Bar Divani has just switched its menu over with a new Chef team at the helm and I must say I am a fan. With any switch-over it can take time for the kitchen teams to be able to gel properly and create real consistency in their dishes but my girlfriend and I decided to stop in and try things. I'm glad we did!
We tried about six of the new dishes. Each dish was tasty and a very American Rustic feel with European roots. The Pulled Pork Won-tons were our amuse and hit home with the flavors. Asian presentation but deeply American South flavor. The pork was tender and delicious with the sauce just bright enough to keep the dish balanced.
The two starters we tried were the Duck Pierogis and the Quinoa Salad. While the pierogi is normally accepted to be a bland Polish hot pocket, these were stuffed with duck confit and balanced with a bright and exciting chutney. The Quinoa was light and delicious, the salad was so refreshing.
For our mains we tried two dishes. The Nicoise Stuffed Pasta was ingenuitive and playful with the French classic salad, reimagined and served as an entrée. The Duck 2 Ways was definitely our favorite. A seared duck breast is served alongside a confit duck leg, breaded in panko and deep fried. Served over rice and kale the dish was simply delicious.
We also had the chocolate mousse for dessert but I did not get the photo . It was rich and decadent, dark chocolate and port wine each interplaying with the fresh diced strawberries. Very good way to end a delicious meal.
In general I am very happy with how the kitchen is performing now. I won't lie about how questionable the past year and a half have been but their future can be very bright if they continue along the path they've begun now. I look forward to the menu improving as they continue to grow and will return often.
If this were Hollywood and restaurant openings were movie premiers you are looking at the grand premiere of Avatar, Titanic or Frozen (without the singing and youtube cover videos that is). We start with the opening cast of amazing and talented people all coming together in a perfect storm of talent. Everyone in the industry knows Chef Perkey, I don't even need to talk about how widely respected his menus and dishes are. Sommelier Scott Noorman has poured wine in the Chicago power houses of the industry including the only mid-western restaurant to achieve 3 Michelin Stars, Alinea.
All that hype aside, the restaurant is perfect. It is casual yet refined. It's a place you can feel comfortable in and everything about the ambiance really focuses on pointing you to the food. The menu is all geared toward an Italian heart with Michigan flavor. I like the restaurant, the setting, the atmosphere, the menus, the wines but the flavor of the food, I LOVE.
Within my first bite of their home-made charcuterie (which they don't offer at lunch but my waiter, Nick, set up for us anyways) I knew they had something special. You can taste their dedication to craft in each of these slow-to prepare products.
The Gnocchi and the Agnolotti were spectacular. The pastas, definitely hand-made and showcasing the perfect balance of texture and flavor, were a prize. My friend had the Porchetta... dear God... Sure, the flavors were all amazing, perfect porchetta, perfect texture, great fried egg whose rich yolk made the sandwich so unctuous I could steal it away and elope with it in Vermont so that we could spend the rest of our days together talking politics and food... but the bread... It was by far the best bread I've had in Michigan. Perfect marks for flavor, texture, warmth; that bread elevated the sandwich from a great sandwich to a direct miracle from God. I'm almost certain that this sandwich could restore peace in the middle east...
All in all, this place is astounding. If this is the future of Grand Rapids cuisine, then I'm not moving anywhere.
I know what you're thinking, "Eric, how does a simple hot dog joint never get rated below 3 stars... a HOT DOG JOINT!?!"
The answer is simple... Peanut Butter...
So there I am wandering around the Comstock Park area, realizing the only thing I ever eat while I'm up there is B-Dubs. My friend tells me about a little hot dog joint that is really amazing. So into Mad Dogz I go.
I ask the kind lady behind the counter what I should order if I want something special. She asks if I like Peanut Butter... I wonder why she would ask that and say yes. She suggests two of their dogs that both showcase peanut butter (one with fritos and one with chili and cheese over the PB).
As I sit down and bite into one I think, "this combination is so insanely interesting and unique that I cannot stop going in for another bite!" Really, I'm not exaggerating when I say I actually missed this hot dog when I stopped eating it.
