It must be something about fall that pulls us into Logan. (Maybe it’s the autumnal orange walls that we’re drawn to?) Last year around this time, you may recall that Maria wrote a mostly positive review of the restaurant, based on visits by all G3 of us. I regret to report that on a recent visit, Logan didn’t live up to the promise we had experienced last year.
The initial drink order got our evening off to a rocky start. I ordered a Gibson martini, which I don’t consider to be a “specialty” cocktail, and so didn’t spell out what makes a Gibson a Gibson. (For the curious: it’s garnished with a cocktail onion instead of an olive.) After a longish wait, close to 10 minutes, our server brought our cocktails, though she brought me a Gimlet, not a Gibson. Made of vodka (or gin) and lime juice, a Gimlet and a Gibson are visually distinct. Our server didn’t realize that the bartender had gotten it wrong. I politely sent it back, after which she returned to say that they had no cocktail onions. Strike 2. So I just ordered a martini with a twist. All said, from the moment we sat down until I received my drink, a half hour had gone by.
Not a showstopper, but a bumpy and irksome beginning. The amuse bouche (French for “amuse the mouth”) was really yummy . . . but it was the same amuse bouche I was served a year ago: potato leek soup, this time garnished with olive oil, not the truffle oil garnish I enjoyed last time. As my boyfriend might say, this might be a Sign of the Times: with the economy in shambles, perhaps drizzling truffle oil on soup is just Something That Is Not Done in restaurants these days. Fine; I’ll let that pass. Yet an amuse bouche is supposed to show off the creativity of the chef; this one amused my mouth last year.
For an appetizer, we ordered the night’s special, braised pork belly, which displayed pleasing autumnal flavors of pork, carrot, turnip, and parsley. It evoked pot roast–in a good way. Why the vegetables were sculpted into little orange and white polka dots with a melon baller, I’m still not sure. The Logan Salad, which I loved last time, is still a very solid dish. I ordered the mini size, which is a perfect portion–about two handfuls of greens, lightly dressed with sherry vinaigrette and smoky garlic chips. (On our way home, when I asked E what he liked best from our dinner, he chose the salad, and I agreed.)
We liked our entrees well enough, but my dish was stronger than E’s. I ordered the leg of lamb “steak” with a garlicky yogurt sauce that was dusted with fennel pollen, and accompanied by a delicious ragout of fennel and artichoke. I was really happy with the flavors and presentation; it paired nicely with the glass of Chateauneuf de Pape the sommelier had suggested. E ordered the Wild Boar Bolognese, on the server’s recommendation. We could tell that the sauce had all sorts of lovely richness going on; however, the flavor was unfortunately diluted by the water that wasn’t fully drained from the fresh pasta.
I do like the wine list a great deal at Logan, and I also like that the sommelier visits each table. (If you’re young and look like you won’t be buying a bottle from the spendier part of the menu, he will likely spend a lot less time at your table.) The sommelier suggested pairings that we both enjoyed a great deal; however, his suggestions were delivered in the same way that I recalled from the last time I was there. For me, it was a glass that he only had enough for one more serving. For E, it was something that wasn’t on the menu yet. I can understand wanting to make the experience of ordering wine seem special, but this just didn’t feel authentic to me since the spiel was a repeat.
At the end of big meal, you’re usually feeling pretty satisfied. Maybe not completely stuffed, but you’ve got a little good-food-and-wine-buzz going on, and you’d like to linger on this moment a bit. The table has been cleared, you’re finishing the last of your glass of wine, and if you’re on a date, perhaps you’re holding hands with your sweetie or at least looking into his or her eyes . . . and then the server, if you’re at Logan, approaches the table with a big round tray of desserts and starts presenting them to like Vanna White selling vowels. Yes, I’m no fan of the dessert tray. Please, keep the sweets in the kitchen until I’ve decided to have some. It ruins the moment and seems inelegant to be presented with a tray of sample desserts to “tantalize” us.
I anticipate some of you might be thinking I sound kind of snobby here. Or, you’re thinking, we’re in Ann Arbor — what do you expect? Or, perhaps some of you are in agreement–it’s too expensive for what you get, as Mom mentioned in the comments the other day. While I can’t afford to dine out like this often, I do like to do so once in awhile, for a special occasion or date. And I will spend what it costs to get dressed up and eat great food and enjoy great service. Too often, however, I find that service is mediocre and inauthentic. Small details go unnoticed. And, as with many things, the devil is in the details. Logan, I’m afraid, over promises and under-delivers.
What do you think? What kind of dining experience should we expect in Ann Arbor? Should our expectations be different from restaurants in big cities?