The name of downtown’s hot new destination, Vertical, refers to the wine flights — tastings of three vintages of the same wine — that are one of the appealing features at this intriguing restaurant/wine shop.
Wine tastings are just one of the options offered. There is also a sophisticated menu of dishes from the kitchen of executive chef Alex Knezevic and a full array of craft and traditional cocktails served in a handsome setting that combines old and new.
Located on the ground floor of the circa-1913 structure that was originally the Henry Clay Hotel, now the Ashley Apartments, it opened in mid-October and already has an enthusiastic fan base. The building’s age is revealed by the tile floors, tin ceiling and other vintage touches that have been enhanced with the use of antique mirrors and wall sconces, as well as reclaimed wood from Detroit houses, some of which may be seen on the surface of the 20-seat communal table.
New furnishings include the comfortable upholstered chairs pulled up to the bar. All of the wine glasses and barware are Riedel crystal, etched with a subtle corkscrew pattern, and the attention to detail is noticeable.
There are many appealing small plates, such as a changing array of house-made focaccia, smoked salmon, charcuterie and cheese, as well as a selection of pates. The kitchen also offers more robust dishes, typified by a rack of two lamb chops with pistachio/chevre crust, orzo prepared risotto style and slim heirloom carrots that put to shame their thick country cousins.
Another sturdy entrée is pork tenderloin with its own accompaniments, parsnip puree teamed with a crisp parsnip. The chef obviously has an eye for under-appreciated vegetables.
There’s even a burger, made with a special grind of beef and served stylishly with herb-dotted couscous, a parsnip, tempura-battered avocado and lemon-scented aioli. And I love the fact that one of the burger options is foie gras (add $8). Foie gras is also available on its own ($22). The menu is just the right length, with each dish granted a place only after a lot of thought.
Service, need I say, is knowledgeable and efficient.
Vertical is the handsomely realized culmination of the five-year dream of the proprietors, Remy Lutfy and her father, Jim. The family certainly has the credentials for this ambitious undertaking, having been in the wine business for more than 30 years, first at their small market, Cloverleaf in Southfield, and then at the Fine Wine Source in Livonia. Remy Lutfy studied wine and wine-making at the University of California-Davis before joining the family business. Jim Lutfy defers to his daughter as the prime mover behind the new enterprise.
Curious about vertical tastings? Here’s how they work: Two ounces of the youngest vintage of a particular wine are poured, followed by two ounces of an earlier year of the same wine, and then two of the oldest of the three. Price is determined by the value of the individual wines.
You don’t have to be a wine aficionado, of course, to appreciate this new downtown destination.
1538 Centre Street, Detroit
Call: (313) 732-9463
Hours: Dinner 4-10 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 4-midnight Thurs.-Sat., 4-10 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Appetizers $6-$12, salads $7-$9, composed plates $14-$24, desserts $6-$8.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Street and nearby lots, including the Detroit Opera House facility
Wheelchair access: No; however, the proprietors make every effort to accommodate the handicapped.
What the ratings mean
★— routine ★★ — good ★★1/2 — very good ★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding