Flavorful offerings complement recently reopened Chelsea Grill
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
The Chelsea Grill has unveiled its new space after being under renovation for the past two years, when a fire in an adjoining business caused severe smoke and water damage. The restaurant had been operating for four years before it was hit by fire.
Now it "looks totally different," said manager Jason Miller; cozier, and less like a cafeteria. He said that the selections have also been upgraded, using higher quality ingredients.
The new Chelsea Grill is a huge space, with one room that has a bar as a focal point, and a second, spacious dining room. There are paintings of fruit on the walls, along with a warm deep green carpet. It's simple and homey and has that brand-new, fresh look.
The restaurant offers a range of American fare: appetizers, salads, steaks, seafood, pastas, sandwiches and burgers. Among the highlights was the tempura shrimp appetizer. Though it didn't resemble the version I've sampled in Japanese restaurants, served with a thick, appealing remoulade instead of a sweet and sour sauce, it was still quite good, with jumbo shrimp, nicely fried. Jose's stuffed quesadilla was a burst of flavors, combined in the appetizing dish of chicken breast, avocado, red peppers, kalamata olives, chipotle peppers and cheese. The green chiles made it very spicy, though. The tomato bisque soup was thick, and full of chunks of tomatoes, hearty and delicious.
I had to stop myself from indulging in the fantastic bread while awaiting our main courses. It's prepared in-house, brushed with garlic, olive oil, herbs and poppy seeds. It was tough not to eat too much of it, as we waited quite a bit of time for the entrees on both our visits, even though there weren't too many diners.
The best dish was a sandwich I ordered during my second visit, the Cubano. Large pieces of caramelized dry figs, layered among the sweet tomatoes, provolone cheese and chicken breast, provided a refreshing, flavorful twist. Garlic mayo added the perfect punch, spread on fresh toasted house bread. Another entrÃ©e that incorporated interesting ingredients was my second favorite: the pecan-crusted walleye. It was topped with peach bourbon sauce, an inventive choice that perfectly accented the fresh fish.
You can order the fettuccine alfredo with chicken, shrimp or salmon, and we opted for the salmon. This dish was as rich and creamy as you'd expect, filling but worth every calorie. It was adorned with a huge piece of fresh, flaky fish. The classic burger also worked well, served on a fresh tasting bun.
I didn't enjoy the chicken Marsala, considered a "house favorite," quite as much. The chicken was served in a Marsala wine sauce that had a limp consistency. Other shortcomings were the New York strip steak, a victim of a lack of seasoning. I'd also skip the main-course salads. Though the greens were fresh, the dressing and ingredients were generally unremarkable; this applies to the house salad as well.
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
The best desserts we tried were the specialty offerings that the restaurant gets from Leon's Pastries in Madison Heights. The raspberry torte had a spongy, moist cake, topped with a thick slice of white chocolate, and the Snickers cheesecake was delightful in every way, from the graham cracker crust, through the creamy interior and the highlight: a chocolate-covered Snickers piece. This was far superior to the basic ice cream sundae, which was sorely lacking in the advertised caramel. The same mediocre grocer's freezer quality ice cream was used in the hot fudge brownie, prepared on the premises.
Despite the slow service, the servers were extremely friendly and helpful throughout our visits.
Though not all our food was perfect, the Chelsea Grill has much to recommend it. And the large variety of high-quality fare, prepared in comfortable surroundings, makes it ideal for family dining.