Crab and Courtage and coconut cake.
By Michael Haggerty
Dinner on the Joe Muer terrace with the Detroit River as the front yard is hard to beat. The freighters were going up river and crowds of people were arriving for a concert featuring Eagles guitar player Don Felder. The concert on the riverfront was unexpected and added to the excitement of spending Friday night in Downtown Detroit.
When we arrived, we were escorted to an outside table and were offered a glass of LeGrand Courtage Rosa Wine from France, the latest Bin 001 wine by the glass on the revised list. It was a refreshing choice before dinner. The wine list at Joe Muer’s is extensive and includes 25 vintages offered by the glass, an unusually broad selection. The bottled offerings have more than 20 Pinot Noirs, 25 Chardonnays and 42 Bordeaux blends and Cabernet Sauvignons.
We started our meal with a sushi Dynamite Roll made with shrimp, avocado and a cucumber topped with baked crab blended with spicy chili powder — that was the dynamite part and a pleasant surprise compared to an ordinary sushi roll. Shrimp Ilene, colossal baked shrimp in toasted almond casino butter, happened to be the perfect sharing dish with the sushi. A “flight” of three soups a la Muer arrived next. It featured Bonne Bouche of Boston clam chowder, which was my favorite, lobster bisque laden with lobster and chilled gazpacho. The soups arrived in a delightful three-compartment dish for each diner, making it easy to mix the hardy tastes.
While I was innocently browsing the entrée selections, I noticed the dessert trolley in the window of the dining room. The cart had an attractive selection, most noticeable a coconut layer torte on the top tier of the trolley; it completely distracted me.
We browsed the special Chalkboard features, including fresh George Bank Scallops, rainbow trout, Ahi tuna, Great Lakes perch and whitefish. All the choices were mouth-wateringly prepared. Also Muer’s menu listed prime-cut steaks with a special surf-and-turf combination named the Chairman’s Reserve Filet Mignon and Tristan Lobster Tail. Several gluten-free options were among the menu items.
Maître d’ Miguel Hernández offered to crack the lobster at the table. He arranged it beautifully on a plate, so much so that an Instagram shot was necessary. It’s difficult not to be happy with an entire lobster sitting on your plate, but this one was so fresh it winked at me.
The second entrée, a broiled Lake Superior whitefish, was complemented with a stewed tomato side. The fish entrée was a large portion, a thicker filet than typically served in a restaurant. It was light, flaky and delicious.
I was thinking about a side dish of the tomatoes for dessert when that trolley rolled by the window again. I took that as a sign and ordered a piece of the coconut torte. It was even better than it looked. After splitting a large piece, there was still some left to take home.
On the way out, Miguel introduced us to Executive Chef Eric Ward who invited us to view the kitchen from the chefs table. This area of the restaurant is reserved for private parties seating up to 24 guests overlooking the open kitchen. What a perfect room to enjoy dinner and watch the professional culinary staff prep and prepare dinner for their guests. Reservations are recommended and private party arrangements can be made by contacting Samantha Sant by email (ssant@Joe Muer.com).
One last word, don’t let the $25 valet parking fee keep you away; with validation at Joe Muer’s, it’s only $10 for drop-off and pick-up service at the door, about the price any big city would charge. Don’t let anything stop you from enjoying this restaurant, which is as upscale and edgy on the inside as it is on the outside. NS