Ann Arbor Restaurant Week 2013 – Michigan’s Largest Restaurant Week – Starts Sunday

With a record 55 restaurants participating, Ann Arbor’s Restaurant Week is the largest in the state of Michigan, taking place January 20 – 25. This is the prime time to try some new flavors and make the trip to Ann Arbor for some of the great food the area is known for. To prepare, we decided to talk to some of the rock stars of restaurant week in Ann Arbor. See what they had to say below and let us know which restaurant(s) you’ll be visiting next week!

Chef Duc Tang: Pacific Rim by Kana

Cuisine/Cooking style: I would describe our cuisine as ‘contemporary Pan-Asian’.  The menu reflects my interpretation of various Asian cuisines that I grew up eating.  

Fun Fact:  I have a masters degree in theology.  

Career highlight: I am proud of our great staff and of the fact that they consider Pacific Rim the best restaurant to work for.  

Menu Recommendation: For the winter weather, I recommend our hearty Asian-braised lamb shanks with coconut-sweet potato puree.

Where would you eat for Restaurant Week if you weren’t cooking? Mani Osteria & Bar.

Chef Brandon Johns: The Grange Kitchen & Bar

Cuisine/Cooking style: Straight-forward, seasonal cooking; we are known for our serious and thorough commitment to local sourcing, use of quality products, our whole animal, nose-to-tail cooking approach, and our talented pastry Chef, Melissa Richards. 

Fun Fact: The kitchen stays open until 1am on weekends.   

Career Highlight: We have won the Edible WOW Local Hero award twice for our dedication and contributions to the local food movement.

Menu Recommendation: The chicken and spicy chicken sausage hash.

Where would you eat for Restaurant Week if you weren’t cooking? Mani Osteria & Bar or Mercy’s Restaurant at the Bell Tower.

Chef Brendan McCall: Isalita (and Mani Osteria & Bar)

Cuisine/Cooking style: I am a flavor first chef.  I want flavors to be punchy and upfront while keeping the food approachable.  Then we work in a twist or little surprise that adds a layer of discovery to each dish.

Fun Fact: Many of the dishes at Isalita were inspired by a trip that Adam Baru (co-owner) and I took to Mexico City this past summer.

Career Highlight: I’m most proud of the staff culture that we’ve created at Mani Osteria and have continued in Isalita.  Creating great food is only one ingredient to a successful restaurant.  

Menu Recommendation: We are launching petite enchiladas during restaurant week that will become a permanent part of the Isalita menu from then on.  One is a coconut braised chicken in red chili sauce and the other is a shrimp and crab enchilada in roasted salsa verde.  

Where would you eat for Restaurant Week if you weren’t cooking? Pacific Rim has been a long time favorite of mine since I moved to Ann Arbor 13 years ago.  However, Raven’s Club has recently made major menu changes that, in my opinion, place it at the forefront of the growing restaurant culture in Ann Arbor.

Chef Eve Aronoff: Frita Batidos

Cuisine/Cooking style: My style is full flavored with a lot of textures and contrasts – while still maintaining balance and harmony of the flavors.  I am based in French philosophy and technique, but am influenced from cuisines around the world – N. African, W. African, Cuban, and Vietnamese.  I’m committed to Slow Food Movement – working with local farmers and purveyors, following the seasons, making food from scratch and encouraging the warmth and conviviality of cooking and dining.

Fun Fact: There are actually a lot of ‘light’ dishes on the menu!

Career Highlight: Being invited to go to the James Beard Foundation to create a multi-course menu for the foundation members, as well as being selected to represent the Huron Valley Slow Food Movement to go to Terra Madre.

Menu Recommendation: I’d recommend trying the ‘Eve’ menu we are creating. This will include some of the favorite dishes from Eve (her previous Ann Arbor restaurant).  ‘Inspired Nachos’, Pots de Creme  - as well as a dish which was extremely beloved but extremely labor intensive so we made it for special occasions – Seafood and Prosciutto Lasagna.

Where would you eat for Restaurant Week if you weren’t cooking? Mani Osteria & Bar or Pacific Rim.

Chef John Fischer: Gratzi

Cuisine/Cooking style: Our focus is regional Italian cuisine with emphasis on the north. 

Fun Fact: We’ve featured different regions of Italy as our culinary focus each month for the past 10 years.

Career Highlights: At Gratzi, we’ve won numerous awards over the years, including ‘Best Italian’ in AnnArbor.com’s reader poll for three out of the four years, as well as Open Table awards for two years running. We also have five wine spectator awards of excellence.

Menu Recommendation: For the first time during restaurant week we are offering regional preparations instead of regular menu items. I hope folks take advantage and try something new.

Where would you eat for Restaurant Week if you weren’t cooking? I’m always way too busy to go out during restaurant week, but Downtown Ann Arbor has so many choices for dining it’s hard not to find something to like.

Set restaurant week prices are $15 for lunch and $28 for dinner (if you’re on a budget, over half of these restaurants offer 2 for 1 deals with at these price points). Peruse the menus at www.annarborrestaurantweek.com, and make your reservations early!

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