A New Culinary Age

Pop-up restaurants are new and exciting venues of urban eating, a growing trend in the culinary scene.  They bring in local talent and can draw guest chefs from across the country to entice more educated and discerning pallets from clientele seeking unique and tasty offerings.

A stand out establishment is Yeman St. in Hamtramek, MI where owners Matt and Corrie provide a venue for visiting, new, or established chefs to try more unique items to an eager and enthusiastic audience.   More people are looking for food adventure and try new flavors in an atypical setting- entertainment through food.  Yeman St. certainly delivers with its long wooden harvest tables, skylights, artwork and open loft vibe.  In the back is a commercial kitchen where chefs coordinate, cook and plate their dishes relatively near to a “chef’s table” for the closest dining experience.

Sarap, Filipino inspired cuisine, was the pop-up on the docket for the evening whose philosophy is rooted in food sourced locally and seasonal as possible.   Being part of this sustainable food system integrates local farmers, producers and consumers in a promising trend of our modern society.  Origins of Pilipino food and brief history of influences were shared prior to starting and foreshadowed a diverse cultural flavor profile.

Seating arrangements were family style along the seriously vast wooden tables.  It was a chance to first mingle with your company but then branch out when comfortable.  For some, this was a first pop-up experience, while others were more familiar.  Either way the environment was friendly and energetic about food.  The menu, anecdotal descriptions via chef, and flavors presented wonderful talking points on this five (technically six) course experience that lasted a couple hours.  With each dish, a new and well-thought composition of flavor was immensely delightful.

The first course, or really the surprise “thank you for coming pre-first course” was a Spanish influenced shrimp atop pickled cucumber, carrot, microgreen and mango salsa.  It tasted very fresh, tangy and with nice heat.  A perfect pallet awakener.

The true first course was called Kinilaw Taco and was a Filipino-style ceviche served in a root vegetable shell.  A great crisp of the shell followed by ocean sweetness of the fish with hints of cilantro, bell pepper, and lime left fresh coastal impressions.

Summer Salad was the second course with watermelon, papaya, green mango, jicama, local greens, and calamansi vinaigrette.  The watermelon and papaya were perfectly ripe and complemented the mineral flavor of the local greens.

For the third course, an offering called “Bulalo” was served and consisted of roasted bone marrow, popcorn polenta, braised beef, cabbage, and cilantro lime gremolata.  The marrow was indeed savory and was accentuated with the small yet powerful lime, raw garlic, cilantro and salted version of gremolata.  Popcorn polenta seemed playful but in fact produced a creamy decadence with more depth.  More Asian influences were felt with the braised beef atop cabbage that was rich, tender, and with hints of fish sauce that could be shoveled with the crouton.

The featured course, Sisig, was a pork and egg romance.  Pork shoulder, belly, and snout, sautéed with chilies and chicken liver pate, topped with fried egg and scallions, next to garlic fried rice.  It was explained that in Filipino culture, they try to use more of an animal, leaving little waste.  The pork combination tasted of rich, pig essence.  A happy pig that must have led a great life of pasture, a nice sheltered bed of hay and trough of fresh vegetables.  One can only imagine from the flavor.  The white sauce with heavy green chilies cut the fattiness of the pig with a pleasant heat with intensions of showing more typical levels of Filipino spiciness.  The fried egg was perfectly cooked allowing the yoke to slightly spill outward when cut with a fork.  A great rendition of garlic friend rice carried a subtle crunch and chewiness that provided a light sweetness on the pallet and mixed perfectly with both the egg and pork.  Exceptional and satisfying, yet hedonistic tendencies wanted more until they were quelled by the fifth course.

Halo Halo, a traditional Filipino dessert, was the final course.  It consisted of shaved ice with ube ice cream, jackfruit, mango, red beans, toasted coconut and puffed rice.  The textures of tropical fruit, red beans, and puffed rice with the coolness of the shaved ice and ice cream created a sweet and final conclusion to the evening meal.  In fact, a well-deserved applause was given after some final remarks by the husband and wife chefs of the evening.

When visiting Metro-Detroit and looking for an exciting culinary event, look up Yeman St. or Sarap.  Both currently will require a little timing and planning in advance but will certainly elevate your evening.


John Cowan