Just a simple little joint. No weird frills or pretenses. Tasty dogs and relaxed eating. Cool joint.
I have been a customer of Jazz's since 2010. If you're a man and you have hair she is the best you can find. Literally. If you're a man and you don't have hair, you should come to Rogue and she will probably give you the best shaved head you've ever seen.
I think I get a new style to my hair every 3 to 4 months and she always delivers something trendy and stylish. She is made of 100% magic.
Great little taco stand. When I think of authentic tacos I think of a little moustached man standing behind a cart and slinging double corn tortilla'd meat, onion and cilantro tacos for 10 pesos. When I go to the market and eat at Tacos el Cunado it is really as close as you can get to that in Michigan.
No shredded lettuce and cheddar = Happy Taco Experience
I ordered the Tacos el Pastor and the Tacos Tempeh (a vegatarian soy-based option). The tacos really are great. The two corn tortillas were warm and soft, the el Pastor was very good and the salsa bar was a great addition as well. The Tempeh was okay, in terms of a vegetarian option, it was definitely tastier than some others I have tried but still very dry and in need of some moisture.
Something about drinking a cold coca-cola from a glass bottle just felt right as a pairing as well. I can't tell you enough how much I enjoyed my little meal there. I believe firmly that they have some work to do in order to push their menu to the same level of consistency and quality across all foods (the burritos are good and the tamales could use a little work on the masa recipe, I haven't tried the nachos) but overall I like this little taco joint. I'm so very excited for what it can be in a year or so if they continue to hone their craft and continue to grow.
Noone should spend a month without going to this little stand in the market! ...and no, they don't accept Pesos...
If I'm going to be 100% candid, I must admit that I did not come to this restaurant for two years because I thought it was going to be a complete disaster. I did. I prejudged the location and the fact that it was in a strip mall. Why? Because I was an idiot.
While I can't justify giving this establishment anything over three stars, I do want you to know that it is a solid Thai restaurant that I will no doubt return to. My staple at a Thai joint is always the Shrimp Rolls, I feel they will tell you exactly what that restaurant has to offer. If they are from a GFS IQF zip bag then don't expect a lot. If they are hand-rolled and well made, you have found a keeper. Thai Fusion is definitely a keeper.
I also tried the staple Pad Thai to test out their basics and their heat index. I went with a middle-ground Hot as to the spiciness and it was definitely hot. I couldn't finish it. In fact, half-way through the plate I could no longer leave it in my mouth long enough to chew the noodles. I ended up swallowing about ten mouthfuls of spicy noodle completely uncut... just so I didn't look like a nancy in front of my friends... Dang. While I did find the overall experience enjoyable, it needed more flavor development in the sauce and seasoning for the entrée. The noodles were cooked well and the beef had a good texture.
The interior was really clean. The bright green accent walls added a lot of light and added a fun, vibrant atmosphere. The décor was simple and not over-done. It was also well kept. Such a good little joint for a neighborhood Thai spot.
On the first note, we have to agree that Reserve probably has the sexiest interior and atmosphere of the Grand Rapids food culture. When you walk in, your eyes follow the white, lit tables down the center of the restaurant, into the bar with the amazing wine taps, up to the exquisite centerpiece of Ran Ortner's 'Open Water no.24' (which won the first place award in Grand Rapids' very first Artprize), past the second floor seating to the beautifully crafted wood chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The entire restaurant really is simply breathtaking. Along with this, my personal favorite section happens to be the charcuterie and cheese bar which is in the front window of the restaurant. It's so foodie that it hurts!
I've been to Reserve numerous times over the years, originally when Matt Millar was at the helm, after he left in January last year, and a few times since Matthew Green has begun his tenure as Executive Chef. Overall I am very impressed with the work that has been coming out of the kitchen as of late and am even more excited for where it will be going over the next few years. The wine selection is done very well and GM, Peter Marantette, should be commended as well for his work with the front of house.
