Friday, October 2, 2009

Ode to Tribute

My, how the mighty hath fallen...

On the night of Tuesday, September 29th, Tribute in Farmington Hills served their final meals and closed their doors.

I am devastated. DEVASTATED.

Tribute was full of fond memories for me. During the days of my residence in West Bloomfield (when I lived like a West Bloomfield-er, ooooooh those were the days), Tribute was the special occasion restaurant de rigueur; it became the place of my annual celebration of the anniversary of birth with my long-term partner of the time. It was my first truly FINE dining experience, the defining moment when I started paying attention to chef's names and backgrounds and following them like a Grateful Dead fan. (My first visit there was during the reign of the inimitable Takashi Yagahashi whose food is pure art, followed later by my discovery of Takashi's replacement, Don Yamauchi.)

This was where I first discovered what 5-star-dining truly meant (trips to the Golden Mushroom at age 17 and the Whitney at 18 were profoundly lost on me at the time), and where I learned to fully embrace it. And also where I learned that I really, really like game meat. Like bunny rabbit. Nom nom nom.

Many long hours (and many hundreds and possibly probably dare I say thousands) of dollars were spent there enjoying the finest of life's gourmet pleasures. (In fact, hearsay is that the reason for the closure was ultimately their refusal to follow the restaurant recession trend and lower prices.) My favorite memory was of my 25th birthday--my significant other had rented a limo with champagne, and had set up with Tribute's management team to have two dozen roses set on the table along with a bottle of Ch√Ęteau Certan de May de Certan from my birth year, 1981, presented upon our arrival. (A gift from a very generous businessperson and friend.)

That night included lobster, foie gras, and a huge slab of Kobe beef, as well as a cheeseplate (DUH) for me, a flourless chocolate cake with "Happy Birthday" written out in chocolate on the plate, and not one but TWO "eggs."

Ah, the egg. The single greatest confectionery contribution ever made. Served in an actual egg shell, the filling was something akin to creme brulee custard with sea salt, caramel, a hint of milk chocolate...words cannot describe it. You know I am not much of a sweets person, but this was truly like a thousand angels dancing on my tounge. And I got TWO!

Oooh, the memories. Kevin. Antoine. And Rick from way before. Those were good times, guys. Best of luck to you all. Hanging out with the staff in the bar and doing tequila shots with them after we had been there for 5 hours and everyone other customer had left are among my favorite memories of the place.

Sure, maybe my memories of Tribute also happen to be fond memories of my being absolutely spoiled...don't you judge me, you don't know me.

This was a magnificent restaurant in its prime, nationally recognized and several-time award-winning, including a James Beard "Best Chef Midwest" award for Takashi.

In recent years, Tribute has undergone many transformations. After Yamauchi left and Executive Chef Rich Travis took over, I understand that the place lost some of its culinary edge. I regrettably have not been back since that landmark 25th birthday dinner and have since that time discovered countless more restaurants to rave about, but the closing of Tribute truly signifies the end of an era for metro Detroit's fine dining. Only time will tell the shape of things to come, but I can guarantee nothing will ever be the egg again.

Tribute will continue operating for private parties and catering and will also be fulfilling all of their financial obligations. Because they have class, and that's what businesses with class do.

'Tis better to have loved and lost, as they say. But still. But still...