Behind Closed Doors

Technically, the Forest Grill isn’t open for lunch. (Just don’t tell the chef and manager.)


Published:

It was an unexpectedly perfect afternoon. The main door to Forest Grill was locked, but General Manager/Sommelier Joseph Salerno and Chef de Cuisine Nick Janutol were expecting us.

Salerno opened the door wearing a T-shirt and jeans (much different than his normal dinner service attire). Not another customer was in sight as The Talking Heads’ song “This Must be the Place” played over the speakers.

Although Forest Grill stopped offering a lunch menu months ago, Salerno and Janutol are doing what not too many other fine dining restaurants would even consider — continuing to serve food in their off-hours.

Because they are technically closed, they’ve chosen to serve a maximum of four tables a day for lunch. And a small niche of customers have become obsessed with coming back to see what the pair can come up with.

As long you call to give them a heads-up on how many people you’re bringing, you’re in for a truly unforgettable lunch experience.

One thing worth noting: Business that’s normally conducted “behind the curtain” is taking place — deliveries are being dropped off, cooks are prepping for dinner service, etc.

“Most people don’t really care what I’m wearing or the formality of everything; they enjoy us taking care of them,” Salerno says. “This is for the diner who says, ‘Feed me great things, and I’m going to put my day in your hands because you guys know what you’re doing.’”

When you arrive, they ask how many courses you’d like and if anyone has allergies or dietary restrictions. After that, just sit back and see what courses and wine pairings they come up with.

Our party decided on five courses, including dessert.

A peach gazpacho paired with Roussanne started things off. As Salerno described the wine’s earthy, stone fruit notes, Janutol stepped outside to snip some fresh basil to sprinkle on top of the chilled soup. It was beautifully refreshing.

Salerno chatted with us at our table while Janutol went back into the kitchen. He emerged and presented us with the farm egg from their dinner menu. It’s a soft-poached egg wrapped in what almost looked like a bird’s nest, but is actually shredded and crunchy Feuille De Brick, with nameko mushrooms and Madeira sabayon. Incredibly good would be an understatement (we wish Janutol could make us this for breakfast every morning), and paired with a sparkling vouvray.

Next up was angel hair pasta with clam sauce, garlic, onion, and other magical flavors — not too large of a portion. It was paired with a white pinot noir, Sillery from Frecciarossa Estate, that opened up our palates.

Following a main course of halibut in a fumet blanc sauce with English peas and white asparagus, and topped with freshly cut lemon mint, Janutol showed us his small garden on the side of the building and talked about his harvest plans.

Back inside, it was a pleasant surprise to see chef Janutol place new silverware in front of us himself as he served a delicious almond gateaux with pastis ice cream. He also sat down and spoke about memories from his time at New York’s renowned Eleven Madison Park.

A perfect way to end the relaxed, multicourse meal.

“We’re just restaurant people who truly love what we do ... we aren’t worried about hard work,” Salerno says.

Just remember to call first so they unlock the door.

Prices for lunch vary depending on number of courses and wine pairings. Forest Grill, 735 Forest Ave., Birmingham; 248-258-9400.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

The Detroit Hot Spot With Dual Personalities

Part restaurant, part night club, we explore the many facets of Sweet Soul Bistro

Meet the Southwest Detroit Pizzeria Serving Sospeso

PizzaPlex in southwest Detroit is challenging what it means to be a new business on the block

Molly's Picks: Christine's Cuisine and Trattoria Serventi

Restaurant veteran Molly Abraham noshes around town, tracking down some top spots

A Former Coney Island in Southwest Is Serving Vietnamese-inspired Dishes with Serious Flavor

Flowers of Vietnam offers chef-driven fare with a neighborhood joint vibe

Life Support

Letter from the Heath Guide Editor, Lyndsay Green
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. 7 Michigan Breweries Worth a Trip
    Check out these must-visit locations during your summer travels
  2. To Market, to Market
    Michigan Wine & Cider Festival at Eastern Market May 24
  3. Hour Media’s Real Estate All-Star Party 2017
    Hour Media's Real Estate All-Stars celebrated at the fourth annual Real Estate All-Star Party...
  4. Your Guide to Michigan’s Odd and Unusual Festivals
    We rounded up some of the state’s most niche events, celebrating everything from fishflies to...
  5. Meet the Southwest Detroit Pizzeria Serving Sospeso
    PizzaPlex in southwest Detroit is challenging what it means to be a new business on the block
  6. Dry Times: Looking Back 100 Years After Prohibition
    A century ago, Detroit became the first city in the nation to prohibit alcohol
  7. ‘Grazie Mille’ For the Memories
    Adventures abound in Italy with Michigan winemaker, grape growers
  8. An Hour With... Candice S. Miller
    Macomb County Public Works Commissioner
  9. Motherhood in Metro Detroit
    From pre-pregnancy thoughts to developing unconditional love, several local women give a glimpse...
  10. The Gentleman’s Guide to Style
    From grooming to shopping, a comprehensive directory for stylish men in metro Detroit