The first half of January, I didn’t do any exploring – I was too busy recovering from the busy holiday season and acclimating to 2017, I guess! I’d been dying to get down to Detroit for weeks and weeks, and I was there to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at the Fisher Theatre the week after New Year’s – but alas, no exploring of new places occurred then (the neighborhood around Fisher Theatre is sorely lacking in restaurants and bars – local restaurateurs, scope it out!). So I was psyched to have an excuse to go downtown again on the 18th – not only because I was going to the Red Wings/Bruins game thanks to a generous friend who gifted me a ticket for Christmas, but also because I knew we’d be trying at least one new place (yay to friends who are open to exploring!).
I was especially enthused when my friend said she was down for dining at Katoi. The Thai restaurant, which opened last year, had been on my radar thanks to a coworker who is supplying the restaurant with her free-range, organic pork. She’d praised the creativity and skill of the head chef and commented on the unique space that housed the restaurant.
Apparently, I wasn’t paying enough attention when she spoke about the building, because I didn’t realize that Katoi is housed in what appears to be a former auto shop. It’s also on a stretch of Michigan Avenue in Corktown that’s less lively than the strip that houses Sugar House and Slow’s and Astro Coffee and Gold Cash Gold about a third of a mile down. Perhaps the desolation I felt was summoned by the GPS navigating us off of Michigan Ave. to the trash-strewn alley behind the restaurant, telling us that we had arrived . . . yeah, NO, GPS.
At any rate, the outside of Katoi is nondescript and deceptive, belying the awesomeness that is inside. Stepping across the threshold of this former industrial building, I stepped into – what else? – a trendy, intimate dining space, all exposed brick, frosted glass, and colorful lighting. Like so many other buildings in Detroit, this one has been reborn into something completely different from what it once was. I never tire of discovering the various incarnations of this city. The repurposing, the creativity – it’s so exciting!
The menu presented so many intriguing options that it was hard to select only a few. Most dishes were more like small plates than full-blown entrees, so my friend and I ended up sharing four: the Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts with a cashew cream sauce, the nuanced Thrice Cooked Sweet Potatoes, the spicy Drunken Pastrami Noodles, and the meaty Crispy Spareribs coated with a caramel fish sauce crust. All were delicious, but the vegetable dishes were our hands-down faves; they were so flavorful! My friend and I were like, “We need someone to cook us vegetables this delicious every day!”
We also had some KILLER cocktails whose names I neglected to take note of. Mine was pink, grapefruit-infused, flavorful, and strong.
When we left Katoi around 6:45 to head to the Joe, the tiny waiting area was packed, and the lot, alleyway, and street outside the restaurant were littered with cars parked every-which-way. Not a bad draw for a Wednesday night in the middle of winter!
2520 Michigan Ave.
Detroit, MI 48216