Perhaps due to a fear of a third ugly dinner, perhaps just in a spirit of adventure, my wife took me out to a new restaurant Friday night. She arrived home, had me get bundled up, and even drove, so I wouldn't discover where I was eating until we got there! I love surprises like that! I told her any time she wants to do that, whether for a meal or an entire weekend, it's fine by me. We arrived in Oxford, Michigan, just down the street from our disastrous and hilarious anniversary dinner at Victoria's Delights (where Jeannene's cedar-planked whitefish arrived cradled in a Handiwipe and where the visible parts of the kitchen were filthy), and she parked behind the row of buildings that contains the bead store. I knew she was taking me someplace we'd never been, but I didn't know there was any restaurant in that row. We often go to Red Knapp's and I had never noticed a restaurant across the street.
Just then, I spotted it, a little pizza and pasta joint. "Yum," I thought. But my wife led me in another direction, through a discreet door marked "Sullivan's Public House." We walked through the lower, bar area, and I was a little worried about seating. I hate hightops and have been known to walk right out of a restaurant that only offers them. I hate to have my legs hanging down while I eat, as much as I hate perching my ample Cuban rear end on wee stools. I was delighted, then, when we were led to the upstairs dining room, all clean lines and coziness, with windows overlooking the main drag. We were seated at a blessedly low table and immediately greeted by our waitress, who turned out to be the perfect combination of attentive and allowing us to have our space.
Jeannene started with a cider on ice, while I went the opposite direction with a coffee with Bailey's and Kahlúa. Given the cold night, we were eager to warm up with soup, but I was also intrigued with the pretzel twists with a Smithwick's and cheddar sauce. I know that pretzels are everywhere ever on earth now, along with poutine, but I almost always really like them and love to try different beer cheese sauces. We didn't need them, but we ordered them, with a potato leek soup for Jeannene and Irish onion soup for me. They turned out to be dainty little things, with a tasty sauce that should probably have been just a smidge warmer. As we were taking most of it home, however, I didn't bother asking and simply enjoyed it as it was.
Our soups were very good and Jeannene's was just beautiful when it arrived, a soft light green, with a lovely flower piped in crème fraîche atop it. Hers was creamy, comforting, and not at all assertive, whereas mine had a pronounced tartness to it and great flavor from delicate shards of leek and onion. The traditional French bread crouton was replaced with soda bread and the mozzarella/provolone with white cheddar.
Jeannene had decided ahead of time that she would have the Scottish salmon, pan-seared and accompanied by braised kale and cabbage, along with a large mound of mashed potatoes. The whiskey cream sauce was well-executed and not dominated by the whiskey and the salmon was delicious, cooked perfectly. Jeannene proclaimed it the best, or very nearly, she's ever had. Having heard that they were out of the cottage pie, I was torn between the bangers and mash (really, colcannon) and the shepherd's pie. I'd declared when I saw the door sign that I was having shepherd's pie, but I am quite a fan of bangers and mash, especially when the sausage is house-made, as it is at Sullivan's. So, I ordered that, only to have the waitress return and very apologetically tell me they had just run out of it, as well. I was absolutely fine with that, figuring I was meant to have the pie. It arrived with a lovely cloud of potatoes piped on top and full of juicy, beautifully-spiced Angus beef, carrots, turnips, and peas. Scrumptious! Of course, I could only eat about a third of the monumental dish, so the rest will be lunches this week.
The desserts were far from the usual boring round of the same old offerings, too. Chocolate Guinness cake, Bailey's cheesecake, Irish soda bread pudding---and yet, we ended up with a dish of crème brûlée, a dessert we both love. I am picky about my crème brûlée, but what I'd eaten so far assured me enough that I didn't even ask what kind of dish they serve theirs in before ordering it. It arrived in a low oval dish, promising just the right ratio of crunchy caramelized sugar topping to creamy custard. It was astonishingly, breathtakingly good. Frankly, nearly the best I've ever had. It was buttery and vanilla-y and the sugar on top was perfectly caramelized. Anne Kearney's might be as good and I love hers. Only the lavender crème brûlée we enjoyed at the Art Institute of Chicago surpasses this rendition.
We are excited to go back for brunch someday. They have all kinds of wonderful offerings, from a full Irish breakfast to Irish steel cut oatmeal to black pudding, red onion marmalade, & blue cheese tart to a chicken toastie. Yum, yum!