At first glance, it doesn’t look like much. A red awning that reads “Local Ingredients” and “Global Cuisine” doesn’t really tell you anything about the restaurant. And that’s kind of the point. Taste Kitchen can’t be pigeonholed into a specific type of cuisine because (like many of us) it couldn’t make that big of a decision. Or maybe it just didn’t need to. If you’ve been, you can testify that it’s absolutely a good thing this hidden gem is a still a secret to most Ann Arbor locals.
Taste Kitchen is a small restaurant with no more than 12 tables, and the hostess and wait staff seemed to be on a first name basis with most of the customers. Most of the restaurants in Ann Arbor have their locals, but Taste attempts to create an atmosphere where the locals feel at home and the newcomers feel like locals. That seems like a pretty good recipe for success.
Once we got settled, we were ready to eat. The first thing we tried was the Salmon sashimi, sitting in a plate of truffle soy sauce and topped with garlic and scallions. Taking something light like sashimi and placing it in a truffle soy sauce that’s generally heavier seems like a crazy idea, but the flavors compliment each other perfectly and make for a delicious first course.
A few inches over, an ocean full of mussels was ready to be devoured. I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest mussel fan in the entire world and wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between mussels in a blind taste test. But they were so damn good. Light and refreshing, the chef found a way to make even a simple plate of mussels have an artistic presentation.
As good as the mussels were, the real winner of the dish is the broth they are served in. The mussels sit in a broth filled with capers, tomatoes, basil, garlic, white wine sauce and chili. The broth was so tasty on its own that I recommended to our waitress that they serve it as a soup. Even though the broth soup probably isn’t coming to the menu any time soon, they provide a side of bread lightly dusted with garlic that made me forget all of my thoughts of broth from moments before.
Amidst our classy meal, we decided to have a drink because, why not? Often times upscale Ann Arbor restaurants have a solid list of beer, wine and cocktails at their disposal, but rarely are they as extensive and detailed as the offering at Taste. My drink expert and photographer extraordinaire Tomer decided to get a Rob Roy on the Rocks, or a fancy way of saying Scotch with a bit of sweet vermouth and ice. Not being as well versed, I looked to the menu and ordered a Taurus: a mixture of Scarlet ibis rum, Cocchi Americano, cranberry shrub and soda water. It was light, refreshing and absolutely sublime.
A we sipped on our drinks, our next course arrived. A risky item for all restaurants, Taste brought out their spin on risotto. Filled with Parmesan cheese, asparagus and mushrooms, and topped with truffle oil, they absolutely nailed it. Often times, risotto is too heavy or the ingredients don’t quite mesh well together, but the hint of truffle along with the mushroom and asparagus brought out all the flavors extremely well.
The first drink was such a big hit I had to order another one. I looked to the advice of Chapin, our highly knowledgeable mixologist, who suggested a Negroni #3. Truth be told, I had no idea what Negroni #3 was, or that there were even two other versions of it. It came out in a shorter glass, and had Cappeletti (no, not the pasta), Cocchi di Torino and Beefeater. I didn’t quite know what those first two items were, but I didn’t care. The drink had a dessert vibe to it and a chocolate finish, and is simply one of the best drinks I’ve ever tasted.
Just when we thought we couldn’t have any more food, they brought out dessert. This included a beautifully decorated plate of Camembert cheese, berry jam, walnuts and that same delicious bread that was served with the mussels. I’m a huge sucker for Camembert, especially when Mom and Dad let me spend a little extra on cheese at home, and if you couldn’t tell by now I would go back to Taste just to ask for slices of that bread. It was a little heavy at the end of the meal, but an absolute must-try if you like cheese.
After our two-hour dining experience, we left blown away by Taste Kitchen. Although it’s a bit more expensive than the other choices in the area and there are tons of long-established restaurants in Ann Arbor, it’s definitely worth the splurge. Every plate had unique flavors and textures, and even though there was no theme of a particular cuisine, the consistently excellent food stole the show.
Overall, Taste Kitchen has to be considered one of the best restaurants in town. The service is first-rate, the food is phenomenal and the drinks are some of the best in Ann Arbor. With restaurants filling up fast for graduation, do yourself a favor and call Taste. If they’ve got a spot, take it. With the food they’re serving up, it won’t be available for long.