leave your inhibitions at the door
Until a few months ago, there was only one strictly French restaurant in Ann Arbor, a fact that still baffles me. So when Mikette opened a few months ago I couldn’t be happier. What’s even better is that it’s from the same guys that brought us Mani Osteria and Isalita. Both of those have brought high-quality, inventive Italian and Mexican, respectively, cuisine that have received national acclaim. I was sure that Mikette’s interpretations of Southern French cuisine would be a home run.
But you know what makes me even happier than all of that? They read my blog. Or at least I assume they read my blog. OK, let’s just lie and say they did.
Last year I wrote a series of posts about the current state of Ann Arbor’s restaurant scene, focusing on how the exorbitant rental market in the bustling downtown drove up costs which, in turn, increased pressure on owners to bring in a lot of diners. This resulted in dumbed-down menus filled with boring, familiar, mass quantity type of dishes. The final installment of the series was where I came up with a solution – strip malls. Having restaurants in strip malls and office parks, where rents are dirt cheap, allows owners to keep costs down and take some risks.
Mikette is located away from the downtown area and is close to the University of Michigan’s North Campus, an area mainly known for cheap eats and zero night life. It’s not technically in a strip mall, but rather strip malls – plural. The complex consists of several one-story buildings each with multiple businesses and a few parking lots, which is still quite different than your usual downtown location with lots of foot traffic. The perk of being able to park your car (for free) and be inside the restaurant in a minute or two can’t be overestimated. Especially now since the temperature has dipped below 60 degrees. (I’m a wimp, but you’ll be able to relate in January.)
In my pitch for strip malls, I had said that the nondescript nature of the spaces could be a blank canvass and that a good interior designer can bring all kinds of personality. Check out this pic from their Facebook page –
I love it when I’m right.
What We Ate
Just like their other restaurants, the menu is set-up so that diners can share small plates or have the usual appetizer and entree. There were so many things we wanted to try, so we opted for a few smaller plates.
Except The Nemo, which was rather large
Charred beets with Boursin creme, tarragon salsa verde
Eggplant Tagine with tomatoes, cucumber lemon couscous, cumin yogurt
Roasted mushrooms with garlic, sherry, thyme
Truffle Mac with Gruyere, English peas, truffle oil
Seriously great food. The seafood platter was terrific, with the highlight being the Thai-influenced scallop ceviche with cucumber, peanuts, micro cilantro, and lime. The smoky eggplants were awesome and the mac was sinful. The only misstep – if you can call it that – was that the mushrooms were a little too rich. Even with the Nemo we were well under a hundred bucks (excluding cocktails and wine) which, especially for Ann Arbor, is more than reasonable.
As much as I love going downtown, I really hope other restaurateurs follow their example and start opening in cheaper-rent places.
Or at least follow their example by listening TO WHAT I SAY.