Birmingham needs some must visit, blow you away restaurants. Ones you can’t stop talking about. Ones you want to visit over and over again for birthdays and holidays and just because it’s Thursday. It has a lot of okay restaurants, but save for Forest, there’s nothing particularly spectacular or memorable.
Luciano del Signore and Takashi Yagihashi set out to create that memorable, special occasion, blow you away, best meal of your life, bring Michigan its first Michelin star kind of place with Pernoi. Once it was announced you could practically feel the buzz in the city, the anticipation for it to open.
It finally did so in the fall, and I visited in late October. While the menu changes frequently, this post will give you an idea of what to expect should you choose to go there, and some of the dishes on the current menu appear to be very similar.
Before I get into too much detail about my visit in particular, I should point out that it was recently announced Takashi would be stepping away from Pernoi. While I love Luciano and his food, the fact that he’s a nice guy, super talented, and would rather be in the kitchen actually cooking than just have the title of “executive chef,” the real draw here was for Takashi. He helped Tribute back in the day, does have Michelin star experience, and has built quite the reputation in Chicago. While the story is that he didn’t realize how much he would need to split his time and the toll that would take, I’m not sure if I buy it. His departure honestly gives me pause on a return visit, but let’s dive in, and you’ll see that’s not the only reason.
First of all our waiter did not seem to want to be at work that night. Look, we all have bad days, but when you work with the public you have to try your best to hide your disdain for either your job in general or my group for some unexplained reason. He did not want to answer questions and made guesses as most of my queries. It may seem small, but he most definitely affected our experience for the evening with his little snickers and bad attitude.
The drink selection is thoughtful and interesting. I had a glass of outstanding Jacquesson champagne, as well the paper plane cocktail. The flavor of that was matched only by the presentation. I’m not sure I’ve ever had such a cool cocktail experience.
As for the food, the menu was relatively soy heavy. Soy isn’t my favorite flavor and it means that very few of the dishes were gluten free. This isn’t a deal breaker, but an oddity to have a similar flavor profile over many dishes.
One of the best bites of the night was the amuse bouche. A simple raw scallop with an herbaceous sauce. It was refreshing and bright … I wish more of the dishes had been that wonderfully simple.
Mom tried the crab ravioli as an appetizer, which would have been tasty, had it not contained shell. She switched to the simple green salad I also ordered. It was tasty without a doubt, but still a salad. Our friend had the beet salad, which was flavorful and pretty.
For second course, our friend and I had the carrots and Mom had the celeriac soup. The tableside presentation of the soup was gorgeous, but both the carrots and the soup had a similar spice in them that was strong and off putting. I still can’t figure out what it was, but it was a turn off for me.
For the main course, Mom and our friend had the halibut, the other stand out dish of the night. The fish itself was so buttery and tender. It was served with vegetables and potatoes, in general a dish we all agreed we’d want to eat again and again. I had the lamb with a ratatouille side. It was well cooked and quite flavorful.
We had sorbet and ice cream for dessert. It was quite good, not great, and honestly the waiter got one of our selections wrong. Not surprised.
The inside and outside of the restaurant are gorgeous, and while I focused a lot on our waiter since we encountered him the most, the rest of the team was exceptional: friendly and accommodating. Luciano was in the kitchen and took time to chat with us for a few minutes. As you can see the plating is pristine. While the portions are small, I knew this going in, so it didn’t bother me. However, I don’t think Pernoi has lived up to the lofty expectations it set for itself. I hope they can figure out a way to reinvent slightly and give Birmingham the kind of restaurant it deserves.