Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dinner at my favorite restaurant is all I need to cheer me up

Ever since the start of Spring Forward my body has not been able to catch up. I don't think there's been a day that's gone by that I haven't felt completely exhausted. Heavy eyelids on my way to and from work everyday is a tad bit worrisome. And since Friday night is always date night with my husband, I felt the need to try to shake my feelings of exhaustion and drive to downtown Ann Arbor for dinner. Usually when my husband and I are tried after a long week we like to stay as far away from Ann Arbor as possible because we don't want to have to find a parking garage, fight for parking and then have to walk to dinner. Lazy I know. But it's the truth.

But since yesterday's weather was sunny and in the 40s, we decided that the walking to dinner might do us some good. Plus I wanted to try a restaurant that recently opened by the same owners as my favorite restaurant in Ann Arbor, MANI Osteria and Bar, which I have written about before. MANI's owners' new venture is a Mexican restaurant called Isalita. But when we arrived at Isalita a little before 6 PM, the place already had a 40 minute wait. We were willing to wait the 40 minutes because I really wanted to try this place, but just for the heck of it, we went next door to MANI to see if they had immediate seating, and lo and behold, they did. We decided that we'd try Isalita another night when we could get there a little earlier for immediate seating and go with a tried and true pick instead.

It was just what I needed. Just as we did last time, we were seated at the chef's bar where we were treated to an hour-long performance of garnishing, pizza making, and previews of every dish that was dashed out of the kitchen prior to being delivered to hungry, eager diners.

Every dish that we ordered last night was perfection, just as it was the last time we ate there, starting with our drinks. I of course, ordered what I always do: sangria, a consoling drink for me since MANI's sangria is almost identical to the sangria at my favorite restaurant in Royal Oak that recently closed, aptly named Sangria. My husband ordered a strawberry mint lemonade that had just the right amount of pucker and sweetness with just a hint of mint. If I hadn't been so enamored with my own drink, I probably would have ordered one for myself too.
Cheers! Sangria and strawberry mint lemonade

We ordered two small plates for our appetizer: warm, crunchy and gooey arancini, AKA, risotto balls, which were delicious, but the real star of their small plates menu is the crispy pork belly, which is so good it will make your eyes roll into the back of your head and you may even experience a When Harry Met Sally moment if you know what I mean. ;)

Crispy pork belly with apricot marmalade
The last time we ate at MANI I ordered one of their amazing wood fired pizzas, so this time I decided to try some of their house-made pasta and went with the papparadelle bolognese. It was, once again, perfection. It was perfectly al dente, had just the right amount of sauce, and was served in a reasonable portion: just enough to satisfy you without making you feel like a glutton.
papparadelle bolognese

So I guess the lesson here is, if ever I need cheering up, a trip to my favorite Ann Arbor restaurant is in order. Despite coming home and going to bed early last night (I shouldn't have gone for that second glass of sangria), I woke up this morning in a great mood and ready to conquer the world. Well, not so much the world as that giant mountain of papers I have to grade. 


  1. Glad you had a good time. Cheers

  2. Oh, that sounds like a perfect night out! So glad the dinner revived you (and it sounds like you made the right choice not to wait for that new restaurant)!

  3. Going to a favourite restaurant is just like comfort food exceptyou don't have to clean up. I don't have a fav restaurant but I did write about my favourite soup today.

  4. I'm hoping I can convince my hubby to take me to this restaurant sometime. Small plates are such a great way to sample lots of yummy food.

  5. I shouldn't have read this post so close to dinner - now I'm starving! Seriously, everything looks delicious and what a perfect way to end a long week. Glad to know I'm not the only one having trouble adjusting to daylight savings time this year.

  6. I too am SO hungry after reading that. I am not sure my leftovers will do it for me.

  7. That pork belly looks fantastic. How nice that you have date night on Fridays!

  8. This looks like a delicious dinner out! I miss living in a neighborhood where we can walk to a restaurant!

  9. I love Mani's!!! Lucky you. I didn't know they had opened a Mexican place. hummm. Next time I'm visiting my parents, I may have to think about driving up there.