leave your inhibitions at the door
A couple of months ago, Boom Boom and I spent the night in downtown Detroit to celebrate my birthday. I know, I know – not exactly the most romantic place. The first choice was Toronto, but nearby Buffalo just got socked with 5 feet of snow. So even if Toronto only got a fraction of that amount, it would’ve made for suckish drive. Chicago was a close second, but Boom Boom just got back from there the day before.
Although we’re only 45 minutes away, I don’t go to Detroit that often. Outside of a couple concerts, the last time I spent any time in the city was February. Of 2012. Back then, I wrote this about Detroit:
This is a particularly tough post for me to write because I expect it will piss off a lot of people – especially people I know who’ve spent their whole lives here. So I might as well just let it loose – Detroit’s a shithole. Worse than you can ever imagine. I ’d say it’s a lot like Beirut, but I think I’d be doing Beirut a disservice.
So it’s been a couple years. Have things changed?
A little. There are more and more younger people moving into Detroit – even non-hipsters. Shinola is making gorgeous watches, bikes, and leather goods there. And quite a few new restaurants have sprouted up.
Selden Standard is one of them, having opened two weeks before we went there. They describe the food as rustic, farm-to-table, cooked in a wood-fired oven and served as small plates. I personally am soooo done with rustic farm-to-table, but I vowed to keep an open mind.
It’s driven by Executive Chef Andy Hollyday, who until recently held the same position at Michael Symon’s Roast. I have not been to Roast, but have heard excellent things about it. I’d still like to check Roast out, but it seems a little “polished” or “corporate” to me – celebrity chef, housed in the Westin. So I was curious to see how a bright young chef like Hollyday would do in a more independent setting.
Speaking of setting, it certainly didn’t look like a rustic farm-to-table place –
The décor was as simple as could be – black walls, bare bulbs, subway tiles, and unfinished planks on the ceiling. It’s odd, the simplicity of the surroundings is also very striking and feels upscale.
What we ate
Everything was absolutely delicious, well-balanced, and completely devoid of frivolous ingredients. Everything had a purpose and nothing was lost. The Caesar had me asking, over and over, “Why aren’t more restaurants including chicken skin?!?!” The short rib ragu was luscious. The juxtaposition of the octopus and shaved fennel was mesmerizing. Unbelievably, the best of the bunch was the flatbread. Yes, you read that right. My unapologetically meat-leaning palate was tamed by a vegetarian flatbread.
What we Drank
I’m usually pretty good with choosing one wine that will go with different kinds of food. The problem was that we chose six very diverse dishes. The simple solution would’ve been to get two different bottles, but it was just us two and one of us had to drive.
Our waiter recommended the La Torrazza Canavese Rosso, from northern Italy near France. It’s a lighter wine made from Nebbiolo and Barbera grapes. The nose was floral and smoky, and the palate had a lot of fresh berries and earth. It was light and acidic enough for the tuna and flatbread, yet paired well to the short rib. I really think that it would’ve stood up to heavier, grilled meats as well.
So is Detroit back?
I’m going to talk about that a little more in Part 2. For now, my answer to that question is a resounding “WHO CARES?”
Selden Standard was so good that I thought I was in Toronto or Chicago.