Last week Mom and I had the opportunity to dine at Mabel Gray in Hazel Park. It is a tiny restaurant and reservations are hard to come by. In fact, we had our reservation for almost six weeks! I could barely contain my excitement when the day came, and we were not disappointed.
Again, the restaurant is small. We counted seating for about 30 along with a bar. The kitchen is right there, which is awesome as you watch your food being prepared.
Our waitress, Janet, knew everything there was to know about the menu, and you could tell instantly she is passionate about the food and the restaurant. Her enthusiasm made our experience that much better.
But let’s get to the food. Well, first, my cocktail. It was a tequila and mescal drink with fresh strawberry juice from local strawberries. In fact the strawberries came from Spicer Orchards, a place my parents and I have visited several times. The drink was perfectly refreshing for the hot day.
Then the food began to arrive. We started with the salad full of fresh, local vegetables. Mixed greens, peppers, radishes, beets, and even an edible flower composed the salad with a swipe of Dijon and some olive oil. The flavors were so fresh and vibrant. Somehow these restaurants are making me fall in love with beets. Also, I need more edible flower in my life.
A play on lox and a bagel was next with house cured wild king salmon (you know when I see wild salmon on a menu, I have to order it!), sesame seeds, a buttermilk sauce, and some fresh herbs. The sauce was addictive, but the herbs were the surprise star. The pop of almost spicy flavor they added was perfection. Housemade rye bread came with the salmon. That bread was amazing, but even better was the housemade butter. I don’t even like butter and I could have eaten a tub of it.
The lamb burger and chili fries were our shared entrees. Let’s start with the fries. While, a spice in the chili was bit overpowering for me, the fries were some of the best I have ever had. They were perfectly cut and fried, tender on the inside, and really stood up to the chili. I swiped the duck egg off the top and dipped my fries into it, ate it as is, and put it on my half of the burger. Oh yeah, I went there.
The burger, though cooked well done like we asked, was juicy and tender. The house made sweet pickles, which I didn’t think I would enjoy, were excellent. Seriously, I wanted a jar to go! The garlic aioli really pulled the whole thing together. My only complaint was that I needed an extra napkin. Messy food!
For dessert, we had tres leches cake, which was good. Very good in fact. However, we both felt that the creativity didn’t stand up to the rest of the meal. I could happily eat the salad, lox, fries, and bagel again and had to restrain myself from ordering more right then and there, but the cake lacked the pizzazz of the rest of the meal.
Since many of the dishes are plays off classics that the chef, James Rigato, who was in the kitchen that evening, has reinvented, it would be nice to see this continue to the dessert menu. Perhaps cookies and milk, pie, a layer cake, or doughnuts would be fun and more appropriate desserts.
From start to finish, the meal and service were outstanding. I am finding more and more as we explore new restaurants in the metro Detroit area that the quality of the food has improved so much it is hard to believe. I’m excited to go back to Mabel Gray one day but also to explore other places.