Growing pains often result in turnover at restaurants and the number of high-profile chef shuffles year after year at some of Detroit’s hottest eateries only makes that shakeups more pronounced. Unfortunately, with those switch ups diners are often left in limbo — possibly losing some of their favorite dishes in the process.
Such was the case for The Belt’s trendy cocktail lounge Standby, who’s chef/partner Brendon Edwards was unexpectedly ousted last spring. Under the direction of Edwards, the menu transcended mere bar food with expertly prepared dishes that drew on Asian and Mediterranean influences and earned Standby the number three spot on The Detroit Free Press’s Best New Restaurants list.
Following Edwards exit, former Detroit Delhi team Lindsay Salminen and Jesse Knott have taken the reigns offering up a more pared down and moderately priced bill of fare. According to Free Press critic Mark Kurlyandchik, the change has not been entirely for the better. Kurlyandchik writes that “while the fare is now more befitting of the setting, I left still mourning,” Edwards dishes.
Technique — so surprising in a setting like this under Edwards — has suffered. The beets in the requisite beet salad were overcooked and sloppily hacked up by a dull knife or careless hand. Served with watercress and whipped ricotta, the altogether pedestrian dish came out drowning in crushed pistachios, begging for a dose of acidity or brightness that a few strands of mint couldn't provide. Plating was heavy-handed and clumsy, almost spilling over the edges of the small rectangular dish.
Other dishes seemed to lack a component — harissa-spiced chicken served with roasted carrots and feta needed a potato or other starch to temper the smoky richness; tangy lemongrass shrimp escabeche would work better in tostada form in this setting. A few options were downright uninspired: the aforementioned beet salad; limp, Fontina-stuffed poblano poppers served with Venezuelan avocado sauce.
The curry-braised lamb and the mushroom pierogis were worth noting, the critic writes, though the latter came out “cold in the middle” and was sent back to the kitchen. Despite the largely harsh words, Kurlyandchik isn’t ready to call this a “scathing full review” and notes that “the excellent beverage program, friendly service and approachable menu are sure to keep Standby in the upper echelon of go-to spots for drinks and snacks in downtown Detroit.”
Of course Standby has plenty of other feathers in its cap bar side. Bartender Dorothy Elizabeth was recently named to the 2016 Eater Young Guns class. Edwards has yet to confirm his next professional move.
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