Also known as a table d’hôte (French for “table of the host”) and prix fixe (fixed price), a restaurant’s tasting menu is a set selection of what are typically the chef’s signature dishes, served in small portions.
Its history goes back centuries, but the modern trend caught on nationally in the ’90s, popularized by highbrow eateries like the former three-Michelin-starred Catalonia restaurant El Bulli and Napa Valley’s French Laundry.
The metro Detroit culinary scene was a little behind on the trend, with tasting menus for years relegated to white-tablecloth establishments often heavy on steak and light on personality. In the past few years, however, local restaurants have caught up, making tasting menus available at all manner of new eateries. Here are a few to try.
With a menu so capricious it’s handwritten daily, Mabel Gray is known for its globally inspired and artfully prepared New American dishes. The eight-course tasting menu comprises a selection of whichever dishes are on the menu that day, served over a leisurely 90 minutes. $89. Mabel Gray, 23825 John R Road, Hazel Park; 248-398-4300; mabelgraykitchen.com.
Oak & Reel
Opened in September 2020, and named Hour Detroit’s Restaurant of the Year for 2022, Oak and & Reel is an Italian restaurant with a focus on seafood. This high-dining environment hosts Michelin star Jared Gadbaw’s six course tasting menu. Plus, the restaurant is also home to The Upright, an underground cocktail bar. $115. Oak & Reel, 2921 E Grand Blvd., Detroit; 313-270-9600; oakandreel.com.
Mink is a seafood restaurant offering oyster bar-style seating and an immersive dining experience. The five-course chef’s tasting menu changes every three weeks and offers several appetizers and main meals with optional beverage parings. While indoor seating is reserved for the chef’s tasting menu, Mink also offers first come, first served patio seating for walk-in diners. While the restaurant is pristine, it shows its liveliness with an oyster shucking class for those interested in an even more immersive experience. $80. Mink, 1701 Trumbull, Detroit; 313-351-0771; minkdetroit.com.
The Family Style Chef’s Selection at Marrow rotates regularly, and all dishes are intended to be shared. Opened in 2018, this restaurant-butcher shop hybrid focuses on whole-animal butchery and offers dishes created from ingredients available locally. This often results in plates, expertly prepared by executive chef Sarah Welch, that make uncommon cuts of meat (like beef tongue) suitable for even the most discerning eaters. $90. Marrow, 8044 Kercheval Ave., Detroit; 313-652-0200; marrowdetroit.com.
Albena is located on the first floor of The Siren Hotel and offers a menu filled with traditional American food. The multi-course chef’s tasting menu uses whole foods and thoughtfully sourced ingredients. Chef Lipar cooks and serves the food right in front of you, with opportunities to sample caviar, farmer’s cheese, dumplings, meats, and various seafoods. With only two six-person seating areas, this experience is intimate and personal with the chefs, food, and company. $250. Albena, 1509 Broadway St., Detroit; 313-277-4736; albenadetroit.com.
The Apparatus Room
Curated daily, the Chef’s Choice Menu at the Foundation Hotel’s Apparatus Room is intended to serve the entire table family-style and is available at market price. Dishes known to make an appearance include the Pici, a thick pasta noodle served with beef heart and horseradish, and the Harissa-Spiced Carrot Salad. Market Price. The Apparatus Room inside of the Detroit Foundation Hotel, 250 W. Larned St., Detroit; 313-800-5600; detroitfoundationhotel.com.
Looking to create a more specific culinary experience, owners of Chartreuse Kitchen and Cocktails opened Freya in November of 2021. When you make a reservation, you have the option to select pescetarian, vegan, or an “I Eat Everything” course plan. Each tasting menu has six to eight courses, with option for personal selection throughout the entire meal. $85. Freya, 2929 E Grand Blvd, Detroit; 313-351-5544; freyadetroit.com.
This post has been updated for 2023.