Sunday, July 12, 2015

Restaurant Review: The Root

As I begin writing this I must say, this may be the fullest I have ever been. . . 

Think Thanksgiving kind of full, where you can't manage one more morsel. I'm saying that after a 45 minute drive back home, with plenty of time to recover. That says a lot. 


It was worth the drive. People, especially from the west side of our area, have often recommended The Root as a place that I should visit. It's not exactly local for us (about 45 minutes without any traffic) so as much as I agreed I should try it, I just hadn't made it out there yet. We had the perfect excuse today to celebrate a dear friend's birthday with dinner, sans kids, so we decided tonight was the night. I should note that we had reservations and I can see that this place can get busy as it has quite a reputation. The decor was very clean but earthy. The lighting is enough to see your food without being glaring, and they do a good job making it pretty intimate. There was a row of tall grass/bamboo stalks with lights that separated the bar from our dining area which created small spaces that let you feel comfortable but not cramped. The lighting fixtures were very cool, different Edison style bulbs hung suspended from the ceiling in several places, and the root motif was continued throughout the location, with a large table with a tree trunk surrounded by wood planks to create a centerpiece.

Corpse Reviver
To be quite honest with myself (and of course you as the reader), I had this restaurant on my radar ever since Baconfest in the summer of 2013. I do recall a very nice little gem of pork belly. For quite a while after Baconfest, I developed a love for pork belly that may have bordered on obsession with quite a few posts with our experiments, even developing my own recipe for a Cherry Cola basted version.

The Real Housewife of White Lake
But back to the food at hand, and my full belly. . . Okay really let's start with drinks. When you go out for a festive occasion a cocktail just makes it a little bit more special. I love different cocktails with new ingredients that I just couldn't make at home. I have posted before about Hendrick's Gin. I think by now I have established that while I am not a super big gin fan, the additional of cucumbers and rose petals in an infusion just makes this a little different and quite refreshing. . . For recipes you can check out my Cucumber Lime Spritzer post, our experiment with a Florodora courtesy of Maggiano's,  as well as our adult version of Cucumber Slurpee. As I said, when I can have a cocktail that incorporates some of my favorite ingredients, with a new twist, or added elements, I'm all in.  That is what the Corpse Reviver #2, did for me. It combined Hendricks Gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, Lemon, 3 Drops of Absinthe.I have never had Absinthe so that sounded a little exotic. This version was also offered as a 30 Day Aged in an Oak Barrel version, which was promoted to be "smoother". Of course I had to try it. It had quite a kick. My friend ordered the The Real Housewife of White Lake, which featured Valentine Vodka, Cointreau, House Made Raspberry Syrup, Fresh Squeezed Lemonade, Cucumber. You can't go wrong with cucumber cocktails. I think they are the bomb. In this case, this was a very mild drink with a little bit of sweetness with the raspberry syrup. Very festive.

Seared Scallops, Grilled Octopus Salad, Crispy Braised Pork Belly
Because there is so much food to discuss, I actually merged photos of different dishes into a montage. Hence my full belly right? There was a tasting menu that was very reasonably priced (at $40 per person), but there were appetizers and such that we wanted to try that would not be included so we ordered everything separately. We started with their signature scallops, a grilled octopus salad, and of course, pork belly. The scallops were seared, and a wonderful texture, as they were on the less "done" side. They sat on a bed of white bean puree, with brown butter, topped with fresh pink grapefruit, capers, Brussels sprouts, and pistachios. Delicious. There were only three of them and I think I would have liked this for my dinner. The Octopus salad featured a really balanced red wine vinaigrette, with endaname, tomatoes, radishes and greens. This was delicious. Again, I could have made this into a meal. And we can't forget about the pork belly. It was so wonderfully tender, with a little bit of crispy crust on the edges. It was placed on a bed of something (maybe it was white bean puree) with fresh corn, and topped with Kimchi. What a great medley of flavors and textures. This was some of the best pork belly I have had and the tang of the Kimchi just added a little bit of bite.

At this point I was already stuffed. So many appetizers and I love small plates. I think I could have stopped then and called this a meal but I persevered. On to the mains. . . 

Fish Special (Mussels and Clams), Hamburger, Meat Special (Prime Rib)

Spanish Coffee
There were two specials offered that intrigued us. The first was a fish special that consisted of mussels and clams that were in a coconut broth with red chili oil and fennel. This was very spicy but very good. The seafood was extremely fresh and there was no fishiness to any of it. While I have had a lot of Thai over the years (going up to Medium spice levels) I would describe this as hot but not overpowering as all the flavors shined through. I would have liked a side of rice with it but with the amount of food we had it really would have been a waste. There had been discussion about getting a steak but then we saw a few hamburgers making their way out from the kitchen.The burger did not disappoint. It was chargrilled and featured a house made bun. This particular order included a fried egg and bacon, as well as a side of jalapenos. One of our friends said that they were wonderful jalapenos but I didn't try any. The meat special was a prime rib, served medium rare, with a creme fraiche with spicy black bean garlic and horseradish. The meat was wonderfully tender and it was a really good side sauce but after eating so much food and so many flavors it really didn't stand out.

You can't have a celebratory dinner without dessert right? We also ordered some after dinner coffee drinks. The Spanish coffee was delicious! I can't recall exactly what was in it beside delicious coffee and home made whipped cream but it was served in a cinnamon sugar rimmed wine glass and it was very very good. 

Lemon Meringue Creme Brulee, Banana Cream Pie Ala Mode, Vegan Brownie Sundae
We tried three desserts. Because we were celebrating a birthday one dessert was on the house. The Lemon Meringue Creme Brulee. This dessert has lemon curd for the base flavor and it does a wonderful job of cutting through the sweetness that comes from toasted meringue and shortbread crumbles as well as the vanilla custard. It was a really good dessert. We also tried the banana cream pie that was highly recommended as their signature dessert on the menu. It did not disappoint and really did live up to our expectations. The banana cream pie had some of the flakiest crust and was topped with a homemade marshmallow, and came with a scoop of homemade brown sugar gelato as well as some caramel. I think that this was one of the best slices of pie I have ever had. Last but not least was the vegan brownie sundae. Now the only reason I mention that it is vegan is because they do so on the menu. While I understand that appeals to many folks, I do think they do this brownie a disservice because if you taste it  you will have no idea that there does not contain egg, butter or any dairy in it. You will think it is one of the best brownies you have in terms of flavor and texture. We certainly did and thought about the fact we almost didn't order it but decided chocolate was chocolate after a large meal. The brownie is served with salted caramel and pretzel iced cream made of coconut milk and lays in a substantial puddle of a homemade caramel sauce, along with a homemade shortbread wafer. Dense chocolate with light ice cream was a perfect combination. We made sure to compliment this dessert to the waiter who brought the pastry chef, Jordan, over to speak with us. He was so kind to spend about ten minutes with us talking food.

Now this could be the end of the review as we have gone through appetizers, mains and desserts, along with drinks but there's more. The chef, James Rigato, is going to be opening another restauarant called Mabel Gray in Hazel Park, which is way closer to home. The menu hasn't been finalized yet but we expect that it will be another adventure in an old refurbished diner. My understanding is this will be a smaller setting and you will be able to watch Chef Rigato cook while eating at the diner. I am looking forward to going there this fall!

So in summary, yes, worth the drive, worth the money, worth the experience. 

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