Antietam – Detroit
1428 Gratiot Detroit MI
Visited January 30, 2015
In keeping with my policy of not using a flash, and being as inconspicuous when taking photos as to not disrupt any other diners in the restaurants, my photos – especially of the food – in this post does not do it justice. Luckily the owner of the restaurant, Gregory Holm is a photographer. On Antietam’s website, you can see perfect photos of the food and drink shown with the finest crystal and china. The reality is somewhere in-between our photos. The glassware, bowls and plates we received were of the more standard variety – but the wood plank that my whitefish was served on was a nice presentation. Although the vessels were not exceptional – what they contained was exceptional.
The specialty drinks were unusual and boldly delicious. The currently trendy ubiquitous beet was included in a drink, which I had to try and was quite good. The classic Aviation cocktail here has a green layered look that really paired the sweet and sour aspects of the drink perfectly. The flavors blended in each sip tasting like a delicious sour hard candy.
The food was also very delicious, earthy and fresh. I tried the escargot with sautéed wild mushrooms, the carrot tart with heirloom carrots and brussel sprouts, and the whitefish with squash puree and pepita pesto. The one dish that did not meet the same presentation and taste level was the soup. The presentation was a little sloppy and I do not even remember what type soup it was – it was just not memorable. What was memorable were the beignets, of course.
The building (actually two buildings) that house the restaurant are historic Art Deco buildings on a rather deserted stretch of Gratiot Avenue on a cold winter Friday night. After entering through a billowing drape airlock into a small space with a very pleasant and sparkling receptionist, I was quickly taken to my table in the other building. It is a slightly larger room with tables and a small bar. With tin ceilings, wood paneling, one wall draped with a dark velvet drape, and an interesting tile pattern on the floor, the space is warm and luxurious. The lighting is from pendant fixtures of various shade styles – individually they are nice, together in this relatively small room a few too many different types for my taste. The chairs in the dining room I was surprised to see. They are contemporary chairs with thin faceted backs that pair well with the overall decor. I did not sit on one, but want a set for my dining room, what a great design!
With all of this being said, the elephant in the room is the epic fail of the initial opening of this restaurant, and the vague statements and equally vague talk on the street and in the press about the closing of Antietam after a week. How can one of the most anticipated upscale restaurant openings of the year have the chef and bartender leave after one week – even with enthusiastic reviews? The owner’s vague explanation was “Communication was not where it needed to be” . He has now regrouped and reopened Antietam after bringing in a team of chefs and bartender from New York.
There is still something that is very odd about the closing – how it happened ….and that it happened. After reading the reviews from the initial opening, and eating there myself recently, the issue does not seem to be the food. There are many great restaurants in the City, with beautifully detailed rooms and exceptional food. Can I recommend that you spend your money at Antietam? I will be vague, I do not know…