Opening up a restaurant is extremely difficult. There is so much to prepare, so much to anticipate, and so much to work out before you actually know what can and could go wrong.
That’s the kind of pressure Grange is under at the moment. It’s the newest nice restaurant in Ann Arbor. With big shoes to fill, it’s in the loacation of the former Bella Ciao and right next door to my beloved Pacific Rim.
Grange is the brainchild of Chef Brandon Johns (Vinology and Chop House). The restaurant aims for something that I’m actually quite shocked that Ann Arbor hasn’t gone for yet: sustainable, in-season, fresh ingredients from the farm to the table.
The other thing about Grange you should know, is that one of my best friends, Lauren, (also known as Wifey) is the front of house manager. So obvs, she was really excited for me to try it out.
Being friends with the manager does have it’s perks. Us VIPs (as designated in Open Table!) enjoyed some starters on the house. w00t!
Fried green tomatoes, cumin scented goat cheese fondue:
Good, but unfortunately a bit cold. The goat cheese sauce could have been a bit more pungent.
House cut fries, duck fat, roasted garlic mayo, smoked salt:
You know what? I’m just convinced that everything tastes better in duck fat. Yum!
Scotch duck egg, mustard sauce:
Never met a scotch egg I didn’t like. Especially Heston ‘Effing Blumenthal’s
Plate of radishes, butter, sea salt, crusty bread:
I think I told Lauren about this dish: ‘I love you, but no’. I mean, it did what it said on the tin, but it was – in all honesty – a bit boring. They charge $7 for this and I think it probably costs them about 75 cents to make. I would not have been a happy camper had I paid properly for it.
For my main: “Fox River Breakfast”, cornmeal crusted trout, duck confit hash, fried egg
My friend Emily and I both got this dish. We couldn’t resist egg and duck and fish all together. It was a bit odd though. Mainly because I could tell in which order this dish was put together.
The potatoes were plated first (they were the coldest), followed by the trout (a little warmer) and then by the egg (piping hot!). Emily’s was in the same fashion, but it was clear they were in a hurry to get it out of the kitchen because in a rush they threw her egg on top too quickly. The yolk broke and was leaking all over the place. In the rush of that, they also forgot to give me the sauce that was meant to go on the dish. That, however, may not have been a bad thing, as Emily said it was a bit too salty in the first place.
Needless to say, I was not in love with my main. It was good, definitely. But not $25 good. And that’s not about the taste, but more about the temperature.
After a ridiculous amount of starters and my main, I was so not hungry for dessert. But, of course we shared one anyway.
The plum tart:
Ah! This was fantastic. The crust was light and buttery, the fruit not too overpowering. Just a wonderful summer dessert. Only thing was that the ice cream was served in a warm ramekin and so it was all half melty. Still really tasty, but temperature was off. I’d say that pretty much sums up my feelings about Grange…
The thing with this restaurant is that they need an expo. Like, now. Service was wonderful, and the food was really good, but the issue is consistency and presentation in the Back of the House. The fact that two of us at our table ordered the same thing and it came out looking different and at different temperatures is a huge problem for a restaurant that charges $25+ an entree. Ice cream that’s all melty and cold fried tomatoes should never make it out of the kitchen.
It’s the little things that end up making a huge difference.
That said, I will of course be back at Christmas to see how it all pans out. It’s a new restaurant, after all.