Michael V's Restaurant and Bar
Palazzo Shopping Center, 8222 E. 103rd Suite 137
Mon-Fri: 11:00am-2:00pm, 5:00pm-9:00pm
Food: 5 out of 5 stars
Atmosphere: 4 out of 4 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
When it comes to fine cuisine, sometimes it doesn't feel comfortable or accessible. You've got to put on a tie if you are going to dine on escargot, and you certainly won't be getting Steak Au Poivre if your hair isn't done. It seems like the only time one can have such delicacies is for a special occasion. This week I've found a place that has all the requisite fine dining fare, but without the pretense -- Michael V's Restaurant & Bar.
Located at 103rd and Memorial, the restaurant is tucked away cleverly in a nondescript strip mall. There is even a lovely little terrace for dining al fresco despite its location. The interior of Michael V's is cozy, with dim lighting, a beautiful bar, comfortable seating and a touch of kitsch that makes it lovable. You know you are in capable hands when a metal sign reading "don't piss off the cook" hangs delicately above the kitchen door. It's not just a restaurant -- this is almost like home. And that's exactly how the owners want it.
After being seated, the wine list greeted us robustly with several great offerings at solid pricing, also with a few beers and full bar available. But the libations were secondary to me. The dinner menu was stunning. It contained the type of fare that fine restaurants around the world place on a "serious" menu, yet was still mingled with favorites like meatloaf and chicken fried steak.
I love a place that has such a bold selection of appetizers. Many times I order a couple of apps instead of a main entrée just to mix things up. Michael V's appetizer menu would definitely be a place to play, with items such as Fried Artichoke Hearts ($8), Grilled Portabella Mushroom ($7.50), Fried Clams ($9) or their Crispy Wrapped Shrimp ($10). The Escargot with Brie ($8.50!)
and the Blue Crab Cakes ($10) started us off.
Two plump, tawny brown crab cakes arrived with tomato chutney and were topped with a creamy citrus aioli. Crab cakes can sometimes be more style than substance, but these two cakes practically overflowed with succulent crab meat with just enough breading to hold it all together. The chutney was delicious, but a little intense. A strong overtone of what I guess to be cardamom blended with the sweetness of the tomatoes, and when paired with the delicate crab cake, a little dab is all you need.
Oh, and the escargot! In a word? Divine. The nutty, creamy texture only heightened the delightfully unctuous flavor of the escargot. This will be a dish I think about often.
So some people have hobbies like knitting or reading; but I actively seek the best lobster bisque in town. The hubbub on the street is that Michael V's is a true contender, so I ordered up a cup ($5). The consistency was perfection -- not too thick, but not a flimsy broth either. And real bits of lobster dotted every spoonful. The flavors were wonderful, with a clever use of tarragon to add dimension. Rich, flavorful, comforting ... perfect.
My tastebuds were already in complete bliss, but the entrees sent everything into sensory overload. The dinner menu featured something for everyone -- and I don't say that as some stock answer or cliché marketing phrase. You don't like steak? How about pasta! Feeling like something decadent? You can have your Beef Tenderloin ($32) and a number of other proteins "Oscar style," with flaked crab meat, asparagus and béarnaise on top. The Pecan Chicken tempted me, the Baby Lamb Chops called my name, but the Pan-Seared Tilapia ($23), topped with artichoke, mushrooms, spinach and white wine lobster cream sauce won the campaign. In fact, you could probably put white wine lobster cream sauce on a shoe and I'd be elated.
The first thing you'll notice at Michael V's is the portion size. Many times at fine dining restaurants, at these "special occasion" prices, the portions can be on the wimpy side. Michael V's, however, wants to make sure you do not go home hungry. A very large, luscious piece of tilapia was topped with a fantastic combination of ingredients. I've never had something as simple as tilapia prepared so decadently.
My dining companion was in more of a meat-and-potatoes mood, so the Chicken Fried Steak ($15) tempted his tummy. This chicken-fried steak was a thing of beauty. The impeccable golden coating, the tender, flavorful meat and creamy gravy is everything a chicken-fried steak should be. The mashed potatoes buried below had amazing flavor and beautiful texture. I always give a tip of the hat to a restaurant that can handle the more complex dishes just as expertly as what is sometimes considered a simple dish.
After all the sumptuous dishes, a stronger fellow might have shown restraint by passing on the dessert. Not me. All desserts are made in house and the list features some of my favorites, but I've heard salacious rumors about the coconut cream pie ($5.50) being beyond delicious. The rumors are all true! Fresh whipped cream piled high with fresh toasted coconut flakes topped a creamy, softly-sweet pie filling. The coconut was fresh, the crust, perfect.
Perhaps I've overused the word "perfect," but often a more fancy word just won't do. When there is thought put into the herbs, seasonings and textures used for particular dishes, it pleases the tongue. When each dish tastes like it was painstakingly made just for you, it pleases the soul. And in that regard, I can say the cuisine at Michael V's truly is perfect.
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