My favorite kind of restaurant is the hidden gem. While there is nothing bad about a restaurant that you’ve been to before, or lots of times before (for me: F Scott’s in Nashville, The Black Pearl in Ann Arbor, Dee’s Mandarin in Chicago, The Stained Glass in Evanston, Gamine in San Francisco), it can get kind of…expected. Sometimes, you just want to take a left off main street, wander a while, find yourself in front of a door that looks like it may lead into a medieval convent’s basement, walk in and find yourself transported to a new and wonderful place filled with delicious and unforgettable goodies.
Enter Patisserie Amie in Traverse City, MI. As a bustling town that finds itself filled with visitors coming to see Lake Michigan’s shore, Traverse City has it’s fair share of tourist pleasing eateries. But Patisserie Amie is a spot that defies the typical surf and turf approach that most places catering to out-of-towners seem to take, and is more than worth the trip off the beaten path!In fact, part of it’s charm is the mystery and vagueness that surrounds it. All the reviews of their breakfast were glowing, but the dinner raves were tantalizing teases: few and far between. Try to find a menu, I dare you. Impossible and just lent more to the uncertainty. Should I take a chance? Should I try something new? Will it be worth the risk? Yes! Yes! And Yes!
There is something about Lake Michigan that belies the senses and makes you think that you are actually on the coast. For me, this means, as soon as I hear the gulls cawing away, and the waves pounding the shore I want one thing–seafood!
So to start off our meal, we ordered the Oysters Parisienne. Or as Patisserie Amie likes to call them “Huitres Chaud” (FYI the ‘i’ is supposed to have a little roof over it, but I have no idea how to do that on my computer. I’m sure you’re thinking, just google it, but let’s be real, who wants to do that?).
The oysters were seared, and although the Parisienne part of the description made me think I was going to eat something emphatically European, they were accompanied with a dollop of sauce that was mildly Indian in it’s taste, almost like a sweet less spicy curry. Whatever it was, it was deliciously creamy, giving this dish a two thumbs up.
Next, the Moules Marinieres. I’m one of those people who orders mussels left and right, but it was the first time that I got a bowl of mussels that was so doused in cream! I mean, I get it we are at a French restaurant, but I was still surprised.
While the mussels still came with the usual wine and shallots, the main player in this dish was definitely the cream. I wish there had been just a tad less cream, both to let the other ingredients speak more, and also to make me feel a little less bad about myself as I sop up the remainder with the toasted and buttered baguette slices. Speaking of which, I loved the way they sliced the baguette length wise, it gave it such cool shape in it’s presentation!
Then for the piece-de-resistance! The Margret de Canard, or seared medallions of duck breast.
This to me is a dish of pure perfection. Duck is exquisite on it’s own. I hate it when the sauces that restaurants pair it with are excessively loud, a common mistake with duck l’orange, way too many occasions have I spent chewing on a piece of duck that tastes as though it was just dunked in a glass of Tropicana. This dish steered clear of that completely by partnering the fowl with a delicate red wine reduction. Add some string beans and potatoes, and you’ve got a trifecta of gastronomical bliss!
My dining companion had the special: a Creole inspired pork chop.
Wildly more intricate, this dish served as the perfect yin to the duck’s yang. Complex flavors and spices that hop over your tongue, this dish will wake you up from a boring meal! While I am a fan of the much more simple dishes that can speak for themselves, I had to admire the ability to orchestrate the complexities of flavors that existed on this plate. Also moored with string beans and potatoes, if the end state of this dish (demolished) points to anything, this dish was also a winner.
Before you feel the need to ask, why yes, we did find some room for dessert.
I had been thinking about dessert from the moment we walked in the restaurant, because the first thing that greets you is a giant clear glassed case of cupcakes, cookies, pastries, and little cakes. We decided on the chocolate mousse.
In my mind, chocolate mousse almost always comes in a little round dish or glass with a spoon and possibly a dollop of whipped cream on top. But once again, Patisserie Amie wowed with creative presentation: scooped onto the plate like ice cream, garnished with cut strawberries, melon and apple spears, accompanied with some whipped cream and doused with cocoa powder. What a pleasant surprise! And I loved the pairing of the fruit with the mousse to add a slightly more tart accompaniment to the sweet mousse. A perfect end to the meal!
The Verdict? A home run! This place is worth the trek if you find yourself vacationing on the shores of Lake Michigan. In fact, the place might be worth the vacation itself!
Overall Grade: A
Stops seating at 9, so try and get there by 8:45. Not walkable from Traverse City bars or hotels.