Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Eastern comfort

Wasabi brings Korean and Japanese fare to the Cultural Center

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Wasabi's bibimbab is best served in a dolsot, a heated stone bowl. Chef Seonghun Kim tops a big pile of white rice with little piles of julienned beef and vegetables, mostly cold, and a fried egg. Squeeze on the gochujang, a chili-based hot sauce, and mix it all together. It’s huge and infinitely satisfying on a cold night. The other famous-to-Americans Korean dish is bulgogi, which here is marinated rib eye. The marinade includes not only sake, ginger and various fruits but Sprite! Salmon teriyaki overdoes the sweet sauce, but beef, pork or chicken katsu are great, breaded and fried and served with a mixture of ketchup, butter, sugar, chicken broth, tempura mix and bottled tonkatsu sauce. Sushi in all the usual varieties is offered, artfully done and of excellent quality. Some entrées are served with a heap of fresh fruit, and all come with a small carrot or cucumber salad and a heartier-than-average miso soup, with seaweed. For dessert, Japanese ice cream is the best bet, especially green tea flavor.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Polish classic

Hamtramck's Polish Village serves hearty fare in a historic space

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Digging into a big plate at Hamtramck’s Polish Village Café might have you suppose you’re eating food prepared by somebody’s Polish mother. That’s because, essentially, you are. During peak dining hours there’s a steady flow of waiting customers first lining up at the bar and sometimes winding up the stairs and out the door. Most entrées run around $8 — a trifle when you consider the asking price for a dreary meal at the corner suburban strip mall chain. In a space with old-style character, with a full bar, this Hamtramck staple serves a few pages of meat-and-potatoes Polish dishes and their accompanying sides. Impressive soups, Polish standards, "city chicken," Hungarian pancakes, mushroom crêpes, boiled ribs, fresh sausage in beer sauce, pan-fried chicken livers — plus a whole other menu page of such daily specials as stuffed green peppers and sauerkraut in crusty dough. Smoking permitted; cash only.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Neighborhood perk

Mercury Coffee Bar brings panini and slow java to Michigan Avenue

Posted By on Wed, Nov 12, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Across from Slows Bar BQ and a stone’s throw from what’s left of Michigan Central Station, the Mercury specializes in “slow coffee,” salads and sandwiches. The excellent soups include the Irish colcannon and the thick, velvety, nurturing butternut, and salads are nicely conceived, including a welcome small for $3. The slow coffee is ground and brewed by the cup for peak freshness. Sandwiches and panini on Avalon bread are delicious and creative, although they could use more inside. All the extravagant desserts are made in-house, and there are some doozies. The fact that the kitchen is in your face is part of the Mercury’s design, though it can feel industrial, and loud, despite the assertive friendliness of the staff.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Saloon style

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM

BlackFinn began its corporate life in 1994 as an Irish pub, but the only remnant of those origins is the Guinness sauce and marinade that appear on several dishes and the Bailey’s Irish Cream that enhances a mousse. Referred to instead as “an American saloon,” the pub theme is emphasized on the walls in vintage photographs of celebrated saloons. The sprawling, boisterous lounge and the much more sedate dining room, which seat around 120 people, feature the sort of dark wooden tables and walls that one would expect to find in the classic urban tavern, although with more than 20 flat-screen TVs. The substantial appetizers average around $9, including a pulled pork sandwich and three chicken and three steak skewers. Along with chili and a soup of the day, BlackFinn offers New England clam chowder chock-full of potatoes and clam bits. Some sauces overwhelm the entrees, but the honey-dill glaze on the Atlantic salmon ($16.99) served with rice pilaf is just about right. Among the desserts, there is a bit of the Irish in the luscious dark chocolate mousse laced with Bailey’s, served in a tall glass. And the small 25-bottle wine list will appeal to penurious tipplers with relative bargains.

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