Global Flavors, Local Scene at
Ann Arbor Restaurant Week

Ann Arbor Restaurant Week begins this Sunday, January 12th and runs through January 17th. Today, Laura Berarducci from Visit Ann Arbor takes us on a culinary tour of  some of Ann Arbor’s finest global flavors. 

A lot of people are talking about starting diets now that the food-indulgent holiday season has passed. However, for this foodie, the real holiday is about to begin. I invite you to join me on a global culinary adventure — feel free to leave your passport at home.

Ann Arbor Restaurant Week kicks off Sunday, January 12 and lasts six delicious days. There are 55 amazing restaurants participating, all of them contributing in their own way to Ann Arbor’s designation of “Best Midwest Food Town.” One of the things that makes Ann Arbor such a remarkable culinary destination is the culturally-diverse options.

Before we pack our bags, here’s a quick over view of how it works. Each participating restaurant offers a prix fixe menu with lunches at $15 and dinners at $28. What’s even better is that many of these restaurants offer 2-for-1 deals! Check out the full list of restaurants and menus at www.annarborrestaurantweek.com and make your reservations early!

Destination: Spain
Restaurant: Aventura

Photo courtesy of Sarah Fennel Photography

This Spanish tapas restaurant and bar is the newest addition to Restaurant Week and the décor is as beautiful as the food is delicious. Head Chef Jules Botham has compiled a menu that is sure to showcase the authentic flavors which inspired owner Sava Lelcaj after a trip to Spain. The menu (dinner only) consists of five courses, including “pintxos” which are small appetizers served on bread secured with a toothpick.  One of my favorite elements of this prix fixe menu is the numerous options presented in each course. You could probably dine here every night during Restaurant Week and have an entirely different experience each time.

Destination: Central Europe (Poland, Hungary, and Austria)
Restaurant: Amadeus

When you walk into Amadeus, you immediately feel like you’ve been transported to a small European café. From the tin ceiling to the large windows looking out onto the city streets, the ambiance sets the stage for the meal you’re about to enjoy. In addition to offerings such as snitzel, placeki, and pierogi, the desserts are one of a kind. The options at Amadeus for Restaurant Week can fit a party of any size – offering 2-for-1 prices, prix fixe options with multiple courses, and even a Sunday Brunch.

Destination: Ethiopia
Restaurant: The Blue Nile

Photo courtesy of VisitAnnArbor.org

Possibly the most unique stop on this culinary excursion is the warm and friendly Blue Nile. However, be sure to leave your inhibitions behind as the etiquette in Ethiopia is to share food from a single plate without the use of cutlery. Instead, tear apart pieces of “injera” — Ethiopian bread with a spongy texture — and pick up the food by pinching it between your fingers. You’ll be provided a hot towel both before and after your meal, so you may as well dig in! While you’re there, be sure to warm up with a hot cup of Ethiopian tea.

Destination: India
Restaurant: Shalimar

I’ll be the first to admit that I can easily overindulge at an Indian buffet, so choosing from a prix fixe menu during Restaurant Week is a nice way to keep myself in line. Shalimar specializes in Northern Indian cuisine with a focus on tandoori and biryani dishes. Both the lunch and dinner menus offer a lot of options and variety; however, with a samosa appetizer on the lunch menu and a Masala Chai with dessert on the dinner menu, I’m going to have a very hard time choosing between the two.

Destination: Germany
Restaurant: Metzger’s

The Metzger family has been serving authentic German cuisine in the Ann Arbor area for more than 80 years. Now located on the west side of Ann Arbor, it is also one of the few restaurants on the list with easy parking. With the dinner pricing so reasonable, be sure to order a stein filled with a German beer from their rotating taps. You’ll definitely want to bring a friend with you since Metzger’s is one of the restaurants providing the 2-for-1 option for both lunch and dinner.

These five restaurants are just a few of the gastronomic gems Ann Arbor has to offer so please take a look at the full list of participating restaurants at www.annarborrestaurantweek.com and design your own adventure. Don’t forget to pack your appetite!

Laura Berarducci is the Director of Marketing for the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and has been an Ann Arbor resident for more than 30 years. She loves to plan walking food tours with out-of-town friends. For more information about Ann Arbor and its 300+ area restaurants, check out www.VisitAnnArbor.org

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!