Eat! Lansing

March 1, 2010

ENSO

Filed under: East Lansing, Fine Dining — Jack Lumanog @ 4:03 pm

ENSO
16800 Chandler Road, East Lansing, MI 48823
(517) 333-1656
Mon – Sat: 11 am – 2 am
Sun: 11 am – 12 am

According to the menu at ENSO, the name of this restaurant in East Lansing stands for EnergyNourishmentStyleOpportunity.  I visited this restaurant for lunch three times and once for dinner before writing this review (the lengths I will go for this blog!).

The first two times I was there for lunch, the crowd was all business. It looked mostly like lobbyists courting lawmakers and sales reps with their clients.  The last time I was there for lunch (which was today), I occupied the only other table with a party of 3 finishing up when I arrived at noon.

At lunch, all four flat panel TVs were on and tuned to ESPN which was a little on the distracting side which is a shame. At ENSO, there is a lot more to look at – the waterfall and the sleek bar come to mind immediately. Thankfully at dinner, the TVs were off which made it feel less like a sports bar and more like the club it is striving to be.

The menu includes “Gringo sushi,” a few varieties of house cut fries (the portobella mushroom fries are excellent) and a handful of sandwich and entree options.  There’s also a great wine list at ENSO with the outstanding selections from Opus One and Paraduxx.

No bread and butter here – how about a free platter of homemade hummus and salsa and grilled flatbread?  (At today’s visit, there were no complimentary appetizers – I figured they would do away with that sooner or later as it’s hard to come out ahead when so much is given away for free.)

The food has been hit or miss on my visits there.  I had the fork tender short ribs for lunch.  The flavor was excellent, however the fat needs to be trimmed better before leaving the kitchen.  I also had the bleu cheese bacon burger which was fine – not great.  And for lunch today I had the crab cake sandwich which again was fine – not great. The meal was made worthwhile for the portobella mushroom fries.

The one and only time I was there for dinner I had the grilled hanger steak with the parmesan truffled house cut fries.  This by far has been the best meal I have had at ENSO.  The steak was cooked a perfect medium rare and the truffled fries were amazing.

Normally, I have been so full that dessert has not even been an option.  However, for lunch today, I intentionally ordered light so I could have dessert.  The dessert menu looks great – caramelized bananas, quad of mousses, crème brulee cheesecake.  I settled on the caramelized bananas flamed with Meyer’s Rum and served with vanilla ice cream.  The flavor was outstanding – however the presentation was a hot mess. Basically, I had bananas in a pool of vanilla soup, formerly ice cream. It got more and more unappetizing as my ice cream rapidly melted.

I would say that service was excellent at each visit for lunch.  Over the lunch hour, the servers were very attentive and they took very good care of me.  However, dinner service was pretty non-existent.

Since this was shaping up to be an unflattering review of ENSO, I gave the restaurant a few chances to hopefully even things out.  However, after my visit today, I’m ready to call it quits on a restaurant that clearly has valued style over substance.  The most fashionable looking restaurant in Greater Lansing is in need of more hits than misses in the food department especially considering the prices on their lunch and dinner menus.

January 6, 2009

The English Inn

Filed under: American, Best of, Fine Dining, Steak — Jack Lumanog @ 11:57 am

The English Inn
http://englishinn.com

677 S. Michigan Rd., Eaton Rapids, MI 48827
(517) 663-2500
Lunch:  Monday – Friday: 11:30am to 1:30pm
Dinner: Monday through Thursday: 5:00pm to 9:00pm; Friday and Saturday: 5:00pm to 10:00pm; Sundays: 1:00pm to 7:00pm

(I reviewed this restaurant back in October  —  forgot this in a draft folder that I rarely check.  Oops.)

The English Inn is just minutes away from Lansing and is totally worth your consideration.  I’ve seen their ads in the Lansing State Journal for dinner specials and none of them looked all that enticing.  However, after accepting a dinner invitation there with some friends, and getting very excited about checking their menu out online, I was very excited about our upcoming trip.

We were a bit early for our reservation so my wife and I took the opportunity to explore the grounds of The English Inn.  They operate a small bed and breakfast with an adjacent catering hall with a charming pub in the basement of the main building.  The grounds are just extraordinary.  The view from the restaurant is just amazing  —  it makes you forget you’re in Eaton Rapids!

