We went to the new restaurant, Mabel Gray, with friends on Halloween night and I was charmed from the moment I walked in. First of all, 90’s Janet Jackson was playing and I wanted to start dancing plus high five the person in charge of the music. Instead, a big smile crossed my face and I took in the whole place. Warm and friendly smiles from behind the bar greeted us and some of the staff was dressed for Halloween. I noticed a few distinctive and trendy Hedley & Bennet aprons, too. Everything looked polished and organized. The restaurant is small, 42 seats, but when I called for reservations the week before, the nice voice on the other end was excited for our visit and appreciated our early dinner time, because we had a party of 5.
The menu changes almost daily and is hand-written. Our server was really knowledgable about each dish and made sure to point out anything unexpected on the menu. For instance, the hibachi charred pumpkin soup had a shrimp base and isn’t your typical pumpkin soup. She encouraged sharing plates. They also offer a tasting menu that is chef’s choice and can vary table to table.
We started with drinks that arrived in kitschy mis-matched glasses., be still my heart. My House Manhattan featured Old Forrester bourbon, punt e mes (Italian vermouth), cynar (Italian bitters) and angostura bitters. I loved it.
We shared a pickle plate while we looked over the menu. This special pickle plate had pickled mushrooms, sichuan pickles, bread and butter pickles with golden raisins and balsamic cauliflower pickles. Each pickle was unique in varying degrees of sweet, sour and savory. All delicious!
This roasted cauliflower salad was a table favorite and eventually 2 orders came to the table. The roasted cauliflower was tossed with wild rice, radicchio, sliced cranberries, burnt sage and a citrus vinaigrette. I would never think to put these things together, but it was great.
I was the only one thinking about the tasting menu and didn’t want to hold up our table, so instead I ordered three small plates and was hoping to have room for dessert.
The hibachi-charred pumpkin soup with shrimp, sesame and black garlic emulsion was kind of a revelation! Marc does not care for squash, but he loved this soup with shrimp stock and bits of shrimp mingling with other Asian flavors. Come to think of it, Marc only likes Chef James’ autumn soups, because he liked the spicy cauliflower soup he served at his other restaurant, The Root, almost exactly 3 years ago.
Pictured above is the sautéed spinach with preserved lemon, chile and garlic. It was fresh, sourced from a Detroit farm, and full of flavor. It’s similar to the kind of sautéed greens I like to make at home with a little garlic and spice, but the preserved lemon really added that extra layer of flavor.
The fried Michigan pork belly with onion mousse, pickle slaw and ong bak sauce was incredible! Crispy on the outside with savory and sweet flavors that made the whole dish a stunner.
Our friends ordered the mushroom and swiss melt made with grass-fed beef, pickled mushroom, marinated onion, greens and Russian dressing on a challah bun + the crispy duck confit with farro risotto, shaved endive and huckleberry agrodolce (Italian sweet + sour sauce). They loved their dishes and the bite I had of the duck was truly delicious.
Marc ordered the bay scallop and manilla clams in coconut milk, local hot pepper jelly, sunseed pumpkin, fennel, onions and herbs. Surprisingly, Marc did not love the broth, but I had several spoonfuls and really loved the spicy, sweet and creamy broth. I would have happily tipped that bowl and slurped up the rest if my thoughts weren’t completely devoted to dessert.
We ordered a french press with dessert and received mismatched tea cups and more vintage glasses that made my heart happy.
Our table of desserts included pumpkin cheesecake, apple cranberry pie and my favorite, the chocolate gelatin-mousse. I had a bite of everything and it was all wonderful, but the chocolate dessert really won me over.
If you’re looking for a fun night out where you can try new flavor combinations by chefs who know what’s up about pairing flavors, Mabel Gray is for you. And maybe you’ll get to hear Janet Jackson, too.
23825 John R. Road
Hazel Park, Michigan 48030