The Grange Kitchen and Bar is officially opening up on Thursday night in Ann Arbor and we were fortunate to get invited to attend a preview the other night. Our friend Brandon Johns along with his wife Sara is at the helm for this new eatery on W Liberty in the space formerly occupied by Bella Ciao. Brandon and the crew have transformed the interior of the place from old world Italian to something with a bright, airy country kitchen feel. That’s appropriate given Brandon’s emphasis on locally grown, seasonal ingredients. That also means that the menu will be changing up regularly as very elements of dishes become available and go away.
One example is the squash blossoms filled with goat cheese that were lightly battered in an almost tempura like coating and fried. These were amazingly tasty and didn’t feel at all greasy. Another of Brandon’s signature appetizers is the date, chorizo and blue cheese which always go quickly when he caters a party.
In spite of the fact that Brandon keeps the menu deliberately short, you’ll find yourself struggling to choose. Personally I went for the grilled halibut with a Portugese style seafood stew. The fish was perfectly cooked and sat amongst a bed of mussels, shrimp and house made chorizo sausage. The best part was the broth that surrounded it which was full of all the flavors combined. Max had the grilled pork loin with chorizo and buckwheat dumplings while Sofia had the roasted chicken breast with crispy skin and Jules had the steak. The fillet was covered in a bacon-blue cheese crust and accompanied by whipped potatoes and red-wine syrup.
This may have been the first time that the kitchen staff worked together for customers other than the Grange team, but it didn’t matter. All of the food was perfectly prepared and beautifully presented. Our server was also very professional and very well prepared. She was able to explain the various items on the menu and what made selections like the squash blossoms special (that is that they are only available for about two weeks a year).
At Brandon’s last establishment over on Main St, the main courses and starters were also typically well prepared, but desserts were often a bit of a disappointment. This time, Brandon and Sara have taken the feedback to heart and Sara’s sister (this is definitely a family business) is now responsible for preparing desserts. Here again we could find nothing to complain about other than the fact that we were too stuffed to eat more. The blueberry roll, chocolate cake and the fruit and nut tart were all outstanding.
We haven’t had a chance to try the menu at the upstairs bar yet, but for those looking for something a bit lighter than the main menu, it looks like there will be great choices there too. Grange will be open for dinner every night except Sunday and you should definitely check it out.