It’s not very often it seems necessary to sit down and start a review with the word “impeccable,” but Capers, a fine restaurant located at Marquette’s Landmark Inn, deserves just that.
Impeccable is the best word to use when describing the delightful food that is served by Capers. Impeccable is the easiest way to describe the quality of ingredients used by executive chef Ryan Potila and his team–many of which are sourced locally in the Upper Peninsula and Michigan.
“It’s one of the things I really wanted to do here at Capers Restaurant when I became executive chef,” said Potila. “We have wonderful ingredients here in the Upper Peninsula and across all of Michigan. There is really no reason we aren’t using them unless we have no other choice.”
The result is a meal that is staggering in depth of taste and range of ability.
In the beginning…
There’s an old joke that says that God loves everyone, which is exactly why he decided to share the Upper Peninsula with the rest of the world. When you’re dining at Capers, you realize that God loves foodies, too, which is why he put Ryan Potila in charge of the culinary experience there.
Potila insists that all the dishes at Capers are perfectly prepared–and it’s obvious with the technique and care that is showcased in each and everything that is served there.
Take, for example, the appetizers. Even the most highly regarded restaurants are happy enough to slough out any old salad for diners to peck at while waiting for their entrees. Not Potila. His version of a starting house salad is more like something you’d expect to see in Bon Apetite magazine. It is served as a mixture of field greens tossed with radish and oven roasted beets, sprinkled with amazingly-smooth manchego cheese and topped with toasted pumpkin seeds. The entire salad is then tossed in mild maple-apple cider vinaigrette that leaves no leaf of lettuce dry yet doesn’t overpower a single taste.
And it doesn’t stop there. How about spinach and artichoke dip, spread over locally-made bread and baked to perfection? Or a caprese appetizer that is made in much the same manner, drizzled with perfectly thickened balsamic reduction? Those two wonderful topped breads are served as a duo, and you’ll be glad that they are because, like your children, it’s so hard to choose one as a favorite over the other.
Another wonderful creation on the appetizer menu is the brie en croute–brie that is wrapped in a pastry shell and baked along with some dried Michigan cherries. The slightly tart cherries mix wonderfully with the smooth creaminess of the cheese. It is served with herbed toast, which adds a nice crunch to the experience. This can also be ordered with apples and walnuts in lieu of the cherries.
The prize of the day, however, was the most amazing salmon cakes I have ever had the joy of trying. The secret? Smoked salmon, locally caught and prepared at Thill’s Fish House.
“This is a twist (on an old Landmark Inn recipe) on the crab cakes,” said Potila. “No one wanted to see that leave the menu, so I asked them to let me try something else.”
The cakes are crispy on the outside and smooth with the follow-through on the bite. And the smoke? It just leaves the perfect trail of enticing flavor as it glides over your tongue. The cakes are served with a lemon dill cream sauce that makes you wonder why tarter sauce ever made it next to fish in the first place.
It just gets better from there
While the appetizers are quite scrumptious, the real treat at Capers is the entrees. From start to finish on the menu, they all sound appetizing and wonderful. The good news is that not a single one that we tried was anything but marvelous.
In fact, our least favorite at Capers Restaurant is still better than many of the best entrees we’ve had at many other restaurants in our lifetime.
The Cornish game hen was perfectly herbed, cooked and tasted amazing, so while we say it was our least favorite, what we mean is that it just couldn’t hold up to the mesmerizing power of the other entrees we tried. Plus, we were trying to look professional and cool and it’s hard to do that as you tear apart a game hen. Fans of game hen, however, will be impressed by the wonderful blend of herbs and perfectly-cooked vegetables.
What really amazed us were the two specials created by Potila’s crew. The Chef’s Cut and the Chef’s Catch are both made from locally-sourced fresh ingredients and change daily. The former is always cut from grass-fed beef raised at Guindon Farms in Cornell while the other is made from fresh fish pulled straight from Lake Superior that morning.
We were fortunate enough to have lake trout, wrapped in leek, and served over one of the best risottos that has ever been dished up in the Upper Peninsula–about that, we have no doubt. Potila’s team paired the super velvety and buttery risotto with pomegranate and cashew. The fish was glazed lightly with a maple syrup, harvested in Michigan, which just pulled out the flavor from every corner of the meal.
For me, the most amazing bite of meat to be had was served before me with the Chef’s Cut. Not only was the beef prepared to perfection, teasing me with the knowledge that I would eventually have to finish eating it no matter how much I wanted the taste to last for eternity. And while I thought I have had some wonderful steaks in my time (and I have), the mushroom-stout demi-glace, made with Keweenaw Brewing Company’s Widowmaker Black, was to die for. I do not think I will ever dine upon anything that had such a profound impact on my understanding of what cooking could possibly be as that demi-glace did. I would eat it over anything and expect that it would not only make the dish edible, but wonderful. Quite honestly, it tastes like love was poured into it–and it kind of was, since the entire process of making the sauce takes 16 hours–that’s right, 75-percent of an entire day just to make an accompanying sauce. Now that’s commitment to wonderful food, and those who experience it are the beneficiaries of that passion.
Even though that demi-glace arrived on my plate as part of the ever-changing Chef’s Cut, it is also available on the beef tenderloin that is listed on the menu–a fact everyone should be thankful for.
A restaurant that demands another visit
And, without a doubt, have dessert. Joe, the pastry chef, isn’t an Upper Peninsula original, but we’re lucky to have him here. He brings New York-quality pastries to Marquette, and every bite is a vacation to somewhere sweeter and happier.
How much do we love Capers? Enough to go back time and time again, that’s for sure. In fact, I took a moment before leaving to make Valentine’s Day reservation for myself, my wife and my daughter. And why not? If you’re going to go out and dine on that day of romance and love, you might as well do it in a restaurant where you are going to fall in love with each and every bite you take.
230 N Front St