out some of the links I provided to see pics.)  My initial impression of the restaurant was that it looked impressive but was not at all my style décor-wise; the dining room is very modern-neutral; the music “urban contemporary”.  But as soon as I opened the menu, I was so giddy at the selection that it could have looked like a TGI Friday’s and had Kenny G on the speakers and I probably wouldn’t have cared.

Several of the appetizers caught my eye, but we settled on the Roasted Marrow and the Beef Cheek Pierogies.  (The Cripsy Chicken Livers is definitely on the list for next time, though.)  I had never had marrow except in osso buco, and it was not at all what I expected.  I thought it was going to be dark red and taste very earthy, like blood, but it was actually more like soft, gelatinous fat.  It was garnished with gremolata and lemon wedges, with toasts to spread it on.  I thought it was good, and was glad to have tried it, but it was too rich to eat very much of.  The pierogies, a signature dish, were very good; the beef cheek reminded me of oxtail in texture and flavor.  The horseradish and mushroom sauce made me want to lick the plate.  My only slight critique is that they were a tiny bit doughy.  Still delicious though!

For my entrée, it was a tough call.  I had almost decided on the Braised Lamb with Fennel and Tomato, but changed my mind upon learning that the Roast Beast of the day was suckling pig.  It was served simply, piled on the plate and topped with a small mound of colorful, vinegary chiles and onions and garnished with pieces of cracklins.  Many of the main dishes are sold à la carte, as was Marvin’s Rack of Wild Boar, so we also got sides of asparagus and polenta (flavored with garlic and honey, and the creamiest I have ever tasted).  As I sat there eating my pile of pork, I felt incredibly fortunate (and a little guilty) to be having such a decadent and amazing meal.  Even though I was just eating roast pork and not truffles or foie gras, part of the decadent/ pampered feeling was due to the fact that the service was so impeccable; our waiter was attentive to the slightest detail,  providing helpful wine pairing suggestions and happily answering all of our questions about the menu.

If you go to Roast, it’s fun to also take a peek at the hotel’s posh common areas.  Marvin’s mom used to work in one of the lounges at the Book Cadillac when he was a kid, so after dinner we took a short stroll through the lobby and lounge area of the hotel, which has been immaculately updated.  I had never been inside the building, but according to her it was hardly recognizable from its former incarnation.

I may not get a chance to get back to Roast for dinner any time soon, but I hope to check out their new Cocktail Hour, which features $3-$4 “bites” and would, I expect, be a great way to sample the restaurant’s treats on a budget.  Joe Posch, author of the aforementioned Model D article and blogger at Detroit Drink Tank, wrote about Roast’s cocktail hour here, and interviewed bar manager Frank Ritz here.  To read another blogger’s take on the Roast dinner experience, check out Amy of Runs With Spatula‘s review here.

P. S. Congratulations to Chef Symon for winning the James Beard award for best chef in the Great Lakes region, and for Roast being named 2009 Restaurant of the Year in the Detroit Free Press.

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One response to “michael symon’s roast: a celebration of the flesh

  1. Thanks for your mention of – and links to – the Drink Tank, Noelle. Great Roast post! I haven’t had a full dinner there yet, but your post makes me wonder what on Earth I’m waiting for.

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