The last time I was at the NOVI Chophouse it was in the Baronette Hotel, in Novi, it is now in the Crown Plaza Hotel, but still in Novi. The City of Novi has a curious history, especially about the name, back in the stagecoach days of first the territory of and then the State of Michigan, on the established route from Detroit to Lansing, a spot along the way was No. VI or Number 6 stop, and it morphed into Novi. It was also a long overdue moment to see The Caller and his lovely wife, as they have both retired and they are constantly on the go, it seems. We could have met at a local family restaurant, to catch up, but it would not nearly be as much fun or interesting. We were going to meet someplace more middle of the road for us, and we were going to go to Ann Arbor, but it seems that it is graduation time even at Michigan, and even the burger joints would be packed, so there were no reservations there, and then something came up that we had to attend prior to our dinner, so they graciously offered to drive further down the road to Novi.
The NOVI Chophouse was established in 1997 and it was taken over by the Epicurean Group in 2009, so the menu had changed a bit since the last time I had been there. Our poor waitress probably had to go get meds after taking care of this table, because we were so busy chatting that food was almost the last thing on our mind. We begrudgingly began placing some food orders in between laughs. We all began with Wagyu Carpaccio with pickled fennel, arugula and black pepper Mascarpone. There were then three orders of the Lobster Bisque with butter poached lobster and my Bride was the hold-out and ordered the Morel Bisque with chives and chopped morels; to remind us that she did not partake in our legendary Morel dinner one year, while she was in the Upper Peninsula on business. The assorted sides were easier to decide upon as we went with the Novi Whipped Potatoes, Asparagus with Bearnaise Sauce and Charred Baby Carrots with Black Garlic Pesto. The Caller’s wife went with the Filet Mignon and Bearnaise Sauce, while The Caller went with the “Steak Flight;” four unique four-ounce cuts, a Filet Mignon, a Wagyu Strip Loin, a Dry-aged Prime New York Strip and a Dry-aged Lamb Chop. My Bride chose after a bit of cajoling, because I always suggest something for her that she doesn’t make at home, so she went with Pan Seared Hawaiian Sea Bass with Smoked Potato Pearls, Sprout Slaw and Maple Sage Agrodolce (an Italian Sweet and Sour Sauce). I looked at the “Steak Flight” and I looked at the Venison and even the Elk, but in the end, I chose the Crispy Pork Belly and Duck Confit with White Bean Cassoulet and Tomato Concasse. The only surprise for the evening was when I mentioned to our waitress that we used to get Seared Foie Gras at the old restaurant, and she said that they carry it, but it is not on the menu, at least we know for the next time. We finished off with French Press Decaf Coffee and a Key Lime Pie for the four of us.
The ladies started with cocktails, oh so chic, but I ordered a bottle of wine from the beginning. I guess they all humor me, and let me pick out wines, as long as I don’t go crazy and select some Unicorn wines. I thought a white wine was a great way to start and I just said that it was a White Burgundy, because so many people are turned off by big oaky Chardonnays, so White Burgundy sounds so cool and interesting. We shared a bottle of Collovray & Terrier Domaine Deux Roches Macon-Villages 2015 from the Maconnais region. While there are some red wines in Macon-Villages, Domaine Deux Roches only processes white wines and this wine was done in Stainless Steel. Here was a white wine that had soft floral notes, and a crisp mineral finish, and thankfully the wine was not heavily chilled. The table was thrilled and a bit surprised that this was a Chardonnay and it made it through the soup course. The second wine for the evening was selected while we were picking out our food orders, so that it could be decanted. I saw this wine and I just thought it was perfect and how often does one find such a gem? The wine was Chateau Desmirail Margaux 2015, a Third Growth from the legendary Medoc Classification of 1855, which still holds up to this day with just a few tweaks. This winery goes back to the end of the Seventeenth Century and has had some changes of ownership, but they have all maintained Stewardship of an esteemed property. The blending is pretty consistent year after year, because the grounds are grown with seventy percent Cabernet Sauvignon, twenty-nine percent Merlot and one percent Petit Verdot and all the grapes are destemmed before crushing. The wine is aged in oak for a year, thirty percent new and they rack the wines every three months. I thought the wine was sublime, but while The Caller enjoyed it, he was expecting a bigger wine, more of a California Robert Parker Cabernet. I made brownie points with the dessert wine, because I steered him away from the classic Ports to something a little different. We each had a glass of Domaine de Rancy Rivesaltes Ambre Vin Doux Naturel 2001. This fabled dessert wine is from the eastern end of the Roussillon and it is uniquely made. This winery was established in 1920 making sweeter wines for French consumption. The wine is ninety-five percent Macabeo and five percent Grenache Blanc and most of the vines are about fifty years of age. The wine is Vin Doux Naturel or Mutage Method with the addition of Grape Spirits to stop the fermentation and thereby maintaining natural sugar. The first year the juice is left on the lees in Concrete vats, and then two years of Oxidative Aging or Maderization and then thirteen years in the barrel. The wine being an Ambre was already showing signs of deepening of the color, and the wine is a bit syrupy by nature, but the nose was like ambrosia to me after such a big dinner and everyone was happy with the ending. Our poor waitress thought we were going to make a night of it, but we eventually made our goodbyes and we know that we will meet again.