A Michigan restaurant fit for big-city diners
My family planned to celebrate my sister’s birthday at a steakhouse. But, after a Fourth of July feast Thursday, none of us desired a large, filling steak dinner the following day.
My dad remembered reading about The Sardine Room, a raw bar and small plates restaurant in downtown Plymouth, Mich. He said it reminded him of the restaurants where my sister and I dine in Washington, D.C., and New York City. When I walked into the sleek and dimly-lit dining room, I completely agreed. Yet, there were clear signs we were dining in Michigan. The menu features Michigan craft beers, a Traverse City Riesling, a Michigan trout entree and a Sanders hot fudge cream puff dessert.
We read on the restaurant’s website that reservations were available only for parties of eight or more, so we drove out to Plymouth, taking the chance that we would get seated quickly. Most of our friends were Up North — yes, we capitalize that in Michigan because it’s a destination, not a direction. We thought it wouldn’t be too busy at Metro Detroit restaurants, but, as we drove into the restaurant-filled downtown, it seemed as if everyone still in town was in Plymouth. Families, couples and groups of young adults strolled along Main Street and Ann Arbor Trail to their destinations — bars, restaurants and an outdoor concert at Kellogg Park.
Although the alfresco dining was full — as it also was at neighboring restaurants Compari’s and Fiamma (all owned by the same family), we were seated sooner than the estimated 25 minutes. My parents and I sat at a booth near the rear of the narrow restaurant with views into the busy kitchen and of a mural of sardines. We began our meal with a bottle of Duckhorn Vineyards’ chardonnay and a half dozen East Coast oysters.
I wasn’t so sure about oysters. Until I ate one, of course. So, I ordered the b.a. shrimp cocktail, which I can only imagine stands for “bad ass” considering the spicy kick of the cocktail sauce. Mom wasn’t as adventurous as I was with the oysters. She ordered the gazpacho with scallops. Mom found the broth-like chilled soup a tad overpriced at $6. It lacked the tomato chunks many gazpacho soups have. But, she said the blackened scallops were excellent.
We also ordered a $5 baguette that came with a butter and pickles. It’s the perfect serving size for 2-4 patrons.
Onto the main event: the entrees. Dad ordered the night’s fish special — grilled salmon served over herbed cauliflower couscous that was finely chopped, arugula, shiitake and button mushrooms and pistachio. Other specials that night included bacon-wrapped center-cut Kobe sirloin and a house-made ricotta gnocchi with braised lamb small plate.
Mom ordered a small plate of two porchetta sliders served on brioche buns with arugula, pickled onions and salsa verde.
Thinking the small plates would actually be … small, I ordered two. I guess I’m used to small plate restaurants in D.C. and NYC where a fish taco is two bites. The fish tacos I ordered were delicious and full of grilled snapper, thyme scented cabbage, corn salsa, jalapeno slaw and a tequila lime crème on top. I also ordered the james curry. I’ve been wanting to try a curry for a while. This was a mild-flavored curry of edamame, fried broccoli, portobello mushrooms, arugula, basmati rice and pickled red onion. The fried broccoli must have been delicious — my dad kept stealing them off my plate.
I was so impressed with The Sardine Room. We had a wonderful time, eating the delicious food. Great service and atmosphere, too!
Menu: American cuisine, including oysters, small plates, seafood, meat dishes, vegetarian and gluten-free options
Drink List: Michigan and other American craft beers, domestic and international beers, variety of quality wines, cocktails
Prices: $9-14 for raw bar items; $8-13 small plates; $15+ for entrees
Location: 340 S Main St, Plymouth, MI 48170
Parking: Street parking. Click here for parking map.
Wish you were here,