Now, on to the food! Our first course was a charcuterie platter (Big Woods Blue, Chicken Liver & Fois Gras Pate, Taleggio, Venison Cacciatore, and the Beemster Gouda) which I paired with the Grobelsburger Gruner Veltliner and my date tried the Guilbaud Freres Demi-Sec Vouvray. The Charcuterie was amazing, truly something of note and if you don't eat charcuterie often, do it here. Yes, I even capitalized it because it was so good that it warrants being a proper noun like Michigan, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Reserve Charcuterie. It's that good. The wine paired well with them, slightly sweet (the demi-sec more-so) and enough minerality to balance with the venison and pate.
We both split a pea soup which came out really well. The taste was good, good English pea flavor but earthy and a bit heavier than a spring recipe would be. The pork belly garnish was fried and the fat/salt was a perfect play on the peas/ham flavor combination. If I were to say anything critical, the mouth feel would be my point of contention. The grittiness of unstrained soups often get me when I'm eating at a fine dining establishment. My waiter brought me a Maison Roche de Bellene and my date had a Spy Valley Sauv Blanc. My Pinot paired well with the salt and fat of the pork belly but wasn't sure how it liked being paired with the peas.
For our entrées I had the Mushroom Risotto and she had the Glazed Pork Belly. Both were great. She raved about her pork belly! I do love risotto but I was really hoping they had a mushroom stock to cook it in. Mine seemed to taste of white wine and chicken stock but I could be wrong. The mushrooms in the actual dish were well cooked and good quality. The seasoning was spot on and the cuddled egg made for a good addition to the overall dish.
Overall I enjoyed the restaurant, while all Grand Rapids restaurants have to keep their prices in check due to the economy, these prices are fairly reasonable. The food is good but with some more work I think they will be great enough to rival Chicago restaurants in the near future. Such an exciting scene, everyone needs to go and have dinner at least once.
Had I any idea that this was the first review I might have gotten some pictures... especially since there are no storefront pictures yet. Perhaps soon enough...
So anyway, in the Thai language Rak means 'Love.' I love Thai cooking and Rak has some very good food. It is located right in the middle of the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids. There are no seats directly in front of the stand but there are plenty of seats nearby (I would suggest eating there, this food is not meant to travel for 20 mins in your car on your ride home).
The menu is actually very good and holds plenty of creativity. While they have the staples of Pad Thai and Bubble Tea, they also have creative dishes such as the 'Mini Mi,' two miniature Banh Mi sandwiches which are a great option. Also, being half Korean and terribly biased toward my country's cuisine, I love the kim-chi fried rice and the bulgogi! Oh my goodness yes!
Overall I do love the small stand idea, they are located in the perfect place to get fresh produce which will really elevate the food to fantastic levels as long as they take advantage of being inside a farmer's market during the spring/summer/fall.
While I am terribly excited about this restaurant and will definitely eat there often while I am downtown, there is some work to be done. I applaud Yace and Xa on their expanding empire but quick growth can also lead to difficulty in consistency. From the few times I've eaten here I have noticed stark contrasts between dishes on various days and they will need to keep very sharp eyes on consistency in their new brand if they want to elevate to the best Bistros in GR.
Without a doubt Donkey will be one of the hottest spots in Grand Rapids this summer. The balance is being struck between great flavored tacos and well chosen tequila. On our first arrival they were already at capacity, so we headed over to The Winchester for some drinks and apps. So what did we get? Tequila pre-gamers and some apps. They were great and got us in the mood for some of those amazing Donkey Tacos I'd heard about.
After an hour and a half we got a table at Donkey and we all ordered various tacos. I had the Carne Asada, the goat, and the pork. Each were great. Not the best I've had in Grand Rapids but really good. Also, each were accompanied by some tequila, obviously... My only taco regret is that I did not also order the brussels sprout taco because it is so far from what I've ever tried before, next time I shall definitely have one!
The dessert was also a great. Churros and chocolate sauce, it was amazing (although admittedly, my sweet tooth is pretty biased).
I think they still have some work that can be done with bringing out more flavor in their food and a bit of work on the wait staff (who I assume are still getting used to things but can improve even on customer service points alone). I love the ambiance and the vibe and the deck this summer will be even more amazing, though I wonder about the availability of parking this summer. Many a block may be walked to get to this little treat of a restaurant.