The atmosphere is wonderful for a night with friends or for a special occasion.  At first, our table of 6 was the only table being used in the restaurant.  We were whispering for a while until some other tables started to fill up and then the piano player took her place to provide some much needed background noise.

The dinner menu reminds me of what you would find at a country club or an old school bistro.  The wine list is very comprehensive and decently priced  —  our table split a bottle of Hess Collection Cabernet at $30.

To start, I ordered the Escargots for $10.  It was classic preparation with herbs and garlic butter.  Delicious.  My entree was the Entrecote Cafe’ de Paris  —  14 oz. NY Strip with Café de Paris butter at $30.  My steak was perfectly prepared medium rare and there was more than enough for dinner and the rest was the next day’s lunch for me.  The side dishes were uninspiring  —  mashed potatoes and steamed cauliflower.

I skipped dessert after loading up on the escargots, calling it quits on my entree and eating more bread than I care to admit (all the while dipping away at the remnants of the escargots butter).

June 19, 2008

Dusty’s

Filed under: American, Best of, Fine Dining, Okemos — dkastner @ 10:03 pm

Dusty’s Wine Bar/Tap Room/Cellar
http://www.dustyscellar.com
1839 Grand River Avenue, Okemos, MI 48864
Phone: 517-349-5150
Cellar hours: M-Sat 7am-9pm, Sun 7am-6pm
Wine Bar/Tap Room hours: M-Th 11am-12am, F-Sat 11am-1am, Sun 12pm-10pm 

First, I’d like to clear up some potential confusion.  Dusty’s website lists three entities under the Dusty’s name, but doesn’t do much to explain what they are.  If you’ve heard of Dusty’s and just want to eat at their popular restaurant, Dusty’s Wine Bar is your destination.  If you want a more casual, no reservations required meal, Dusty’s Tap Room is the place.  If you’re looking for unique gifts or overpriced items you can find at the supermarket, Dusty’s Cellar will be your next port of call.  If you’re still confused, just follow the directions for Dusty’s WIne Bar and you’ll find that all three places are right next door to each other.

Everyone you talk to around Lansing will say that Dusty’s is the, if not one of the, top restaurants in town.  I agree 75%.  

Dusty’s is located in Okemos, one of the upper-crust areas surrounding Lansing (because who would ever want to live IN the city?).  I was surprised when I pulled up to Dusty’s and found that it was located in a strip mall.  You don’t normally associate fine dining with brown strip malls built in the 80s, but there it was.  Before you walk into Dusty’s Wine Bar, you are greeted by a gift shop.  The wine bar itself is a moderately classy strip mall restaurant decorated with grape vines and a mural depicting a vineyard.  Just don’t look at the exposed rafters in the ceiling.  The tables are neatly presented and service is very attentive.  Some of the decor has a Pier One/World Market vibe.  On the Tuesday night I visited, it was moderately busy with about half the tables occupied by people aged 40+.

Dusty’s Wine Bar

The food presentation is well done.  The plates for some of the non-steak dishes intrigued me – they reminded me of pseudo-futuristic TV sets from the 60s.  

It was obvious that all of the ingredients were fresh and prepared on the spot.  I had a “Key lime caesar salad” that wasn’t too heavy on the lime flavor, but was very fresh and smothered in tasty parmesan and probably some of the best croutons I’ve had.  I also had a mango-marinated cut of steak that was very tender and had a great, sweet taste.  The grits that came with it were perfect.  Creamy and buttery.  

The wine list was pretty extensive and offered a well rounded variety.  The gift shop also had a selection of wines that didn’t seem to give into the catchy labels but still offered a lot of small-time brands.

The service was what you’d expect for the price, but not over the top.  

Overall, Dusty’s seems to be a good place for fans of haute cuisine who are willing to sacrifice a bit of ambience.

Bonus points: Dusty’s Wine Cellar is the only restaurant in town that accepts reservations through OpenTable.  This service is used quite a bit in restaurants in Chicago and DC (and other major cities, of course) and it’s extremely convenient.  They even have a rewards program so you can rack up points for each reservation.  

Dusty’s Tap Room

When I ate here a year ago, my mind was more on the job interview that I was engaged in, rather than the food.  I had a Guinness and a blue cheese burger.  It was quite juicy and the ingredients were of high quality.  

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