If this were a Twitter review, it would read, "need to find the right balance." Never have I dined at a restaurant that had all the trappings of fine dining -- and missed the mark across the board.
Gastronomy clearly has aspiration. That it offers a degustation menu suggests that it holds the creativity of its chef in high regard. That it offers some unusual dishes -- my oxtail ravioli, for example -- points to its desire to entice the adventurous and discerning patron. That the room is quite large and attractive with predominatly large tables and spacious seatings reflects its assumption that this will be a dining destination for special occasions.
Aspiration . . . meet reality.
Gastronomy's location -- a back entrance in one of the many indistinguishable office buildings in Southfield -- will make it very difficult to emerge as a dining destination. Once the work day ends, the population in those Towne Square office buildings dwindles to nothing. On my Wednesday evening visit, there was only one occupied table in the restaurant. Of course, that did mean that the empty parking lot provided ample parking!
My dining companion and I were professionally greeted as we entered Gastronomy and were promptly seated. At first, we were pleased with the enthusiasm shown by our waitress who was eager to review the menu. And we initially dismissed her citations of their "signature" dishes and "what we are known for" suggestions as a bit of misplaced marketing. (Gastronomy has only been open a year and has had far too little time -- and far too few patrons -- to make claims about what they are acclaimed for.) After receiving our order, however, attentiveness crossed over to intrusiveness as our waitress not only returned too often to our table but at two points inserted herself in our conversations, one time totally misunderstanding what our conversation was about. The manager also twice visited the table. As did the greeter. As did another waitress who was unaware that we ordered with the first waitress. Granted, working in an empty restaurant can't be fun -- but professional restraint still must be the order of the day.
Speaking of the order . . .
No complaints about the wine list: extensive, diverse, and generally right priced at each price/quality point. Our wine selection (a syrah and a pinot) was fine.
For starters, my friend ordered the dill potato soup and I the walleye chowder (the "what we are known for" soup) and both were disappointing. The dill completely overwhelmed the potato soup and the bacon dominated the chowder. Soups require a careful balance of ingredients to create subtle taste compliments and contrasts and that balance was badly skewed in our selections.
For our entrees, I ordered the aforementioned oxtail ravioli and was quite pleased. The oxtail filling was tender, bold and flavorful; the ravioli casing was appropriately textured (al dente); and the watercress-pepper "salad" (actually a small sprinkling of watercress on top of the ravioli; certainly not a salad) added a smart tartness to the overall sweetness of the dish (borne of the blended almond milk and pomegranate gastrique.) My friend was not nearly as pleased with her paella which oversampled the chorizo and underserved the shellfish, diminishing the usual complexities of good paella to the taste of the chorizo. Again, a balance not properly struck. That said, building a menu around changing ethnic cuisines is a commendable aspiration. But quite a challenge for a top chef wannabe.
Frankly, I do hope reality catches up with aspiration. There aren't many (any?) restaurants in the area that attempt dishes and cuisines as creative as Gastronomy. But my experience suggests that paring back the menu (and the chef's ego, possibly) to concentrate on what truly is done well will better serve Gastronomy in its infancy.
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