First, we headed up to Coach Insignia, which is at the very top of the Ren Cen, for some cocktails. The whole draw of this place (at least for me) is the glass-enclosed elevator ride, looking out over the Detroit River and Windsor, Ontario. They actually have an attendant on the ground level who makes sure you seriously want to go to Coach Insignia, and aren't just riff-raff wanting to ride the elevator! Because it was Jeff's first time on the elevator, he was sort of riff-raff, but we bought cocktails at the top, which made us legit. Apparently, the cost of the elevator ride is hidden in the drink prices, because they were ridiculously expensive. Oh well, you only celebrate your 5th anniversary once, right?
After cocktail hour, it was time to head back down the elevator to Joe Muer Seafood for dinner. We were immediately welcomed, ushered to our table by a window and wished a happy anniversary (they ask if it's a special occasion when you make reservations). From the first moment we were there until the minute we walked out, service was nothing but first class. They really make sure you feel taken care of and are enjoying everything. All courses were perfectly timed, and they cleared and replaced silverwear and dishes between courses in such an unobtrusive manner that you didn't even notice. It's a level of service that all fine-dining restaurants strive for, but only a few achieve. Joe Muer sets the bar.
There were way too many things on the menu that we wanted to try, so we immediately decided we would have an extra savory course and skip dessert. We're not big dessert-at-restaurants people, so this was an easy choice.
As I was ordering my entree, the served asked if I would like soup or salad, and for some reason I blurted out "Gazpacho!!!" so out that came after the oysters, topped with creme fraiche and dill. If I had two words to describe pretty much all of the food I ate at Joe Muer, it would be intensely flavorful, and this gazpacho exemplified that. It tasted like I was eating one million ripe tomatoes in every bite. It was perfectly seasoned and balanced - a touch acidic, a bit creamy, a smidge spicy. While I was slurping down the gazpacho, Jeff was eating his lobster bisque, which had an outstanding super-concentrated and rich lobster flavor.
We also got an order of the Spicy Tuna Tartar (I told you, there were too many things on the menu we wanted to try, so we just went for it). This was a little mound of ice-cold raw ahi tuna mixed with a spicy light cream sauce, green onions, papaya and avocado, topped with seaweed salad and served with a few wonton chips. With my first bite of the tartar, the flavor of sesame oil was a bit overpowering, and I thought the kitchen had made a misstep. But nope - with the second, third and fourth bites, all of the flavors of the dish came together in sweet/spicy/crunchy/soft harmony.
Not gonna lie, I was starting to get pretty full after all of those appetizers (the impulse gazpacho was starting to seem like a bad idea), but our entrees were placed, beautifully presented, in front of us. I ordered one of the nightly specials - seared halibut placed on top of a crab cake (!!!), finished with an orange-scented sauce, some sauteed mushrooms and microgreens. This is probably one of the best things I've ever eaten. Seriously. Whoever thought to serve fish on top of a crabcake should get an instant James Beard award. Things I loved about this dish: 1.) perfect portion - not too much, but just enough, 2.) a concentrated seafood-flavored sauce so flavorful that I sort of wanted to lick the plate, 3.) expertly cooked and seasoned fish. The only thing I didn't like about this dish: it was a special, so I'm doubting it would be available next time I go back to Joe Muer.
Jeff had the Crab Stuffed Atlantic Flounder, because we had heard from multiple sources that it was a must-try. It was truly delicious, and the grainy mustard beurre blanc sauce complemented the crab and flounder wonderfully. On any other night, we would have been blown away by this flounder, but seriously - I just can't use enough descriptive words to explain how amazing the halibut was. Nothing else could compete. When I had a bite of Jeff's dish, it was the old "it's good, but not as good as mine, you poor sap." Ok, maybe I left out the poor sap bit, since it was our anniversary and all.
After not even being able to finish my entree, despite how wonderful it was, dessert was absolutely out the question, as originally planned. We pretty much shot down the server on that one before he even had a chance to give us the dessert menu. He seemed a little disappointed, left for a few minutes, and then came back with a complementary little glass of sorbet and champagne. I guess Joe Muer really really wanted to give us a plate with "Happy Anniversary" written in chocolate.
Joe Muer's only misstep of the whole evening? So um, "Anniversary" is spelled a tad bit wrong. But in all honesty? Jeff and I didn't even notice. We were 50% in food comas by then and 50% just enjoying each other's company and not being the spelling police. However, Facebook is the great equalizer, and as soon as an Instagram of this hit my Facebook wall, multiple friends pointed out the error. Oh well. It was a free dessert that they only gave us because they so desperately wanted to wish us a happy anniversary. No points deducted on that front.
After a few bites of the ripe raspberry sorbet, we headed out. Much to my surprise (I somehow hadn't noticed this on the way in), there were huge aquariums by the door! I could have stood there all night and stared at the beautiful fish in there, but settled for just 10 minutes or so. And a quick snap of my favorite-ever fish, the crazy-cool lionfish.