A Night at the Lark - W. Bloomfield, MI
Seemed a good reason for a big celebration - berkleybabe and I celebrate an anniversary every year or so, Terrific Son and his GirlFriend are about to graduate from an extremely prestigious football factory that also has a college attached, Delightful Daughter is nearly aceing organic chem and may in fact decide the medical profession is worth spending a career in - so the kids and I organized a surprise dinner for 'babe at The Lark in West Bloomfield.
A review is in order but first some highlights:
the look on babe's face when we walked in to see the kids plus GF seated waiting for us;
both kids' (and GF's) growing appreciation of really, really good food and wine;
TS, after sampling the other entrees, saying, "My lobster is terrific and I like it the least of all the entrees!"
Dinner at The Lark is mostly prix fixe and includes a cold appetizer, hot appetizer, salad and main course with dessert extra. We chose tthe wine bouquet as for a couple of reasons - it totals out to about two full glasses of wine for the meal which makes the drive home a bit safer and it gives the kids especially a chance to sample more good stuff.
The cold appetizer cart is presented with oysters, a duck and apple salad, a slaw, beef carpaccio and shrimp. Take as much as you want - I think 'babe and I had 7 or 8 oysters between us. (Alas, our kids haven't quite grown into oysters yet; GF lives in Rhode Island and is allergic to shellfish!)
The farm-raised Maryland oysters were juicy and lovely. Everybody liked the beef; both it and the duck salad had silky ribbons of fat that were just terrific.
(A short digression on DD and seafood: I clearly remember her loving lobster bisque we had in Maine when she was about five years old. After that she stopped eating seafood, except for tuna sandwiches and fish sticks, for a dozen years or so. Last Christmas she told us she tries shrimp every year or so to see if she likes it yet. Among the things I am proudest of these two for is their willingness to try new things - I don't know how they will spend their lives, but it won't be in a rut.)
Hot appetizers included pasta with rock shimp (DD tried that - "I like seafood tonight"), a marvelous mushroom bisque with a sweet sherry infusion and a sole-and-scallop grill served with a sweet pepper sauce. The sole-and-scallop was first-rate, perfectly grilled and the mild pepper sauce fit it perfectly.
Salads were next. One was a greens with a sweet cashew dressing and the richest, creamiest blue cheese I've ever tasted. The other was greens with artichokes and a sherry viniagrette.
Now a grapefruit granita to refresh the tastebuds ("I don't like grapefruit and I love this," says GF)
and on to the main courses.
Now the kids and I have been perusing the menu online for a month but there was a great deal of hesitation at the table - too many exciting choices.
DD and GF had the prime beef strip loin with mushrooms, onion, pommes frites with a red burgundy sauce. Their eyes lit with excitement when they tasted the intensely flavorful sauce and of course the meat was perfect.
'babe had the rack of lamb , with official certificate, number 62000 something. She cooked some frozen lamb chops from Trader Joe's a couple weeks ago, not terribly successfully, so I was a little surprised she went with the lamb. The Lark calls the Rack of Lamb Genghis Khan their signature dish, always served with a numbered certificate that indicates how many they've served over the decades. This lamb was justifiably the pride of the establishment . Roasted with a complex and subtle curried spicing, the lamb was rosy pink, tender and flavorful. Again, even the kids enjoyed their sample and lamb is often a stretch for young people in my experience.
TS had the pan-fried lobster with both butter and the "piquant red pepper sauce". I suggested to him that the bare lobster might be a better choice than the Lobster Thermidor just because the bare lobster is likely to be the best quality we're going to find in the all-fresh-water Midwest and covering it with cheese might obscure the lobster to some extent. I may be wrong and if so, he'll have a treat coming some other day when he tries the Thermidor. He loved the lobster and sauces.
I had the duck which was all one could hope for - crispy skin, of course, no greasiness in the meat at all and it was served with brussel sprouts, not ordinarily my favorite but when they soak in duck fat for a while, well, they get better. The "sun-dried plums and armagnac sauce" provided a nicely balanced sweetness to the meat. Imagine, I ate brussel sprouts and prunes in the same dish and loved it!
Desserts were excellent. I especially enjoyed the cherry tart, but I have to say, I would have been just as happy to skip dessert. We were plenty full from the previous two hours of chowing.
Wines in the bouquet come from the by-the-glass menu. They were uniformly excellent though I would dissent from one recommendation from our otherwise delightful waiter. He offered the Goldtropfchen Reisling Kabinett to TS with the lobster. TS thought it way too sweet for a dinner wine and I agree. Since I actually like Reislings (which we never have at home because 'babe hates Reislings), I traded TS my Rancho Zabacco Zinfandel which he enjoyed a good deal - it's bright and peppery. While zin-lobster and duck-reisling may not be the most common pairings, we enjoyed all the components, so it worked fine for us. The last round of the bouquet is a sweet wine with dessert and we all enjoyed ports, ruby and tawny.
The Lark is pretty darn pricey, small and cozy and friendly. Jim Lark spends much of the evening chatting with patrons - he even called me "young man" at one point. It has been justifiably known as one of the best in Detroit for a couple decades now.
The Lark in in West Bloomfield on Farmington Rd., just north of Maple. Menus and wine lists are online at www.thelark.com
Hey, berkleybabe here. We had an extraordinary evening...just giving props to berkleygary's review. This is a restaurant for any and all events, small, everyday, lifechanging. The hospitality is as good as the food. Hey, no spamming or spinning...;this is a wonderful oasis of excellence.
re: g rote
I'd like to learn a little bit more about your opinion; the Lark had Marcus Haight for something like 20 years, Matt Prentice does a wonderful job with wide array of restaurants, places like Annam in Dearborn, the Earle in Ann Arbor are, I think, pretty chef centric---it's just not celebrity chefs. Opus One and Rattlesnake are still pretty high profile. We may be a city that's more owner centric ( think London Chop House/Caucas Club in their heydays)? Maybe that's not a bad thing. I think continuity and commitment to really fine cooking, service and ingredients are at the heart...ya think?
thanx for the great recap of your evening. i love the lark. not surprising that they won their 2nd restaurant of the year award from hour magazine in late 2006. they have had a few top notch chefs over the years (is marcus haight still teaching at o.c.c.?) but the key to the contstant success has been jim and mary lark. yes, the lark is very pricey, but i think that it is worth the splurge, even if only once. bravo.