I had a chance to dine at one of Detroit’s buzziest (i.e. Bourdain popped in) pop-up restaurants, Guns + Butter, a few weeks ago. And by “had the chance,” I mean I follow them on Facebook, they put out a cryptic call for reservations, I e-mailed them and said I wanted to go to there, a few days later I gave my credit card number to a mysterious person over the phone in exchange for a mysterious address, and I was in.
The location was somewhere I’d call “nowhere Detroit,” as in, I really couldn’t find my way back there if you needed me to. It was on the top floor of an old business and apartment building.
The space itself was a very bare-bones large room, which was fine with me. I don’t need stuff detracting from the food.
However, the tables were beautifully set in a way that emphasized the fine dining experience I was about to have.
My friends and I somehow scored the best table in the house – right in front of the kitchen. We basically stared at the chefs all night while they meticulously plated each course. And by meticulously plated, I mean they used tweezers. Now, if you know me and the style of food I like, you’d probably expect me to run for the door when I realized there were tweezers and “deconstructed” plating styles involved. But, it worked here. The food was so perfectly executed and delicious that I didn’t mind. Just this once.
The only “problem” with the space was that there was no overhead lighting (or any lighting besides the candles on each table) in the dining area. Things got really dark, really fast since our reservation was just moments before sunset. Now, this was really only a problem because I (along with pretty much everybody else in attendance) was trying to document the meal. Remember when we used to just go to dinner, eat the food, and enjoy our meal by candlelight? I don’t.
All of that to say – get ready for some poorly-lit Instagram food photography. The first course was a Baby Greek Salad. This is where the “deconstructed” description would come into play. You could even throw out a “pretentious” for good measure. But can I tell you? I don’t care. Every tiny bite of this tiny salad was a tiny flavor explosion, and I would have sold my first-born for a full plate of it. You could really tell how carefully (and time-consumingly) each element on the plate was crafted. I mean, those baby tomatoes were peeled. Do you know what a pain in the ass it is to peel baby tomatoes? There was also a bright green smear of something that looked like wasabi, but turned out to be some sort of avocado mousse. That, combined with the creamy whipped cheese (feta? goat cheese? I can’t remember) really made each bite quite decadent. My favorite part was the crunch factor – there was a sprinkling of something that I think was walnuts, but it somehow tasted smoky and salty like bacon. I could have licked the plate.
The second course was a Mangalitsa Steam Bun. Mangalitsa is a heritage breed of pig known for its high fat content (read: delicious). I was actually forced to memorize the name of this pig and characteristics about it during my Charcuterie class in culinary school. Pig flash cards. This sandwich was an extremely spongy and slight sweet steam bun filled with braised and pulled pork and topped with spicy pickled vegetables. This was actually my least favorite course, but still – I could have licked the plate.
The third course was called Trout & Lobster Sauce on the menu, but this amazing plate actually had two sauces. The lobster sauce was prominent, but there was also a rich brown sauce (a mushroom reduction, perhaps?). There also thinly shaved pieces of summer squash, green beans, mushrooms, and a squash blossom. My squash blossom was super bitter and weird, but my friends said theirs was delicious, so I think I just got a bum one. That really did not put a damper on my enjoyment of this dish – the flavors all came together so harmoniously, that…I could have licked the plate.
Again, for the final course, I have to use the word “deconstructed.” But when it’s Carrot Cake, who really cares, right? This was a light, spicy, spongy cake that we watched one of the chefs spoon ginger syrup over. There was rich Zingerman’s cream cheese and carrot slivers. It was weird that there was no detectable carrot in the actual cake itself, but as long as you made sure to get a bit of cake, cream cheese and sliced carrot altogether, you were set. I could have licked the plate.