Friday, January 15, 2010

The Bone Marrow at Roast

I know you're curious. I was too. Ever since I first saw "Roasted Marrow" on the menu at Michael Symon's Roast, I had to know.

Now, I've discussed Roast before, but one good turn deserves another. Or...something. As far as ambiance, Roast is tops in the city. Plush leather meets industrial chic stainless steel and granite, all done in a warm palette of chocolate and charcoal with soft, glowing light. Every Monday-Friday from 4:30-6:30PM Roast features $3 appetizers, $4 beer and wine, and $5 pours to celebrate the return of the cocktail hour, and their bar has become the after-work hotspot of choice for those just getting out of work and prolonging the drive home as well as those who live here and just like to drink.

Roast is a place for people who like meat. And why? Because meat tastes like murder, and murder tastes f*cking good. (Denis Leary, kids.) If you feel exceptional empathy for our four-legged friends in the world, this might not be the place for you.

If, however, the thought of bone innards served on sawed bone segments appeals to you, welcome home.

I started with a glass of L. Mawby Blanc de Blanc, which I simply cannot resist every time I see it on the menu. That's a Michigan-made sparkling, folks. Take pride.

Then the Roasted Marrow arrived, much to the disgust of my dining mates (disclaimer: allow 12 minutes to cook). Prepared with sea salt, oregano, capers, and chiles, and served with oil-drenched toasted baguette rounds, the marrow is...

...yeah, it's kind of gross. But in that "mmmmm, gross" way. Like, "this is totally gross but I'm going to keep eating it until I like it" kind of way. I experienced a similar feeling when I first tried foie gras, and now I eat foie gras like another celebrity chef is about to ban it (see, that's funny because Wolfgang Puck banned it from all his restaurants and ALL of Chicago banned it, which is yet another reason for me not to move there). It's kind of...mushy/slimy. Like eating pure fat. Stringy fat that isn't easily broken apart for ease of consumption. It's also drenched--DRENCHED!--in oil. Which kind of lessens the "ohmygodgross" factor--much like the overabundance of oil and garlic that escargot is prepared with lessens THAT initial shock--but not enough to make you think any less of snot. Like raw oysters! Tasty, yet still highly reminiscent of mucus.

But you should at least try it once.

Also, it's served on big chunks of sawed bone. Leave the card-carrying members of PETA at home for this one.

After that I decided to go a bit nontraditional...forgoing the Roast Beast of the day, the Filet, and the Wild Boar Rack (and I do love wild boar), I opted for the Duck Leg Ragu (thanks to the prompting of our server).

Paparadelle pasta, caramelized vegetables, and parmesan cheese with tender, juicy, meaty chunks of pulled duck leg. The unfortunate thing about duck (like lamb) is that despite its wonderful flavor it is often so full of fat that it turns off many would-be gourmands. The brilliant thing about pulled leg meat is that it is almost entirely devoid of the hard, stringy, and grisly fat you get with other cuts of duck meat. What remains is the meat, and the wonderfully strong flavor of it permeates the dish. This was a resounding win, a standout dish I would widely recommend to just about anyone (even--and especially--those who have not tried duck before). I wouldn't call this a signature dish for Roast as it is a bit outside the meat-tastic norm, but it stands above many of those same so-called signature dishes.

I decided to have a liquid dessert, and tried the Founders Breakfast Stout. Founders Brewery is another Michigan brewery, and probably one of the best (though it's hard to pick, no doubt). If this Grand Rapids brewer wasn't on your radar before, try this beer. Oatmeal. Chocolate. Coffee. And overwhelming array of rich, malty, robust flavors, each dancing across your tongue and as prominent as the ones before it. Oatmeal. Chocolate. Coffee. Oatmeal. Chocolate. Coffee. Pure beer bliss. And further props to Roast for their wide selection of Michigan-made brews, including this inky beer with a thick toffee-colored head, liquid heroin that it is.

Roast is a great, great place to enjoy a cocktail and feel like you're in another place at another time when enjoying a cocktail was the end-all, be-all goal of the workday. It's also one of the biggest see-and-be-seen scenes in the city, if you're into that sort of thing (and who isn't when you're the one being gawked at because you wore a top no bigger than a bandaid!). They also have some exceptional--and exceptionally odd--food. I've said before that it has its hits and misses, but since then it has become the kind of place where reservations are almost impossible to come by and need to be booked weeks in advance (what are we, New York?), so clearly they're doing something right. I think we can safely overlook the misses and consider this place a hit.