Review is based on two separate experiences: one this past weekend, and one six months ago.
1. Atmosphere - stellar. Feels like an old Burgundian wine cave. Exposed brick, little dining alcoves, a communal bar table; it's old-world Europe in the heart of TC.
2. Wine list - brilliant. The sommelier must be a formal angel? Or should run for President? It's well-balanced and offers a comprehensive selection of different varietals from different regions - there is something for everyone on this list. And the Col Vetoraz prosecco, yes, you could bury me with a case of this so I was happy in my afterlife.
3. Food - thoughtful. I choose this word for many reasons. One - menu development - is crazy good. Offal, seafood, wild boar, oysters, and an extreme list of antipasti which includes house-made burrata, a treat I would drive from GR to TC for alone. Two - quality - food sourcing and preparation is top-notch. Flavors, textures, total culinary experience, is expertly and purposefully designed. Again, 'thoughtful,' is the word that comes to mind. It is evident how carefully the menu was designed.
1. Food - execution. On both dining occasions, there were little 'misses' in the execution of the well-designed dishes we had ordered. For the first occasion, I had ordered the wild boar, which was slightly overdone for how I had ordered it. For the second occasion, my husband ordered a pasta dish where the pasta was completely undone. Getting pasta to al dente requires art and science, and the cooks should ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS taste each batch before serving it to ensure al dente has been achieved. My husband's pasta was crunchy in some bites, and tasted of raw flour. Good that you could tell it was homemade, but inexcusable that it left the kitchen unfinished.
2. Service - is generally good on the whole, but we did ask to switch out the pasta in my husband's dish. The dish he ordered was offered as a fettucine, and he simply does not enjoy long pasta. He asked if there was a bite-sized pasta available as an alternative, and our server responded saying that 'chef doesn't allow substitutions.' Let me clear. Chefs allows substitutions if they want their customers to return. Period. Secondly, to request a substitution of an immaterial nature, such as pasta, is reasonable. Asking to switch out a meat source, an herb, etc that completely alters the flavor profile of a dish is a different matter. Was not impressed with how our server handled this.
SUM: Will always go back to Stella's. Their menu is inventive, authentic, familiar but inspiring, and the atmosphere isn't something I've experienced in dining in any other restaurant in the state of Michigan.
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