- Robert Widdis
- Sautéed sea scallops with spaghetti squash, smoked apples, bacon, brown butter and sage, from the Meeting House in Rochester.
The Meeting House
301 S. Main St., Rochester
Small Plates: $5-$11
Open 4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday,
10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-
9 p.m. Sunday
The Meeting House in Rochester occupies the former location of Mind Body & Spirits; moving in to such a location, executive chef Chris Johnson and general manager Jason Mood must have encountered very high expectations. Both veterans of the metro Detroit restaurant world, in 2012 they struck off together to realize the restaurateur’s dream: their own place, where they could serve their food in their way.
Mood and Johnson enlisted designer Patrick Thompson of Detroit to create a modern and thoroughly unique interior, combining wood, charcoal gray paint and dark metal. The most prominent feature is a set of mirrors mounted on the south wall of the dining room, angled slightly downward. They provide another view of the dining room, and open the space tremendously. Vibrant red chairs along with blond wood tabletops brighten up the dark colors, and numerous lamps and bare incandescent bulbs provide ample light, creating a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere. A former greenhouse has remained, now a cozy dining area with wonderful use of the natural light provided by floor-to-ceiling glass.
The restaurant’s service is casual, but very well-trained. While the servers are not overly formal and don’t hesitate to offer their opinions on the menu offerings, they also quietly and efficiently take care of the business of service: Waters are refilled carefully, discarded plates and silverware disappear from the table quietly, and servers check up on their tables conscientiously.
Breadsticks arrive at the table in short brown paper bags, each stamped with the insignia of the restaurant. They’re buttered, then sprinkled with Parmesan, and are tasty, if a little doughy. Standing out among the appetizer offerings are the chicken wings ($8): fried golden brown and crisp, then tossed in white truffle oil, toasted garlic and Parmesan. They are juicy, moist and succulent, and should win chicken wings some new converts.
The menu offers a diverse selection of main dishes. Berkshire pork tenderloin ($20) is seasoned and roasted (in a wood-burning oven), sliced into medallions and served over mashed sweet potatoes. They are perfectly sweet, yet not overpowering, and full of flavor. Both are accented perfectly by preserved peaches — just a few slices, placed atop the pork. Steak frites ($27) are worth a look: the steak is a New York strip, excellently cooked and showcasing its natural flavor; the fries are cut by hand, and the flavor of the potatoes shines through. Vegetarians are accommodated amply across the menu, but a standout is the eggplant Milanese ($17), breaded and fried to perfection. With an heirloom tomato Caprese salad as garnish and accompaniment (artfully placed across the eggplant), it is a light, refreshing, and thoroughly satisfying dish for omnivore and vegetarian alike. Specials are written daily and showcase a variety of culinary styles; check the wine specials as well, on one visit it paired up perfectly with a scallop special.
The Meeting House’s signature dessert is an oven-baked cookie, the flavors changing daily, topped with a generous scoop of ice cream from Ray’s in Royal Oak (either vanilla or a specialty flavor). Baked and served in a cast-iron pan, it’s a perfect treat to share or keep to yourself — priced at $6, it’s generous and inventive. Dark chocolate mousse ($5) is also cleverly presented, contained in a small swing-top jar and served with a demitasse spoon. More delicate and refreshing than expected, it’s quite delicious.
The menu offers a variety of tantalizing options to quench your thirst. The wine list comprises a good selection of wines, glasses ranging from $7 to $13 and bottles from $28 up to $125. The wines are well-selected and include many glasses that pair well with a variety of menu items, and bottles that appeal to neophytes and wine snobs alike. Specialty cocktails and martinis are all $10 and include a perfectly rendered Dark & Stormy — made, properly, with Gosling’s Dark Rum and Gosling’s Ginger Beer — and a highly refreshing Cucumber Gimlet.
The establishment follows a new trend of declining reservations, opting instead to take a list at the door and seat guests first-come, first-served, which can make for some unexpected waits — however, arriving a bit before or after the usual dinner hours can often provide a solution.
The Meeting House is a perfect example of a restaurant built with and from love and dedication. Johnson and Mood’s passion for their place is evident at every turn — in the thought put into the food, the excellence of service, and the small touches (like engraved clipboards to hold menus) that create a rich environment — and it makes for a superb dining experience.
Aaron Egan joins Metro Times as a restaurant reviewer this week. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.