With summer comes an aura of celebration. We made it through the blustery winter, the rainy spring, and now, with long hours of sun, we can let loose a little, take a moment to breathe. So, if food and drink are how you celebrate, and you feel like something special, when money is no object, you can’t go wrong with Ann Arbor’s Taste Kitchen.
In the heart of Ann Arbor
Nestled on Liberty Street a half-block from the Michigan Theater, and open since October of 2015, Taste Kitchen offers large glass windows that afford generous people-watching views. The atmosphere inside the restaurant is soothing and cool with a grey-black brick wall, soft lighting, comfortable seating, and outstanding service. Every detail is designed to let diners kick back and savor the delights of the meal.
If you need to unwind, start with a refreshing summer cocktail. The selection, which blends housemade tinctures of specialty spirits, shrubs, herbs and juices, certainly lives up to the restaurant’s adage of offering global cuisine with locally sourced ingredients. Try, for instance, the Oaxaca Smoke, a mixture of Vida mezcal, dry curaçao, orange and star anise with a cinnamon sugar rim; or the Himalayan Daisy. which features el Espolón tequila, Cointreau, raspberry and jalapeño with a salt rim. On recommendation, the Paulista, a Brazilian concoction which offers a mix of caipirinha (a cachaca-based spirit distilled from fermented sugarcane juice), blackberry, blueberry and lime balanced the medley of flavors quite well. Our server, who was unfailingly polite and thoroughly knowledgeable about every item on the menu, was also able to execute that neat and often rare trick of being highly attentive and efficient, while simultaneously unobtrusive and patient.
Excellent service is a point of particular pride among the staff. “The most important thing about having good service is the hiring process,” explains Chris Dunkel, Taste Kitchen’s General Manager. “When we interview, we start by having a back-and-forth conversation. We don’t want to micromanage. We want to let [the staff’s] personality shine through.”
A meal to savor
The menu is limited, intentionally, of course, to allow each dish to be individually prepared. “As long as everything on the menu is good, we don’t want the customer to be overwhelmed,” Dunkel says.
Among a half-dozen cold appetizers that include a cheese plate, a beef carpaccio and a shrimp spring roll, we chose the beet salad, which featured fresh greens in a tangy balsamic vinaigrette, along with goat cheese, candied walnuts and diced beets. Delicious and light – an excellent precursor to a meatier entrée – I did wish for a little more beet to go with the healthy dose of walnuts. Hot appetizers are offered as well, including asparagus soup, shrimp risotto, and fish tacos.
Main courses offer a nifty nine options, including an eggplant cannelloni for vegetarians. For landlubbers, there’s filet mignon, shaking beef tips, grilled Berkshire pork, and grilled lamb. The remaining quartet of choices highlights seafood, a reflection of Chef Danny Van, influenced by both Vietnamese and French Culinary Cuisine. We tried the Divers Scallops and Bouillabaisse. The trio of meaty scallops, bathed in a delicious bacon marmalade served over a bed of corn, brussels sprouts, and butternut squash, was a light, tasty, satisfying experience. The bacon marmalade was a delight, the bacon cooked perfectly, with a crunchy texture that nicely complemented the melt-in-your-mouth scallops.
The Bouillabaisse was based on a Thai broth that offered an aromatic blend of light sweetness with a hint of spice. Poached in the broth were a sufficient, but not overwhelming amount of mussels, shrimp and scallops, all accompanied by slices of fresh baguette, used to soak up the exquisite broth.
Achieving a vision
For dessert, we split a delicious lemon meringue, which came in a rectangular shape. The meringue was light, fresh, and not too sweet, smoothly complementing the semi-frozen lemon curd. It proved a splendid topper to an outstanding meal that made Ann Arbor feel, at least for the evening, like a global culinary bazaar, matching Dunkel’s vision, “to source locally and to make whatever tastes good.”
521 E. Liberty St. | Ann Arbor
734-369-4241 | tastekitchena2.com