209 South Main Street, Ann Arbor MI
Visited several times in August 2013
My initial visit was not planned. I was to meet someone at an adjacent restaurant. Upon arrival we found that it was closed for a private party. While standing in front of the persimmon red facade next-door, we decided to go into the new Vellum Restaurant. That visit was just for a drink at the bar. The bottle selection was impressive including brands I have only seen at a few choice establishments. As a steadfast classic Negroni drinker, I was at first dismissive of the “Negroni Bianco” on their specialty cocktail menu. I gave it a try and discovered that it is a winner. After reviewing the dinner menu, I made a note to come back for dinner the next time I was in Ann Arbor.
Soon thereafter, I found myself in Ann Arbor a couple of times. Vellum became the destination.
Starting with the amuse-bouche of a small square crisp with a pickled radish served on a small wood block, through the hot and cold small plates, the entries and the desserts – everything was conceived artistically, prepared beautifully and had a fantastic flavor. Among the best selections we tried during the visits were the hamachi, oysters, salmon rillette, beef tartare, salmon with barley, sautéed sea bass, seared tuna, frozen macaroon sandwiches, and chocolate & caramel “in multiple forms”. The most recent dinner there I ended the evening with an Aperol and soda which was accompanied by a caramel sweet treat – another gift from the chef.
On the various plates there are small accompaniments on the side such as jalapeño emulsion, pickled pineapple, apple puree, pickled shallots, and spiced small apple “discs”. The flavor profiles created for each of the dishes are interesting and intricate, showing the attention to detail. What is already delicious becomes fantastic with these petite additions.
I am also very pleased that the quality of the staff equaled the quality of the food. The hosts, waiters, servers, bartenders were all “top shelf” quality (with one minor exception noted below). After reviewing the Vellum website (which includes their photos) I recognized that the Proprietor and Director of Operations (Peter and Ric respectively) were in house every time I have been there. They were very visible in the dining room making sure everything was perfect. Another sign of a great restaurant.
The only minor issue I have had with all my visits, is that one bartender consistently removes drinks -that are not quite empty- from the bar, dumps them and then asks if we want another. It happened initially with a guest with me who was surprised his glass was removed and mentioned to me that he “was not quite done with his drink”. I purposely moved my drink closer to me on the bar so that the bartender would not think that I was done with mine. I turned my head to talk to someone, and when I looked back my glass was gone with the bartender standing there who immediately asked me if I would like another. It turned into a game for us, warning each other when the bartender was approaching so we could keep one hand on our glass just tempting a tug of war. It just seems to me that at a restaurant of this caliber (and at $12 a drink), the bar should not be “pushing” drinks. The guests should be able to enjoy the rest of their drink while they are having the bartender make a new one – before the glass is removed. The next time I am seated at the bar, I will mention this to that bartender…..so I don’t have another stealth drink removal.
I really just mentioned the bartender story for the humor I found in the situation. While talking to one of my friends who was with me for dinner, I cannot think of a restaurant I have been to recently that has equaled the trifecta here of excellent food, service and ambiance.
I am looking forward to visiting Vellum again soon, very soon.