Here's a quick take away from my first no menu Monday at Andrew Michael Italian Restaurant: Noma dirt, hibiscus cream cheese and an arugula flower. I'd never seen an arugula flower before, but there it was, a tiny flourish to the meal's third course. The hibiscus cream cheese draped the dessert plate with a lovely pink pool for strawberry cake and honey black pepper gelato. And the Noma dirt? It was my favorite course, but I have no idea what the ingredients were in the bread crumb topping for the menu's first course. But I do know this: Noma, a Copenhagen super star for Nordic cuisine, was named best restaurant in the world for the past two years.
Monday's menu was all vegetarian, an interesting twist for chefs well-known for their snout-to-tail preparation of heritage pigs. Restaurant manager Nick Talarico said the chef's friendship with Justin Fox Burks, a local blogger, photographer and vegetarian cook, inspired the menu. "They like to be challenged," Nick said.
Held on the last Monday of every month, the restaurant's no menu Mondays have a popular following, and now I understand why. I ran into several friends, including Charles Judge whose 8-year-old daughter is a committed vegetarian. "She just came out eating beans," Judge said, laughing. "We thought this would be a special event for our whole family."
If you've never eaten at a no menu dinner, here's how it works: Selecting a cocktail is the only decision you have to make. (I love the olive ice in the A/M Martini pictured here.)
After that, the courses arrive at the table in a nicely paced parade of surprises. Don't bother asking your servers to explain a dish. They won't. Guessing ingredients is part of the fun until you leave, when you receive a handed-scripted menu detailing each course.
Here's the menu, and cardoon, part of the second course, is related to the artichoke. Also, thanks to the restaurant's Twitter for the photos of the third and fourth courses, pictured above. And check out Hungry Memphis for more details and photos. Amuse: Smoked eggplant crostini/ kalamata olive, pickled mustard seeds. First Course: Garden Plate/ Noma dirt, carrot, turnip, asparagus, salsa verde. Second Course: Sunflower seed risotto/ cardoon, artichoke, celery. Third Course: Leek Marrow/ peasant papa, tomato, black truffle, braised onion, arugula flower, Fourth Course: Strawberry Cake/ hibiscus cream cheese, honey black pepper gelato.