Twice yearly I like sharing my Ann Arbor Restaurant Week experiences here on the blog.
Last Friday night I had dinner at Vellum. This was a reservation I actually made several weeks back, anticipating that a 7:30 PM reservation on Friday night might be a hot-ticket item during Restaurant Week.
Vellum has been in business just shy of two years, and is located on a prime downtown block of Ann Arbor’s Main Street, beside Ravens Club.
My past Vellum dining experiences had been limited to:
We arrived a bit early for our reservation, but we were just in time for Happy Hour, which runs Monday-Friday between 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM. At about 6:58 PM I got my order in for the $5 Brunswick Cocktail, made with rye, lemon, sugar, and claret.
A much-deserved cocktail! Last week was a crazy-busy work week.
So, Vellum’s menu posted on the Ann Arbor Restaurant Week website is really deceiving (please note that if you are reading this post a few months after I wrote it, the website have been updated with a new menu by that time). First, I will preface this tale by saying that most restaurants offer three courses for a set rate during Restaurant Week. However, there are some places that add a bonus course, or include a drink, or offer two-for-one pricing. So what I am getting at is that it is not unusual to expect that a restaurant might offer four courses instead of just three, as a bonus.
On the website, four courses are listed, and the header instructs, “choose one item per course.” Like any sensible person, I assumed this meant we would get four courses, which was largely why we elected to go to Vellum for Restaurant Week. However, we were bummed to see on the menu when we arrived that we only would get to choose three out of the four offered courses, and would need to pay $7 extra if we wished to partake in the fourth course. Basically, you can either skip the soup/salad course, or skip dessert. We elected to skip dessert, which in hindsight I regret.
Caesar Salad for him, Pea & Mint Soup for me.
- Classic Caesar
- “Vellum Caesar dressing with romaine & brioche croutons”
- Pea & Mint Soup
- “Crème fraiche, English peas.”
This chilled soup was nothing special. I imagined fresh, sweet spring peas, but this decidedly earthy soup didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
- “Cremini, tarragon cream and tomato-parmesan.”
As delicious as the rich and savory cremini mushrooms and accompanying sauces were, and as pretty as this plate was, the pastry “tart” was impossibly small, dry, and flavorless.
Salmon Rillette, for him. Tasty.
Fish and Chips
- ”Beer battered Michigan lake trout, triple-cooked fries, slaw, tomato jam, herb-ramp aioli.”
For our entrees, we both selected the Fish and Chips dish, and were so happy we did. We each received two large, perfectly-seasoned pieces of fried Michigan lake trout. The golden brown exterior was just right – crispy, but not greasy. The interior of the fish was flaky, moist, and delicious – and a pretty pink color. The herb-ramp aioli (Vellum’s version of tartar sauce) was incredibly tasty as well, mildly tangy, and paired perfectly with the trout.
The “chips,” aka “triple-cooked fries,” were good. The were HUGE, and I can imagine that cooking these to the proper degree of doneness is no easy task. Luckily, Vellum succeeded, in that they were soft inside, and crispy and golden on the outside.
The rich, (housemade?) tomato jam with the fries was a nice touch. All in all a really solid entrée from Vellum.
All in in we enjoyed our meal, but only loved one of the three courses. Granted, Restaurant Week isn’t always the best representation of a restaurant’s repertoire, but I like to think it at least offers a pretty good idea of what can be expected from the usual menu.
We had no problems in the service area, in that we were seated upon arrival, despite showing up 30 minutes before our reservation. Also all of our food arrived in a timely manner, yet we never felt rushed. Everything was accurate. The only thing really lacking at Vellum was a feeling of warmth from the staff.
The huz compared Vellum to that restaurant “Claw” in the movie Date Night, which Tina Fey and Steve Carrell’s characters visit in NYC. In the movie, the staff answer the phone by saying “CLAW, YOU’RE WELCOME.” The comparison is a huge exaggeration, in that the staff I’ve witnessed are never patronizing, but I still can’t help but sense an air of pretentiousness each time I visit.
…I’m just saying a smile, or a genuine “How are you this evening?” or an “Excuse me,” when I’m walking by would go a long way.
The interior is quite beautiful, with a sunny lounge area at the front of the restaurant with tall ceilings and huge windows facing Main Street. The bar area is also quite striking.
So there you have it – my impression of Vellum after our Restaurant Week dining experience!