ohone evening in early March, I took out ingredients from a box left on my doorstep, thanks to the culinary team at the Daxton Hotel in Birmingham. Still at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, the troop opted against a traditional grand opening in person for Madame, the flagship restaurant of the new chic hotel. Rather than enjoying a sample of dishes under the canopy of shiny metallic pearls that line the ceiling of the restaurant’s dining room like pearl necklaces, I instead gathered with other local food editors in a Zoom Room. intimate for a virtual cooking class, led by the director of Madame Chef, Garrison Price.
Among the ingredients in the shipment was a whole black truffle, an expensive accessory for a side salad that would complement the French onion tart we were making during the class. The black truffle pancake and salad – along with the Maple Road, an artisanal cocktail of Suntory Toki Whiskey, Advertillado sherry, and Michigan maple syrup – each played a part in the restaurant’s premier menu. And that night we were the bosses.
Recommended price by reserving the aromatic truffle shavings to enhance daily consumption such as our morning coffee. As per his instructions, throughout the week I started my day sprinkling black truffle grains over the Bustelo land. The ritual became like a joke between me and my alter ego. A sip of the sumptuous blend released my inner aristocrat.
As an apprentice to world-renowned chefs such as Jean-Georges Vongerichten and José Andrés, Price brings to Madame more than two decades of gastronomic experience. Her choice to include delicacy in the course, our introduction to Madame’s New American Cuisine, conveyed the message that once opened, the restaurant would source only the finest ingredients for a dining experience of the highest caliber. Six months after opening Madame, Price continues to keep this unspoken promise.
Nothing embodies the essence of Madame as much as the dessert menu. To fully understand the restaurant’s luxurious air, check out Dominican milk chocolate Namelaka by pastry chef Duncan Spangler. The confection echoes the restaurant’s enthusiasm for the fine arts. While extensive multimedia works by Dutch artist Karin Vermeer line Madam’s walls, the namelaka is an abstract work of art in its own right – with a pastel mint-green plaque as a canvas.
Sitting on a pedestal of buckwheat porridge and puffed rice and quinoa coated with milk chocolate, the silky cream is slightly sweet and, in texture, balances a mousse and a fresh and airy whipped cream. Spongy chunks of airy chocolate add an even richer cocoa note, and a blistered Michigan blackcurrant compote adds acid to the dish. A perfect sphere of blackcurrant sorbet tops it off for a pop of color and a touch of whimsy, stripping the meticulous dish of any pretext.
Spangler’s pastries reflect Madame’s commitment to fine dining through a clever lens. Much like geometric patterns appear in the architectural design of the restaurant – the bar itself is encased in a contemporary geodesic dome – the cakes and pies are graphic in nature. A purée of grilled and fresh strawberries pours over the edge of a loaf of angel food cake, topped with a tangy strawberry and Aperol sorbet and pieces of sweet and salty meringue reminiscent of broken porcelain splashed with pink paint. In another dish, a crispy dacquoise should be broken up to reveal a bowl of velvety aquafaba, plump raspberries, buttery hazelnuts and a creamy coconut mousse.
A shrewd eye is the most obvious pillar at Madam, but the restaurant’s ambitions are evident in other areas of the menu as well. Global influences mirror Price’s repertoire in highly revered restaurants around the world. Forbidden Rice, made with Venere black rice, is cooked with pieces of pork sausage, shrimp and leek, and decorated with a delicate Michigan-raised egg yolk and thinly sliced chives.
For brunch, Price’s takes the ubiquitous Fried Chicken Sandwich features Korean fried chicken, dredged in honey frosting with a peppery kick and topped with watery iceberg lettuce, crispy pickles, and tangy kimchi aioli, the whole thing. served on a homemade milk bun pierced with wooden skewers. Drawing on its pedigree in Asian cuisine, there is also the Hamachi Crudo and the meatballs stuffed with meaty mushrooms.
European flair appears in piping hot Serrano ham fritters filled with tangy manchego and served on a layer of quince jam. The slate top is topped with thin strips of Serrano ham and transparent ribbons of cheese. Italian influences are emerging on the Pizzas & Pastas menu, and Spanish, French and Italian wines dominate the wine list.
Madame also takes an oath to stock up on farm-fresh ingredients for most vegetable-based dishes. Gem Lettuce Salad is mixed with a scent – not flavored – lavender dressing, shiny watermelon radish shavings, and nasturtium petals and leaves. The cauliflower is roasted in curry, the gnocchi are served with forage mushrooms and the scallops sit in a sea of asparagus and sliced peas, marinated in morel butter.
And then there are the truffles. The black truffle salad appears next to a leek fondue pancake, much like the savory pastry I baked alongside Price. The dish’s placement on the appetizer menu is symbolic of my take-out at Madame’s – the opulent ingredients are just the beginning of the luxury experience at the Daxton Hotel.
Madame at the Daxton Hotel, 298 S. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-283-4200; daxtonhotel.com
This story is featured in the December 2021 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more stories in our digital edition.