[Restaurant Profile] The Lark

Many people ask us for lists of our favorite dishes, restaurants, and chefs. Well, I don’t necessarily like the idea of lists. It’s so difficult to rank anything, really. After all, it’s only perspective. How can I make up a list of restaurants when I haven’t tried each one that exists? To do that really wouldn’t be fair to many excellent spots.  What I can say, however, is that when I come across one that I really enjoy, I don’t need to put it in a ranked list. I can simply tell people how good it is. The Lark, in West Bloomfield, is one of those places.

The Lark opened in 1981, and has served its guests for nearly 35 years. Family run, there isn’t a day that goes by that the Larks are absent from the house. Jim Lark insists on seating guests, and with his Sommelier background, is very vocal about wine selections. Mary Lark puts a special touch to the venue, tending to the garden, and paying close attention to every detail of The Lark’s atmosphere. The family business is rounded out by Jim and Mary’s daughter, Adrian. Following the family steps, Adrian is also a Sommelier, and a Master Gardener.

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I think that the idea of the owners being on-premises is a key part of the success of The Lark. To me, it shows an investment of more than money. The hands-on love for the food, the ambiance, the guests. It all matters and it really shows.

The other part of their success is shown in who they have hired to run the back of the house. Chef John Somerville began his career in 1994 as a Garde Manger, promoted to Sous Chef in 2001, promoted to Chef de Cuisine and Executive Chef in 2006. He has received two James Beard Nominations for Best Chef: Great Lakes (in 2008 and 2009). He appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef, Season 7 in Washington D.C. His experience from Top Chef was very rewarding, even though he didn’t take the gold. He has remained friends with fellow contestants from his season.

From his height to his hair, Chef John is unmistakable. More than appearance, you would never forget his friendliness and pleasant demeanor. If you have been to any tasting event which The Lark has participated in (such as the Garden Party), I’m sure you have spoken to him and tried his Salt-Baked Shrimp.  Inspired by Chinese restaurants that offer different varieties of salt-baked sea foods, Chef puts together a wonderful medley of wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico and organic jalapeños.

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The Lark’s and Chef John all have found pride in supporting South East Michigan farmers using products from Carpenter’s Organic, Tantre Organic Farm, Coblentz Acres Organic, Wilsons Organic Farm, GardenWorks Organic, Frog Holler Organic Farm, Kapnick Farms, Guernsey Farms Dairy, Seely Farms, and Zingerman’s Creamery.

The Lark offers a great chance to try a wide variety of different dishes, prepared in the French style, in a beautiful setting. As formal attire and dining restaurants are trending out, the Lark has managed to keep the elements of fine dining alive, at a moderate price point. It’s a great place for celebrations, like birthdays, anniversaries, work dinners, and the like.

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The prix fixe menu has existed since day one. Start with the cold hors d’oeuvres trolley, featuring cocktail shrimp (Gulf of Mexico), oysters on the half shell (typically from the Northeast Atlantic Ocean, Chef particularly favors oysters from Bar Harbor from the West Bay of Bar Harbor Maine), the curry duck salad (voted Bon Appetite salad of the year in 1991), and some form of vegetable salad.

Moving from there, guests have a choice of hot appetizer, followed by a salad choice, a sorbet to clean your palate getting you ready for the main course, chosen from a wide variety of options: the Classic Cuisine Special of the Day or from the signature main dishes. Signature entrees include Sautéed Walleye with Savory Potatoes, Crisp Leeks and Cajun Remoulade, Diver Scallops with Baby Artichokes, Fennel, Champagne Cream and Truffle Explosion.

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Perhaps the most famous option is the Rack of Lamb Genghis Khan, with Dauphinoise Potatoes and glazed carrots, which has sold over 77,250 orders! I enjoyed rack 76,389 last year, as is proofed by the recipe card (pictured below) that is given to each ordering guest.  It really is a great dish.  The chops are prepared perfectly, utilizing an Asian-inspired marinade and hoisin sauce.

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The specials rotate daily and include popular entrees such as the Lobster Thermidor Café de Paris, and Florida Stone Crab Claws, cold with Mustard Sauce.

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Weather permitting, there is available patio dining, with a small plates-style menu, complete with a wood-burning grill. Chef John creates specials for the outdoor seating every night until September (beginning every May).

The most recent menu changes are seasonal and geared towards “more pure flavors, using more oils, fresh herbs, in-season vegetables, and letting the flavors speak for themselves. We are trying to go with more simplistic, less cream, less butter,” says Chef John.

White Bean Soup garnished with Iberian Ham and Beef Tenderloin

White Bean Soup garnished with Iberian Ham and Beef Tenderloin

Garlic Shrimp with Conserva of Mushrooms, Rice and Cherry Wine Sauce

Garlic Shrimp with Conserva of Mushrooms, Rice and Cherry Wine Sauce

Spring Asparagus and Spinach Salad with Crisp Duck Cracklings and Basil Vinaigrette

Spring Asparagus and Spinach Salad with Crisp Duck Cracklings and Basil Vinaigrette

Organic Greens with Lime Panna Cotta (made with fresh yogurt), Organic Strawberries, Candied Black Sesame and Yuzu Dressing

Organic Greens with Lime Panna Cotta (made with fresh yogurt), Organic Strawberries, Candied Black Sesame and Yuzu Dressing

Thin Noodles with Littleneck Clams, Baby Artichokes and Fresh Verde Sauce

Thin Noodles with Littleneck Clams, Baby Artichokes and Fresh Verde Sauce

Baby Artichoke Salad, Anchovy Dressing, Olive Caviar

Baby Artichoke Salad, Anchovy Dressing, Olive Caviar

 

I encourage everyone to check out The Lark’s website, and follow Chef John on Facebook. He regularly updates his wall with The Lark’s specials of the evening. Recent past posts have included:

  • Beef Entrecote Steak with Morel Mushroom Cream, Gold Potatoes and Haricots Verts
  • Walleye Cheeks
  • Gazpacho is Cucumber and Coconut with Garden Mint and Peekytoe Crab
  • Squash Blossoms with Morel Mushroom and Sheep’s Milk Cheese
  • Red Wine Miso Marinated Rib Eye with Crisp Yucca and Yellow Pepper Sauce
  • Leg of Lamb, Squash Blossom, Peanuts and Teriyaki
  • Wood-grilled NY Strip with Morels, Garlic Scapes and Ramp Cream

Guests are encouraged to call for reservations ((248) 661-4466), or use OpenTable via the web or the app.

 

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