by Elissa Karg
Ferndale is so fashionable that hip eateries are spilling over east of Woodward. Christines Cuisine, the namesake of chef Christine Adams, opened nine months ago on East Nine Mile.
Its a casual place. When the waiter ambled over to take my order, he slumped into the next booth, pencil poised. But it felt like a friendly gesture, part of an atmosphere where the staff expects to make friends because customers keep coming back, like the guy at the counter placing a takeout order.
"Hows my favorite chef?" he called out.
"Hows my favorite customer?" Adams called back.
Adams grew up in an immigrant Ukrainian family, and the Eastern European items on her menu are excellent. The kapusta (sauerkraut) is housemade and worth a special trip. Its part of the combo platter along with smoked kielbasa and pierogis, or you can get it as a side order; 75 cents for a quarter pound.
Christines mom makes the pierogis, and they are lovely and light. Filled with a mixture of white cheddar and potatoes, you dont feel weighed down after a half dozen.
Fresh soups are made daily. The potato soup contained big chunks of potato in a clear broth spiked with chopped dill pickles. Sounds odd, but it was good.
There the Eastern European emphasis ends; the remainder of the menu is an eclectic mix of Italian (scampi, tortellini, pasta primavera, linguine with tomato sauce), Russian (beef Stroganoff), French (Burgundy beef stew), and American standards such as ribs, roast chicken, wing dings and fries.
There are also daily specials. The jambalaya I tried one evening was fair, and on another evening a marinated baked chicken breast was tasty. The lunch menu features sandwiches, salads, subs and burgers.
The Caesar salad is topped with lots of freshly grated Romano cheese and a homemade dressing (no anchovies, though).
The "cuisine" in this restaurants title is appropriate because the intent is ambitious, there is an emphasis on the homemade, and there are plenty of hits among a few misses. Desserts pale compared to the entrées.
In this context, it seemed incongruous to eat soup out of a plastic cup, but Adams says that by the time you read this, the plastic cutlery and orange Formica booths may be history. A buying trip to New York was already scheduled.
Partners Natalia Stewart and Christopher George ("Everyone calls him Ferris," Adams says) are manager and short order cook respectively. Ferris is also accountable for the decor, which so far is a curious mix of avant-garde and leftovers from the previous owner.
High-tech track lighting illuminates interesting artwork. But if youre wondering why the artwork is unsigned, look again. Theyre wooden foundry patterns. A former foundry worker dining with me launched into an explanation of how rubber molds are taken from the wooden patterns, plaster molds from the rubber, then molten metal is poured into the plaster.
"Funny thing," said our server. "Someone bought one of them for $150."
Funny thing how this eclectic mix of international cuisines and objects lost and found comes together so successfully in a strip mall on the unfashionable side of Ferndale.