3111 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48201
I can honestly say I have never ever had a better meal than the meal we ate together at Atlas Global Bistro on our last night in Detroit. Sometimes it's the hard work that makes you appreciate the food, and at times being away from home for long periods of time also speaks kindly for your meal. This time I considered maybe my awe and wonder at the poverty and dissolution that has become metropolitan Detroit might be enhancing any even marginally civilized experience. But I like to think I am astute enough about food to know when I am in the presence of culinary greatness, and Chef Christian Borden is a great chef.
J started with a simple green salad, fresh and crisp despite the somewhat ineffective air conditioning in the room. Baby lettuce, croutons, grana parma, tomato and onion in a vinaigrette.
V and I share a similar palate, we are almost always drawn to the same things on a menu so we shared appetizers and mains, we like richness countered by umami in almost all things, except cocktails.
One of our appetizers was the seared Essex County mushrooms. The portion above looks small, but it was very nicely sized. There's a good pile of seared mushrooms under the wilted pea tendrils and sesame seeds, deglazed with soy vinegar with a few chunks of water chestnuts hiding in there somewhere.
V and I were both drooling over the description of the duck confit on the menu. Indiana Duck Leg Confit, Pecan Buckwheat Blini, Espresso Demi Glace. A huge portion, this could easily be an entree. The demi-glace is thick and sweet and the duck skin crisp and salty. I can taste it again in my mouth as I type. The buckwheat blini had an almost cinnamony flavor. You can see a little sprinkle of espresso dust there to the lower left side of the dish. If I am in Detroit again in September, I am going to sit at the beautiful old wooden bar, order J's salad to start with and this duck confit for my main course.
My main is what really blew me away. I have never tasted anything quite like it. Malaysian Glazed Kurobuta Pork Loin, Pickled Pineapple. Falling from the bone, the meat was deliciously tender like you expect from a good pork loin. But what really made this sing was the pickled pineapple. Fresh pineapple spears pickled in star anise, Valencia orange and soy. I had to have a tiny bite of pineapple with every bite of meat. If you go, someone at your table must order this dish and it must be someone who is willing to share.
V ordered the Herb Butter Braised Beef Daube, at the strong suggestion of our patient server. And lucky for me she loves to share. I am always eating her food. Which is odd, because usually I don't like to eat other people's food. But for some reason what she has always looks good to me. Beef daube, a French stew, made from a short rib with porcini bordelaise, potato pearls, spinach and melted ramps. I love a ramp and the greens were outstanding.
J ate the steak...and requested veggies instead of starch to help maintain his girlish (not) figure. This was an item from the specials menu, and I would be lying if I gave you a reputable reason for not remembering the details of this beautiful dish. Fact of the matter is we all got kinda drunk on martinis, red wine and good company.
The food at Atlas is fantastic. The service was perfection despite our California-esque tendencies to high maintenance (can we taste the wine? do you have a decanter? can I have a clean glass? can I have my meal with no starches?). Chef Borden came out and chatted with us about his wonderful food, the upcoming theater season and restaurant week. Of note to locals, Chef Borden doesn't make a special restaurant week menu. He offers diners the same food, portions and quality you would receive at any time during the year. When fall comes and the theater season starts the menu basically doubles in size compared to how large it is now. Which leaves me wanting to be in Detroit come late September.
Atlas is the only certifiably foodie place I have come across in Detroit, as yet anyway. I am willing and open to try more places when I come back. But I will definitely be hitting Atlas again every time I am in southern Michigan.