Dec 5, 2009

The Pageantry of the Dining Room

Maitre d' Denis Cerezo decants the Six Degrees cabernet sauvignon

I started my hotel career at Le Ciel Bleu restaurant at The Mayfair Regent hotel in Chicago. Le Ciel Bleu is a classic hotel fine dining restaurant, a once necessary distinction for any luxury hotel. The culture of fine dining has given way to open interpretations of "signature restaurants" - some could be distinguished as fine dining establishments while most are dressed up casual restaurants - though offering equally flavorful and innovative dishes. Times certainly have changed. The days of jacket and tie restaurants are dead and done. Diners are still willing to pay upwards of $40 per entree plate, but prefer to define the terms of the dress code. And hotels have obliged to this demand by scratching the jacket and tie in their signature restaurants.

While I prefer to dress casually when dining out, I still cherish the tradition of putting on my best suit when dining at an elegant restaurant. So for my birthday last month, my wife and I decided to take the kids to the one and only AAA Five-Diamond restaurant in Michigan, The 1913 Room, at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. Crystal chandeliers, deep blue and plush banquettes, cheese and liquor carts, food domes and servers in tuxedos make for a very memorable evening.

Our kids are by no means strangers to beautiful restaurants, but The 1913 Room had a certain mystique to her reputation as the only true hotel fine dining restaurant in the state. I like riding in a nice BMW 7 series, but there is something special about being inside the comforts of a classic Rolls Royce Silver Shadow.

Denis Cerezo, the long time maitre d', welcomed us in his black tuxedo and with his warm French accent, a double cheek kiss for my wife and hugs for the kids. He reserved a curved banquette for the five of us. Without hesitation, he suggested to start the table, as in French tradition, with champagne. Elena and I ordered two glasses of the Dom Ruinart, Blanc de Blanc champagne to start the festivities. Denis whisked three flutes of NA sparkling wines for the kids - which to my surprise - were very much appreciated by the kids. Executive Chef Chris Madsen, just like Mr. Cerezo, have been commanding the brigade at The 1913 Room to near perfection. Chef Chris seamlessly marries tradition with innovation in each and every dish coming out of his kitchen.

As each course was brought out by the expertly trained and friendly staff of The 1913 Room, it simply confirmed that we were in a very special place. A place deserving of its distinction. While the dress code has been relaxed to business casual, I didn't notice a singe soul who didn't dress for the occasion. I guess there are others out there, like me, who long to preserve the tradition, the formality and pageantry of the hotel fine dining restaurant.
Amuse Bouche
The kids ordered the signature appetizer of Maine Lobster Cakes with Haricot Vert and Pommery Mustard Sauce
This is our favorite: Escargots Bourgogne, the Classical Way and the only way!
Chef Chris sent the table Pike Dumpling with Lobster Cream Sauce as a teaser
Sauteed Skate Wing with Double Smoked Bacon, Granny Smith Apples, Fennel and Brown Butter
Duo of Glazed Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin and Braised Belly
A Pork Lover's Dream
A nice final treat from The 1913 Room


jimmyle said...

Wow George. What a great birthday dinner! Thats great we have such a high caliber restaurant in our city!

Tammy said...

Warning! Don't read this post if it's going on 1pm and you haven't had lunch yet. Now I'm REALLY starving!