Vellum's HuffPo Moment
Finding the balance
by Sally Mitani
From the March, 2014 issue
The only restaurant besides Zingerman's to get its own number in Huffington Post's "Nine Reasons to Eat in Ann Arbor" was Vellum, a collaboration between John Roumanis (Mediterrano and Carlyle Grill) and his twenty-five-year-old son, Peter, who trained at Paris's Taillevent and New York's Del Posto.
Since its ambitious and extravagant opening last winter, Vellum has quietly moved closer to the culinary mainstream. One local observer of the restaurant scene called the new menu "dumbed down"--the sous vide poached egg, for instance, is gone, as is celebrity sommelier Ric Jewell. Vellum has added "Grill" to its title, and the entrees are recognizable and described simply: "New York strip," "pork ribs." Peter now greets customers in a suit rather than kitchen whites, and Jeffrey Sartor is listed as the chef.
Peter points out that the Huffington Post rave came after the changes--for instance, the pecan-crusted chicken breast that illustrated the write-up is a recent menu addition. And he is even prouder of a January feature article about Vellum in the trade magazine Restaurant Hospitality. In it, he talks thoughtfully about finding the balance between being "a modern American restaurant of the moment" and "appeas[ing] the Midwestern palate."
Dismissing the talk downtown that his dad fired him from the kitchen-"half the time I'm in the kitchen developing new dishes"-he describes the changes as an inevitable evolution: "With all art there needs to be commerce, and it needs to be viable. We've reined it in a little bit, but from Day One me and my father have seen eye to eye. He sees the brutal facts, and I understand technical aspects of food and where it's going."
[Originally published in March, 2014.]
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