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Monday December 22, 2014
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Cafe Zola

 

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Salads and starters aren't where you'll find Zola's best work, though a few items do deserve mention, like the grilled Spanish octopus served with chutney, maybe the best octopus we've had in Michigan. You'll have to look to the specials board to find the octopus; it's usually, but not always, available. On the regular menu, the blue crab cakes are the best appetizer, made with much more crab than cake, and served with a pineapple salsa and a smoky paprika aioli.

There weren't many real flops among the dishes we ordered. The hearts of romaine salad was one of them, just a few lettuce leaves on a plate with some shavings of Parmesan cheese and a sweet vinaigrette. This dish highlighted one minor reservation we had reading Zola's dinner menu--there is virtually no acknowledgment of seasonality or local produce. Talking with Zakalik later, we learned that he is indeed dedicated to having local foods on his menu--they're just not often mentioned as such. Be sure to ask your (typically very helpful) server if you're interested in the restaurant's sourcing.

Any disappointments we had were countered by the intelligent and accommodating service. During one visit, a lemon tagliarini pasta with a delicious flavor but a mealy texture was whisked away. The pasta came off the bill, and dessert was on the house. Service of this caliber isn't easy to find, and it speaks volumes about the -behind-the-scenes work responsible for such thoughtfulness.

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