Tried Inyo Restaurant & Lounge in Ferndale, MI
So I've had a lunch Groupon for this place for a bit, and I've been wanting to try it as it's in my parents' back yard in Ferndale. Since I'm doing a bit of housesitting for them this week, I decided to use it for lunch today. I should say upfront that I perused the menu online first before ever buying in to the Groupon ($10 for $20 at lunch), and the fact that they had a Chilean Sea Bass on the menu at $24 intrigued me. For the record: I am a big, big fan of good sea bass. It's a weakness that I allow myself to indulge in maybe once a year, since it can be so satisfying.
I went with that in mind. Showing up, I found metered parking on the side of the building, and pulled right up. Upon entering, there wasn't much of a lunch crowd, as the entire front of the restaurant was empty. Dead empty. There were some customers in the booths in back which made me feel a bit better about the place (I've seen it chock full o' people in the evenings), but it still seemed weird. Weirder still is the vibe of the place. I can't quite understand: it's clearly supposed to be Japanese-ish, and yet there wasn't one person working there who was even *moderately* Asian in origin. I find that strange, though there wasn't anyone behind the sushi bar when I walked by to use the restroom...maybe they're hiding in the back? As well, the R&B music they played the entire time I was there was really not right for the place. I'm at a bit of a loss here, atmospherically.
I ordered the $24 sea bass, and if you're doing so, don't come hungry...because it ain't much food. I will say this: it was prepared *spot on*, was very, very good tasting (and looking...preparation/presentation was top-notch, as you can see in the picture), and they let the fish speak for itself without trying to "outdo" it. It wasn't just pretty...they really did the fish well...what was there, anyway.
I'm not sure what, but that meal needed *more* of something. I literally polished off every piece of food (minus the beautiful and juicy lime, and the edible flower) on that plate and in the rice bowl, using those very large (yet very effective) chopsticks they provided. I never had to ask for utensils, but I desperately wanted a salad, or some bread, or heck: just about *anything* more. Honestly: I liked what I had but for $30 out the door for lunch? There needs to be more *there*. Perhaps some included vegetable tempura. Or an eel roll. Or some fried rice. *Something*.
I completely understand that sea bass is not whitefish, cod, or even salmon. By its nature, it's going to be more expensive. Still, when I've gone $20 out of pocket and I'm leaving knowing that I'll be hungry again in a couple of hours, that's an issue. As wonderful as it tasted and looked, even knowing that I was getting the discount I was, it wasn't a sufficient amount of food to feel satisfied for the money. I darned near stopped on the way home to buy some egg rolls from the local Chinese takeaway.
I cannot recommend the place based on this visit, no matter how good the fish was. There just wasn't enough food to satisfy me at $20, much less $30 (the non-discounted price), and the atmosphere is just too strange. Service was fine, if not too well-versed on what came on the plate (I asked what the little dollops on the plate were, and she hesitated for a moment, and said, "Let me go ask." That's the correct response when you don't know, yes, but I thought she'd know off the top of her head.).
Maybe it just isn't the place for me. I cannot deny them on the fish prep, though: it was just perfect, and I wish the portion had been twice the size based on that alone...not just the fact that I was still hungry at the end.
My theory is that the chopstick in the photo was indeed not a "huge" one but a small one, hence the fish was actually quite large.
I agree with everything you wrote, based on my only visit to Inyo. The bartender was nice to look at though .... I was there on a saturday for lunch, and there were maybe 3 other people, all sitting at the bar.
It is right next door to the Rust Belt market, which is a fun place to shop ....