[Ann Arbor] Melange

[ A+ ] /[ A- ]

Melange | www.melangebistro.com
Address: 312 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Date visited: 2013.03
Verdict: Finally impressed me
Will return: Definitely
What to get: Chilean Sea Bass

Anyone who knows me knows that I live and breathe Pacific Rim. I never really think about Melange because I always just go to Pacific Rim but if we are talking Asian fusion in Ann Arbor, it’s Pacific Rim vs. Melange.

Of all the times I’ve been here, I was never really floored by anything. In the past, the dishes were always okay–never bad, just okay–but nothing came close to par with Pacific Rim. However, whether it’s because I picked the right dishes or due to menu changes since the last time I was here, I have to say Melange did a really nice job today. Still not as good as Pacific Rim but it has become a worthy opponent.

I don’t get sushi here because it’s not my style, which is mostly raw fish and shellfish nigiri and sashimi. I also prefer Japanese people make my sushi and I don’t think any of the chefs here qualifies in that category. Even in my noob days when I used to eat Sadako and drown my sushi in spicy sauce, I didn’t think much of the rolls here. Melange’s forte is definitely its cooked dishes. If you want a meal of sushi, this is not the place to get it.

Apple with Candied Pecans, Sour Cream Mousse, Fennel Frond, and Lemon Zest (Complimentary) 
Our server came back with two of these for me and my friend shortly after we sat down as compliments from the chef. I would not order anything like this normally (nor is this on the menu to order anyway) but I like that they gave us something interesting to try just for kicks. Nice little touch. It was super tarty, probably used Granny Smith apples.

Melange Ann Arbor

Pretzel Bread with Mustard Spread (Complimentary)
I am going to guess this is a play on a Philadelphia style soft pretzel with mustard. I remember soft pretzels used to cost a quarter in elementary school when I thug-lyfed lived in Philly for two years. The bread doesn’t exactly remind me of a soft pretzel slash taste anything like it at all but good effort.

Melange Ann Arbor

Tuna Duo ($12)
Mango tuna tartare and tuna tataki with wonton crisps. Tataki is a way of preparing fish or meat by quickly searing, marinating (usually in rice vinegar), and cutting the fish or meat into thin slices; the fish or meat is still raw except for the outer edge.

There is some mayo on the side that I used for the tuna tataki but the tuna tartare definitely does not need it. Overall, this very good and I really liked that there was a sweet and salty element in the dish that balanced each other out.

Melange Ann Arbor
Wonton Crisps (L), Tuna Tartare (M) and Tuna Tataki (R)

The mango and tuna was a great combination that tasted light and refreshing. The taste is very different from Pacific Rim’s tuna tartare, which is salty and a bit more heavy due to the avocado.
Melange Ann Arbor
The tuna tataki was slightly salty from the marinade and was a nice contrast to the sweetness of the tuna tartare. I dipped the tuna tataki in some of the mayo and it was good but it doesn’t need it.
Melange Ann Arbor

Salmon Chowder (Soup of the Day $7)

I got this on a whim when our server announced the soup of the day was salmon chowder. I love New England style chowder. The only thing Asian about this was the scallion garnish; other than that, it tasted like a standard chowder that you can get at places like Real Seafood. This is a fairly large bowl and has a lot of seafood chunks. It was tasty but I could have done without it.
Melange Ann Arbor

Pork Belly Salad ($14)
Braised pork belly with fried goat cheese, greens, roasted beets, sunflower seeds, and horseradish stone-ground mustard dressing. The pork belly was melt-in-your mouth good but I don’t think my friend was impressed with the vegetables in the salad.

Melange Ann Arbor
The pork belly was crispy on one side and soft on the other side. Very good.
Melange Ann Arbor

The fried goat cheese was supposed to act as a crouton. My friend and I both agreed the goat cheese tasted like it just came out of the goat…  no, we didn’t like it.

Melange Ann Arbor

Chilean Sea Bass ($28)
Pan-seared sea bass with cherry tomatoes, capers, julienned vegetables (julienned = thin-cut), and sweet soy vinaigrette on a bed of basmati rice pilaf.

The sea bass dish is to Melange as the sablefish dish is to Pacific Rim. This is what you should get at Melange. Sea bass and sablefish both have a flaky, buttery taste when cooked because of their high fat content. This stuff is heaven if it is well-prepared and Melange nailed it with this dish. The sea bass was cooked just right. The flavor of the soy vinaigrette offered a nice puckering taste to the vegetables, especially the tomatoes. I loved this dish. I still prefer the sablefish at Pacific Rim but the sea bass here is truly excellent.

The only thing I didn’t like was the rice (of course, the Asian is nitpicking at the rice). There was already a lot of moisture in the rice from the amount of broth that was used to cook the rice, making it soft and mushy. Mixed with the soy vinaigrette, the rice became really soggy. They should cook the rice drier to begin with since it will end up being soaked in the soy vinaigrette. That was my only complaint. Minor detail.

Melange Ann Arbor
Melange Ann Arbor