Tried Jefferson House in Detroit...
...for Detroit Restaurant Week, where all restaurants offered 3 separate courses (usually appetizer, main, and dessert) for $30 plus beverage(s), tax, and tip. Their DRW menu was the (or one of the) most interesting of the various restaurants offering their fare this time 'round, and I arrived back from Miami in time to call and find out if they could fit me in on Sunday night without a reservation. They could, and off I went.
The place itself is pretty nice. It feels rather upscale, as it's meant to be, and I liked it in terms of decor and comfort level. Service was quite good, friendly, and not afraid to answer questions or tell you if they liked one dish versus another. I find this to be an endearing quality when I'm dining out.
While the service did start out a bit slowly, the pacing was just fine. I was never, ever rushed, nor did I go too long between courses. My water glass was very well attended to, which is a big plus for me.
The food ranging from very good to out-stinking-standing. I started out with what I consider to be a pretty slow-pitch appetizer: pork belly. It's hard to screw up pork belly, and they certainly did a very good job with it, here. Quite a generous portion, I thought (at least 10 bites or more), and quite visually nice, with nice plating. The coconut milk seemed to add more in terms of aesthetics than taste, but the dish was quite good nonetheless. That's not hard to achieve so long as you have a nice portion of correctly prepared pork belly...it's *pork belly*, for crying out loud. So long as the kitchen cooked it well, it's hard to screw it up with sauce or spice. Very good start, but again: I gave them the easy road here.
The next course choice was far more difficult to accomplish for them. The duck breast, adorned with plum, black lentil, sage oil, and served with a sweet potato puree was going to meet with a far greater critical eye. I *love* duck, as it's a great childhood love of mine, and believe it or not, duck is pretty easily screwed up. It can often be too fatty, too well done, or tougher than it should be. One also runs the risk of over-spicing or overpowering the duck meat with whatever preparation is going into it. I'm a hard man to please with duck.
I needn't have worried. First: the duck was prepared *perfectly*. There was a definitely-noticeable sliver of slight pink in the middle, meaning the kitchen had absolutely *not* overdone the bird. The skin was crispy leaving the meat with its juiciness intact. If I ate the flesh simply by itself, it was akin to duck at grandma's house. However, the plum, sage oil, black lentil (an especially interesting choice, that last one) and sweet potato really upped the ante and made the dish extra savory and fall-esque. This dish was great (B+-ish?), and if it made their fall menu, I think it would be a terrific addition. Portion size was, again, quite fair. Kitchen nailed it.
On to the third course: dessert. Let's call this a foul ball followed by an absolute home run. I initially ordered the autumn creme brûlée, served in a little silver pot alongside two chocolate truffles. I ordered this because the other two choices were some type of cheesecake, which is just plain "out" for me, and a chai bread pudding, and I've never had a bread pudding in my life worth eating, much less paying for.
The creme brûlée arrived, looked pretty, and the crunchy top layer was very nicely caramelized to form the shell. They prepared it right...but the creme itself just fell flat with me, taste-wise. I tried about two teaspoons of it, and could not get into it. It was pretty much a miss, but then there were those two little housemade chocolate truffles...which were really terrific. It wasn't enough to salvage the dessert, but my server Joseph was kind enough to offer me the bread pudding in its stead, and when he collected the uneaten creme brûlée plate, he nicely left the truffles for me to enjoy while waiting for the bread pudding. This was a *wonderful* touch of service, in my opinion.
Nothing, however, could prepare me for what I was about to get. Please understand: in my 41 years on this planet, I've honestly *tried* to like bread pudding. I've had it many different places, from some truly competent and fantastic kitchens and pastry chefs. In each and every case, it goes over like a lead balloon. It's usually not a take-it-or-leave-it thing with me...I just leave it. It's never been worth eating before, and it's *certainly* never been worth paying for. Not even by a mile. I fully expected to try a bite or two, and be done, happy with the vast majority of the meal and quite happy with the service and facility.
When I tried my first bite, which was accompanied by their housemade whipped cream, it was just as if I'd been slapped in the mouth by the Dessert Fairy. Holy stinking cow, was this supremely good. *Ridiculously* good. Good in an entirely unsubstantiated way until last night. Never in my life did I dream that the dreariness known to me as "bread pudding" would not only be worth eating, not only worth paying for, but would be the very best dessert I've had in well over three years, and possibly longer. If this dish doesn't make it to their fall menu, it's an absolute stinking *crime*. We're talking total A/A+ dish here.
From a foul ball to an absolute home run, that course was the best one of the night, and the previous two were very good and great! I honestly cannot complain about any aspect of this experience. I tipped well (I figured out what would have been "normal" price for the three courses, and tipped beyond 20% of that price), and enjoyed doing it.
I'm quite excited about the future of this place, and based on this experience, I'm sure that the kitchen is in very able-if-not-downright-clever hands. What an exciting start, and a great first impression.