Mark Kurlyandchik really doesn’t like what Brush Park’s most recent entrant Empire Kitchen & Cocktails is serving. The Detroit Free Press critic today published a brutal takedown of the two-month-old restaurant vaguely billed as an “American-style bistro and bar,” arguing that the doesn’t resemble anything close to original. “In an era of exciting culinary experimentation and personality, Empire Kitchen & Cocktails is banal to the bone,” he writes.
Kurlyandchik compares the restaurant at the base of luxury apartment building the Scott to a “paint-by-numbers restaurant concept — the modern Detroit dining equivalent of the Brooklyn Bar Menu Generator.” The menu hits all required notes for modern American dining from burgers to pizza to cauliflower and the walnut paneled interior even keeps on trend with those garage door-style windows.
Some of the lack of creativity might have even been forgiven, had the food actually tasted good or if it were more affordable than other, better-executed New American restaurants; but the restaurant failed to meet either of those standards in Kurlyandchik’s opinion. A sampling of the critic’s bad meals includes: a not-so-”charred” caesar salad with “stone-solid croutons”; a monkey bread dessert with a “rock solid” exterior and a “raw dough” interior; and a flatbread with “an almost moldy taste — like laundry that had been left in the wash too long.” (That moldy flavor apparently came up again six weeks later in the pizza. The critic’s quip: “There must be something in the water ...”) Kurlyandchik does offer up a slight reprieve, noting that spicy chicken sandwich and kale salad were some of the better options.
The restaurant seems at every turn to mirror other Detroit restaurants, he says. “Empire is their hollow echo, parroting back a faded, carbon-copied version that takes no risks and contributes little to Detroit’s dining scene dialogue,” Kurlyandchik concludes. He warns that if the restaurant is successful, its trite approach to dining could spread. “And that’s not a future I want to celebrate.”
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