We’re a tad tired of seeing the words “most” and “highly” before “anticipated” when describing new restaurants. But in the case of Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails, we might (happily) have to eat our words.
Earlier this year, a “Chartreuse Preview” with chef Doug Hewitt rapidly sold out three seatings at Hamtramck’s “permanent pop-up” Revolver. The former chef of Terry B’s in Dexter was recruited by owner Sandy Levine to develop Chartreuse’s menu.
Levine — who is also the owner of The Oakland Art Novelty Company in Ferndale — was excited to nab the space in Midtown’s Park Shelton. He named Chartreuse in honor of one of his favorite drinks. And like the French liqueur made by Carthusian Monks since 1737, he’s come up with a potent blend of atmosphere, service, and food.
The theme works throughout the building. A hand-painted mural in the entrance features plants indigenous to the Chartreuse Mountains — an “educated guess” about the drink’s 130 ingredients. Levine became a fan of “living walls” he saw at Ferndale’s Rust Belt. Here, two installations of succulent plants grow out of burlap-and-wire vertical beds that the staff must water weekly. A dried flower curtain hangs from the ceiling near the back of the dining area.
There are nearly a dozen versions of the titular drink, straight up (green or yellow, some barrel-aged) or in specialty cocktails. Not leaving much to chance, Levine brought The Oakland’s Kaytee Querro (voted “Best Bartender” two years in a row by Hour Detroit readers) to head up the beverage program.
Hewitt’s menu — divided into “Cold,” “Vegetables,” and “Hot” categories — is imaginative and brief. He’ll tweak it seasonally as they depend on fresh fixings; the place doesn’t have much storage.
Two “Cold” standouts are at opposite ends of the dietary preferences spectrum. The Lamb Poke’s sweet and mild raw cuts mingle with mango and avocado while the sweet chili potato chips add crunch. The herbaceous and airy Spring Pea Ricotta — with salted lemon, olive oil-poached tomatoes, and pickled ramp — will satisfy vegetarians and carnivores alike. The Grilled Spanish Octopus marries smoky chorizo and seafood with refreshing fennel and cucumber.
“Vegetables” were as varied — and delicious. The waiter insisted we try the Twice Cooked Egg (poached, then fried) with frisee, Brussels sprouts, and warm shallot vinaigrette. He wasn’t wrong. Warm Red Cabbage was even better. It comes with roasted grapes, candied pecans, and “optional” (but very recommended) duck skin. Other vegetables come from local purveyors Tantre Farms and Recovery Park.
The “Hot” side featured Lake Erie Walleye with Michigan northern beans and smoked ham, and a Duck Confit with barley “risotto” and blueberry mostarda.
Desserts were equally creative, especially a grilled pound cake with a blueberry/rhubarb compote.
Not to complain, but we didn’t get to try the Michigan Shrimp with mussels and coconut, (and popcorn!), or the Grilled Cap Steak, or …
Dare we say it? We are “highly anticipating” another visit to Chartreuse.
15 E. Kirby St., Detroit; 313-818-3915. D Tues.-Sat.