Dining With Strangers

A pop-up concept with ‘guest chefs’ evolves into Hamtramck’s Revolver
Ketoprak (top): rice noodle salad with fried tofu peanut sauce and sambal. Rica Rica (bottom): braised chicken with jasmine rice, pickled carrots, and hot sauce.

Diners gather around a long wooden table, chat about Anthony Bourdain’s portrayal of Detroit on Parts Unknown, and share stories of overindulging, including too much Short’s Soft Parade before a concert. The hosts bustle about, serving spicy braised chicken and grabbing beers from the fridge, later toasting a couple celebrating their 30th anniversary.

The scene wasn’t a dinner party at a private home. It was still a dinner party, but with former strangers now friends, bonding over the love of food in a cozy Hamtramck storefront called Revolver.

My friends and I take turns throwing dinner parties every month. This is way better — all the camaraderie and diverse menus without the dishes and cleanup. (Note to my friends: I still love you and am looking forward to Sunday brunch.)

The brainchild of Detroiters Tunde Wey and Peter Dalinowski, Revolver is a new concept restaurant inspired by other culinary destinations such as Beast in Portland, Ore., and the table d’hote tradition of innkeepers serving family-style meals to their guests. Rotating guest chefs, hence the name, come up with the prix fixe menu, the same for two seatings. Diners prepay online for one of the 35 spots.

In the kitchen this particular Saturday night were the women behind the popular Indonesian pop-up Komodo Kitchen. If you’ve heard about them, you know you must snag tickets right away, even if it means pulling over to grab your smartphone if you’re driving (No joke: An event at MOCAD in 2012 reportedly sold out in 15 minutes).

There are no white tablecloths or long wine lists (actually, it’s BYOB). With communal dining, the accoutrements are “all stripped away, and it’s just you and the food and the company,” Wey says.

It’s an appetizing concept — you can go to Revolver every week and have something different every time. As I write this, I’m planning to go for Supino Pizzeria’s Dave Mancini’s rustic Italian dinner after just having gone the weekend before for Indonesian.

Other guest chefs, with whom Wey and Dalinowski split revenues 50-50, have represented Detroit’s culinary spectrum, from upstart talents such as Ollie Honderd of resto change o! to longtime Colors-Detroit chef Phil Jones. Future guest chefs include Kate Williams, formerly of Rodin.

Open since September, Revolver has generated buzz in foodie circles — and they’re just getting started. They plan to redo the kitchen and facade, and are looking to expand into a full-service restaurant. At the moment they offer prix fixe dinners on Fridays with occasional Saturdays.

The aim is to welcome food lovers “to our home, to our kitchen. We work together to make folks happy and full,” Wey says.

9737 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-757-3093. Or visit  revolverhamtramck.com