Love at first bite: Mabel Gray

Duck coma.

Never had the pleasure of feeling such an experience?  Sucks for you. I fell into Duck coma after eating at Mabel Gray on Friday the 13th [of November].  The reason I notated the date is because this restaurant is unique in that they change their menu EVERY DAY.

Yes, a new hand written menu is created every single day.

The protein they had stocked away for the dinner that particular night was of course, my favorite poultry, DUCK.

Everything we ordered was FANFUCKINGTASTIC.


If you are a fan of Top Chef on Bravo like I am, you should be familiar with the executive chef and owner, James Rigato.  He also has a restaurant in White Lake, The Root.

Having sat at the bar, we had a prime visual of the chefs at work, and somehow were lucky enough to have Chef Rigato himself serve us!  Crazy.

The decor from ceiling to floor was eclectic, and the drink-ware was very clearly pro-Detroit, which was AWESOME. I mean, I know the Lions have sucked for the past….forever…but it’s nice to see a local chef supporting the city with Detroit Lions glassware.


First up: Honey crisp apple kimchi.

Holy mackerel!  Yum.  The sweetness and juicy crunch of the apple, with the salty, sour, spicy Asian spices took the traditional idea of kimchi and injected steroids x10.  I never want any other kind of kimchi ever again….this was seriously life changing.

Great start!  We were super excited to see how the rest of our food stacked up.

I know all the pictures are kind of brown and orange….deal with it.


Fried Michigan Pork belly with Thai sauces, and pickled veggies. The combination of the sweet chili sauce and the Ong Bak sauce tasted very familiar….almost like a tamarind sauce.  It was confirmed, however, that tamarind was not present in this dish.  The pork belly was cooked with precision.  Crispy, fatty, succulent, everything pork belly should be.



Duck confit with soba noodles and orange marmalade.

I could have gone without the orange marmalade as it was entirely too sweet for my palette, but everything else was beautiful.  That duck had the perfect amount of salt, and the Asian inspired soba noodles were so rich in flavor….though they contrasted in flavor, they were simultaneously harmonious. The duck meat, because it was cooked in its own fat, was sooooooooooooooooooooo juicy and fell apart so delicately.  You can’t help but applaud the intricacy of everything that went into this dish.


Ricotta gnocchi with duck ragout.

WHAAATTT??!!?!?  Mind blown.

I am a pasta snob…gnocchi to me is often hit or miss…but this gnocchi was chewy, soft, and rich.  The spice from the Serrano pepper slices gave it a really good kick, and the goat cheese with the pumpkin seeds brought it to a whole different level of excellence.

The homey-ness of this dish was spectacular, and was so perfect for the cold damp night we had.  It brought warmth, comfort, and love into my mouth and into my belly.  My husband and I were fighting for the last bits of this, because that familiarity shined so bright that it brought comfort despite the fast approaching Michigan winter.  If nothing else, you can taste the passion and thoughtfulness put into concocting this masterpiece.


Duck breast with cranberry sauce, chestnut mousse, and stuffing.

Ok, forget what I ever said about any piece of duck breast I have ever had.  I rescind any nomination of greatness for any other duck breast I’ve encountered, because this….this is everything a perfectly cooked duck breast is. Yes, everything.

The dish itself was clearly a play on Thanksgiving…well played, chef.  If turkey could ever be cooked to this excellence, I would surely move that to the top of my poultry list, but this duck breast is, bar none, the best I’ve ever had. EVER.


Last, but certainly not least, huckleberry creme brulee.  This was their pastry du jour, and it too was impeccable.


I fell in love with this restaurant on that cold November night, and one day hope to experience every single artfully prepared dish Chef Rigato has to offer.

Mabel Gray, we will meet again.

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