No Menu Monday At Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen
Let’s say you want to go to a really nice dinner at a popular restaurant – maybe it’s at a spot owned by some of the most respected chefs in Memphis. Then, let’s say you make reservations weeks (months?) in advance. You enter the candlelit dining room, take a seat, and unfold your white cloth napkin.
A gracious server comes to your table and gets your drink order. She never takes your food order, you don’t get a menu, and you have no idea what you’re about to eat. She brings you a beautifully plated dish and…you still have no idea what you’re about to eat.
That’s what No Menu Mondays at Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen are like. And if you’re even a slightly adventurous eater, you will love it.
This post is dedicated to all the Memphis foodies, wine lovers, and aforementioned adventurous eaters. It’s a bit longer post since I wanted to share the full experience, but I’m not spoiling anything since the food is always different.
In case you’re feeling a little a TL; DR: Andrew Michael serves a four-course meal on the last Monday of each month, and the food is amazing, and you should get the wine pairing, and you don’t get to find out what you ate until the end.
For the foodies still with me, I’ll continue:
AM Italian Kitchen is the first restaurant that Memphis chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman opened back in 2008. Now, they have Hog & Hominy and Porcellino’s (both of those are also in Brookhaven Circle) and will open Catherine & Mary’s in the Chisca downtown soon. Learn more about them in this podcast.
The no-menu Monday at AM Italian Kitchen – which is usually on the last Monday of each month – has been around for a while. In fact, Kerry featured it back in 2012 as number 59 on the list of 365 Things To Do In Memphis. Read her take here.
I had never tried it myself, so I went recently with a few fellow bloggers to check it out. Here’s what happened. Please forgive the photos as it’s quite dim inside Andrew Michael, but I wanted to still include some kind of visuals.
First up was the amuse bouche, which doesn’t count as one of the four courses and which I didn’t get a photo for. It looked like a small tart topped with a smidgen of what we knew was bacon jam. When we bit into it, we got a surprising, delicious burst of fatty flavor. I think I actually jumped a little when I bit into it. No one could even guess what it was.
What it was: it was, in fact, a kind of fried tart topped with bacon jam, but it was filled with chicken liver.
We chose to add the wine pairings for $25 per person (the meal itself is $45) which meant a personal visit to our table for each course by the wine guy Ryan Radish – who I used to work with at Napa Cafe. Ryan is charismatic and knowledgeable about wine while still being fun and down-to-earth. I’d recommend the wine pairing because Ryan’s descriptions kind of served as hints about the food. And also because wine.
The first wine was a sparkling rosé and the first course was some kind of salad anchored to the plate with a creamy spread. The jalapeños seemed obvious, and I recognized the tender clumps of crab meat, but we spent the rest of this course playing “what crunchy thing is this?”
We were pretty sure there were some grapes in there. I thought the sliced green vegetables were maybe green beans. The spread itself was delectable. It had a smoky seafood flavor and creamy texture that was so satisfying with the crunch of the veggies and other…things. I was extremely impressed with this dish. Scroll below the photo to find out what it was.
What it was: Crab with snap peas, serano peppers, smoked ricotta, grapes, and buckwheat. We were close.
Next up was the pasta course. Ryan served us a Barbera d’Alba, which is a medium-bodied acidic red wine, and explained that it would balance out a saltier dish. He wasn’t kidding. This dish was seriously salty. Our group decided it was perfectly cooked fettuccine with some kind of ground meat, maybe cured pork or turkey.
Someone suggested maybe it was rabbit. We also thought the cheese was parmesan, but that didn’t seem quite right. With the wine to balance it a bit, this one was tasty and didn’t last long.
What it was: Fettuccine with pork ragout, whey (that was what we thought was parmesan) and fennel.
For the main course, Ryan brought us an Italian red wine blend that was Cabernet-like and hinted that it paired well with something a bit gamey. I was pretty convinced as soon as I saw the dish that it was duck, and the sauce (which my notes say was “tangy orange maybe”) seemed to support that.
Someone again guessed it was rabbit. I think she really wanted to have some rabbit. Whatever it was, it was delicious. We knew the meat was served some kind of grain and crispy kale, but not must else. We were in for a surprise.
What it was: We were right about the crispy kale and the duck, and the grain was farro, but I was surprised that there were also gizzards (!) and Mayhaw berry in the dish. I’m guessing the sauce was the berry, but I have no idea
For dessert, Ryan left the wine train and brought us a sparkling apple cider instead. I wrote in my notes that it was Kerisac cider, made from five kinds of apples, with a dry finish. I don’t drink a lot of cider, but for dessert and paired with this dish, it was fantastic.
As for the dish (I’m sorry again for the photo) it was a little cake with apple slices, some kind of caramel or brown butter sauce and some kind of citrus (we guessed lemon) spread, plus crumbles of some kind. I thought of it kind of like a deconstructed apple pie. Everyone raved about this one and declared it the best dish of the evening.
It was delicate, perfectly creamy and sweet. I’d have a hard time choosing between this and the first course as my favorite, but it was all delicious.
What it was: Poundcake with chamomile, creme anglaise (a light custard), orange, apple, and oat crumble.
Here’s the hand-written menu we were presented with at the conclusion of our meal. The food was great and the experience of guessing everything was really fun. The food is different every time, so I imagine I’ll be back again at some point.
I’d like to give a special thanks to the Memphis bloggers who invited me to join them for this dinner. You can check out their blogs/Instagrams: Hannah with To Raise An Ebenezer, Margaret with Young and Rungry, Rosie with A Taste of Rogue, and Allie, who doesn’t have a blog because she’s too busy designing everything.
I’ve heard that reservations for the no-menu Monday are booked up a few months in advance, so in the meantime you can check out a regular evening at AM Italian Kitchen, Hog & Hominy (they are doing pizzas or Porcellino’s.