First a Flash-Forward
What you see above is the menu at Andrew Michael that we received after finishing our dinner. “What” you say? That’s right, on No-Menu Monday, you don’t get to see the menu until after the dinner. Why would anyone do that? Why would a consumer give up their choice to come get a surprise meal? I was discussing this with my friends at the table, and I said that I loved that we were all eating the same meal, just like I do when I eat at my mom’s house, and I love that every bite of what we had was what the chefs had chosen to cook.
As dinner wound down, both Andy and Michael came out to say chat with all of the guests, and when I was talking to Michael, I explained how much I enjoyed the experience of not having a menu. He described going to Italy with Andy and how some of the best food came from small places. They would go in, someone would put a bottle of red and a bottle of white on the table, and they’d start bringing food out from the kitchen until the guys said “no more.” That’s where they go the idea for their no-menu night, which happens once per month, and it has proven to be a big hit. Check out the 5 reasons that it was with me.
They got us started with a fried clam amuse bouche, which is a fancy way of saying a bite-sized hors d’œuvre, which is a fancy way of saying a small snack. My description will prove how un-fancy I am when it comes to discussing food, but it was like a tiny clam hushpuppy with tarter sauce. It was delicious. We would have been happy with a big bowl of these. This was a great way to get started with a tiny bite that gave us something to talk about over our beverages.
Next up we had a delicious quail dish.
This was awesome and full of flavor and was the consensus favorite of the night. This was served up with baby fennel, satsuma, radish, and roasted garlic. Get this. Both chefs said that this might make the new menu.
Duck, Duck, Agnolotti
It wouldn’t be a trip to Andrew Michael without a pasta dish, and this dinner was no exception.
This agnolotti, which seemed suspiciously like a ravioli, was right up there with the quail for me. It was put together with chestnut sugo (which is a traditional sauce) and brown butter pana grata was full of duck. It had a little bit of cheese and some crispy breadcrumbs (probably something fancier than breadcrumbs!) on it, which gave it a rich flavor and an awesome contrast of textures. Excellent! I’d order this as my pasta dish in a heartbeat.
Is that a noodle?
What’s the most fun part of eating a no-menu meal? Trying to guess what exactly you are eating! We had a long conversation about the next dish, and by the end of the course we had a decent idea of what was going on.
So, initially that looked like some sort of scallop related seafood (by the way it seared) wrapped around some sausage. Then, we couldn’t decide what kind of seafood actually comes in a case like that, so we wondered if it was a noodle. As we took our first bites, it became pretty clear that it was a seafood wrapped sausage. Read that last bit again and take it all in.
This was squid that had been stuffed with burning river sausage (props to the Hard Corps Foodie for making the sausage), and it was served with lentils, celery root, and brussels sprouts. It was definitely intriguing, spicy, and good. In order to put this together, the guys had to sous vide it in a hot water bath for over 4 hours, then they seared it up before serving. When you think about what has to happen to have perfectly cooked sausage inside a perfectly cooked piece of squid, you can see that these guys are creative!
Last dish was, of course, a desert. Who doesn’t like a desert served in a little mason jar?
Here we have a salt caramel budino (which is something like a pudding or peau de creme). This came with a cinnamon pecan biscotti and some apple preserves. I was a big fan, as the other diners could tell by the way I was eating K’s after she had enough. Busted.
Two of my friends got the win pairing that came with the dinner, and the dessert wine was actually a cocktail that was too photogenic to pass up.
This sweet, dessert cocktail was made of Buffalo Trace bourbon, apple, cinnamon, and pomegranate. Call it the Old Memphis, because that’s what they call it.
Feast of the 7 Fishes
I’ll let you know that I was so impressed with the no-menu evening, that I made reservations for the next one on the way out of the restaurant. I then called my brother up and told him to make sure he got in town by the 19th, so that he could join my group.
I talked with Michael Hudman for a while after dinner (side note – I love restaurants where the chefs are people that know their customers and come talk to them). He is a great to talk to because this guy is genuinely excited about what they are doing, you can just tell by his voice that he is passionate about the food and about making their restaurant a great one. As if we couldn’t tell that from the quality of the food and the service already! Well, anyway, Michael told us that they did a no-menu event last year based around the Italian event of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, and it was a HUGE hit, so they are bringing it back. Expect five courses and seven fishes and all kinds of awesome. See you there! (Really, I have reservations for 6 people at 7:30, so come say hello).
You want to go to there:
Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen
712 West Brookhaven Circle
Memphis, TN 38117-4504