For our anniversary, we tried the newly opened restaurant, The Chapman House, with our good friends, Bruce and Nancy Chapman. You have to bring a couple of Chapmans to the Chapman House, right?
This new restaurant is very close to where I work and I’ve had my eye on the renovation. The Chapman House was under renovation for 3 years, while the new owners stayed true to the home’s original finishes. It belonged to the president of Rochester Savings Bank, William Clark Chapman, and remained in the family until 1973, when it was sold and used commercially. It’s fitting that we went to Chapman House for our anniversary, because the last time I was there, it was a home furnishings store of the same name. I distinctly remember looking through the ribbon selection for my bridesmaids’ bouquets.
On a beautiful summer night, we met our friends at Chapman House. The patio out front looked beautiful and serene, while inside, the large windows, dove gray walls and dark floors draw your eyes up and down. We even saw our friend, Harry, who used to be a waiter at another restaurant near our house. He is a consummate professional and all-around nice guy. He told us he was asked to come and help train the staff at Chapman House and that came as no surprise to us. We’ll ask for you next time, Harry!
The team works with local farms and purveyors and you can immediately taste that in the food. The bread comes from one of my favorite bakeries in downtown Rochester, The Give Thanks Bakery. They use all-natural starters for their breads and many of the finest restaurants in metro Detroit get their bread there. This seedy levain was served with soft whipped butter and it was delicious.
To start, Marc ordered the Country Rabbit & Pork Terrine that was served with bread and butter pickles and molasses bread. I had one heavenly bite and he happily devoured the rest. Bruce, Nancy and I ordered the Watermelon Gazpacho for that hot summer evening. A bowl with delicately sliced cucumber, micro kohlrabi, compressed watermelon and pretty edible flowers was served to each of us and then our waiter poured the chilled gazpacho into fill our bowls. It was incredibly refreshing and tasted like it was just picked from the garden.
Can we talk about the dishes for a minute? Everything was served on beautiful speckled dinnerware. I love when restaurants pay close attention to every special detail.
For dinner, we all ordered something different. Nancy ordered the Semolina Gnocchi with summer vegetables, minestrone sauce and parmigiano. The broth was poured into her shallow bowl the same way our gazpacho was presented. The vibrant broth was gorgeous and Nancy loved her dinner. Bruce ordered the Pan-Roasted Chicken Roulade with cous cous, tomato, pignoli and tuscan kale. Bruce also ordered the Crispy Fingerling Potatoes (not pictured) on the side and we tried to figure out the bright yellow crumble over the potatoes. I tasted them and thought the yellow was seasoned egg yolk because I was getting a deviled egg vibe minus the mayo, but after I mulled it around a bit, I decided it might be the salt-cured egg yolk trend I’ve been hearing about. Such a clever idea for an elevated potato salad.
I ordered the Grilled Columbian River Sturgeon with watercress, fennel and tomato relish. I had never had sturgeon before, but I really enjoyed the meaty white fish. The tomato relish was zingy and flavorful. Each bite was fresh and perfect for summer.
On the side, I ordered the roasted beets and unfortunately cannot remember all of the delicious things it was paired with. I remember a citrusy sauce that was the texture of softened sorbet, maybe orange? They were topped with toasted hazelnuts. The menu changes often, which is always a good sign, but if you see beets on their menu again, just trust me and order them. Unless you’re a beet-averse person, then make someone else get them and take a bite, it may change your life.
Due to the amazingly fresh meal, we still felt like we had a little room for dessert and I’m glad we did. Nancy and Marc both had the Dark Chocolate Tart with hazelnut brittle (hey, maybe that was on my beets!?), praline powder and whipped cream. I had a bite and it was lovely. I had half a mind to ask for a glassful of that whipped cream with a long spoon.
Bruce and I ordered the Olive Oil & Orange Pound Cake with yogurt, almond and pineapple-orange sorbet. I also asked for a cappuccino because I wanted to collect all of the speckled dinnerware and see each piece. They offer Madcap Coffee from Grand Rapids and Joseph Wesley Teas from Detroit. Dessert was magical. Every course was FRESH and the meal of my summer dreams.
I can’t wait to go back. As much as I love the city where we live, there aren’t many restaurants that offer such fresh, local and carefully considered food. I went into this experience skeptical that it would be another place that looks good, but doesn’t deliver. I’m happy to say that it exceeded all of my expectations and we all left full and still talking about the food.
311 Walnut Boulevard
Rochester, Michigan 48307