Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Continental comfort

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Offering classic Italian fare in elegant surroundings, Mezzaluna is blessed with highly professional, liveried servers who lend an unintimidating air of continental sophistication rarely found in restaurants in such an accessible price niche. While examining the four-page menu, one can nibble on warm, cheese-infused focaccia and crusty Italian farm bread. The mains on the menu include fresh pastas such as baci pappalina, several gnocchis and penne dolce vita that does resemble a traditional tutto mare. Most of the seafood is flown in from Boston’s fabled Foley’s, and top-round, milk-fed veal is another specialty. The wine sauces more than complement the meat, fish or fowl. To top things off, desserts might include an admirable, unusually tall house-made cheesecake ($8) or a dreamy light tiramisu ($7.50).

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Curry in a hurry

Posted By on Wed, Jan 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM

In 2006, Rohit Khanna, born in New Delhi, opened what he calls “the first express Indian restaurant in Michigan, where you can get a complete meal for under $6.” Chilli Masala is centrally located in Canton, in the midst of the western suburbs’ growing Indian population. The fast-food theme is followed relentlessly. Customers place their orders at the cash register. The food is served on paper plates. Diners must collect their plastic forks and skimpy napkins from labeled bins and squirt their own drinks from the pop machine. There’s a kids’ menu of pizza, mac and cheese, chicken fingers and tater tots, and, of course, there’s no alcohol. The usual korma, rogan josh, vindaloo and bhuna are all available with lamb, but chicken receives some different treatments, such as tomato sauce and makhani, often called “butter chicken.”

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Elegant touches

Posted By on Wed, Jan 17, 2007 at 12:00 AM

With tasteful art for sale on the brick walls, large picture windows fronting the colorful pedestrian traffic on Washington Street, and, in season, a sizeable outdoor patio, Café Zola is one of the more comfortable restaurants in Ann Arbor. The most expensive entrée, at $29, a whole fish of the day baked in parchment, is well worth the investment. Another assertive combination, shrimp Batu ($23) from Turkey, begins with perfectly sautéed gulf shrimp and surrounds them with a zesty chunky tomato-and-onion sauce, feta and kalamata olives. Among other mains are spaghetti and meatballs marinara, lamb chops a la Turque, flat-iron steak with garlicky chimichurri sauce from the Pampas, and ahi tuna in a sesame-seed crust with wasabi butter, sugar snap peas, and that crunchy coconut rice. The wine list, a thoughtful if somewhat pricey one, contains a handful of relatively obscure bottles in the high 20s to the middle 30s before it disappears into the stratosphere. This clearly is not their grandfather’s Ann Arbor, once a culinary wasteland whose best eateries were two bare-tabled German restaurants, and whose city fathers prohibited liquor by the glass.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More than mugs

Posted By on Wed, Jan 10, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Like an upscale Ruby Tuesday’s or Applebee’s, the tavern serves sourdough bread and housemade desserts. All entrées also come with a soup or salad, adding to the affordability of the place. But when the menu yields to the public’s apparent demand to throw everything the chef can think of between slices of bread, the results are too busy. Take the tavern’s turkey sandwich, which is made with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and Parmesan. Or salads big enough for four people, including meat, cheese and bacon in addition to fruit, vegetables and a thick dressing, leaving the greens a distant afterthought. A word of the very highest praise: The restaurant takes pains to honor reservations, which is always a smart move.

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