The best meal I ever had in metro Detroit was at Tribute in Farmington Hills when Takashi Yagihashi was still there. (In fact, that meal makes the short list for best dining experiences I’ve ever had in my life.) Following that meal are more meals at Tribute (post-Takashi) and a couple of trips to Iridescence (in both its OLD location in the MotorCity Casino before the hotel was built and the glorious new space). And now, Gastronomy.
My first visit to Gastronomy was in the first week they opened. They didn’t yet have a liquor license and were serving lunch only (they are now serving both dinner and alcohol). One look at the menu and a brief chat with the general manager and I knew, I just knew. Then I had the food.
|Foie gras brulee.|
Some places open with lots of fanfare – usually because of a really strong social media and marketing blitzkrieg (sometimes I even help with that); sometimes because of some local quasi-“star” player or established brand involved; sometimes because enough buzz was built on the ground level and people were simply really excited about, with or without the aid of PR. Gastronomy opened quietly … so quietly that barely anyone even knew about it. There were no feature spreads in the Free Press or Detroit News, no significant following on Facebook, no real buzz of which to speak. (A story in Crain’s from Nate Skid was so preemptive one could assume readers all but forgot about it; then there was some turnover with the chef and partners involved … i.e., Prentice is out.)
But does good buzz equal a good restaurant? I’m reminded of a line from the H.M.S. Pinafore: “’What never?’ ‘No, never.’ ‘What, never?’ ‘Hardly ever!’” In other words, the best places don’t usually need to blow their own horns.
Opinions on restaurants are highly subjective. (Just look at Yelp.) Here is fact: Gastronomy is the best new restaurant in metro Detroit, period. The end. There needs to be no further discussion. If Gastronomy isn’t adorned with “Restaurant of the Year” by the likes of Hour and the Free Press, they are wrong. Period. (Well, either wrong or playing a game of restaurant/advertiser politics, from which there is no escape.)
There are reasons why you might not know about Gastronomy. First, it is in a weird and somewhat off-putting office park in wholly un-sexy Southfield, and it is a place you must specifically seek out as it is tucked away in said weird and somewhat off-putting office park (you would never just drive by and feel compelled to pop in). Second, try as they did to re-vamp the interior of what was once a Morton’s Steakhouse (they tried to lighten it up with bright colors and also blew out a couple of windows to allow some natural light in), they can’t quite escape that “hotel conference center/banquet hall” vibe. (I blame the low ceilings.) But I’m not talking about metro Detroit’s sexiest restaurant (besides, that’s Roast); I’m talking about BEST.
Executive Chef Adam Hightower is no joke. A Michigan native and Schoolcraft culinary graduate, he has worked for private clubs in Michigan, New York, Florida and Houston; was on the USA Culinary Olympic Team in 2000; staged in Europe for a year; trained as a Sous Chef under Certified Master Chef Lawrence McFadden at the Ritz-Carlton’s flagship location in Naples; was the Executive Chef at Honolulu’s AAA Four-Diamond Bali by the Sea; and most recently returned from Hong Kong to oversee Gastronomy. This isn’t some small-potatoes Midwestern chef; this guy is the real deal, an accomplished culinarian able to compete on the world’s stage who chose once again to make Michigan his home.
|Steak and eggs.|
|Flourless chocolate cake.|
To have your own experience of unadulterated joy, there is a chef’s table that seats up to eight people right outside the kitchen. Adam will also happily prepare a chef’s tasting for your table (whether you’re at the “special” table or not) upon request. There is no specific menu for this: Adam will come to your table to find out what your company likes and create a menu then and there. Vegetarians and vegans are also welcome; a special vegan menu will be introduced soon that isn’t JUST for vegans, but for anyone looking for a lighter, healthier meal.
Oh, and in keeping with the Michigan theme, they of course have a nice selection of Michigan craft beers, wines and spirits. Which probably went without saying but, you know, it’s still worth saying.
Want to see more? View the Flickr set here.