Hashem’s Roastery

Adam Hashem, manager of the Warren Road location.

If you didn’t know it was there, you’d miss it.

If you didn’t know what’s inside, you might not go in.

And that would be a shame, as Hashem’s Roastery is a fantastic store.  It’s full of mysterious smells, exotic tastes, unusual items, herbs, tinctures, and potions.  It’s like something out of  Harry Potter’s world.

Hashem’s is actually a small chain, with three stores in the Dearborn area, along with the original store in Lebanon.  The location on Warren is run by Adam Hashem, grandson of the founder.

Nuts and seeds for sale

Hashem’s is a family business, started by Sheik Theeb, in 1959, in a small Lebanese village of a couple thousand people.  The village healer, he set broken bones, and created herb tonics for various ailments.  Because of demand, he opened a dekanei, a small shop, selling herbs, coffee and teas.

Adam’s father began working in the shop when he was 11, roasting coffee and nuts, learning about the herbs and tonics.  But in 1976, he was part of a mandatory draft, and began moving his family from base to base.

Eventually emigrating to Michigan, he settled in Dearborn.  He had a total of $100 to his name, and began working in a slaughterhouse to make ends meet.  Eventually, he was able to open a small 600 sq ft shop on Warren in 1985.  It was patterned after his father’s shop in Lebanon, an Old World shop in a New World location.  As the Arabic population continued to grow, so did their business.

Success demanded expansion, and the present location opened in 1995.

Some of Hashem’s house blended teas: Lavender Moonlight (front, right), Passion Peach (front left), Masala Chai (back, left), and Caesar’s Fruit Tea (back, center).

The shop is a cross between convenience store, neighborhood cafe, grocery store, and speciality shop.  Hashem’s plays a positive role in the neighborhood, offering information on visas, help with social issues, and other advice.  Adam prides himself on the trust placed in them by their patrons.

Hashem’s has recently begun offering culinary tours, using the common language of food to bridge the gap between cultures.

Star anise, long pepper, galangal slices, and Aleppo pepper, one of the trendiest spices right now.

They sell coffee, teas, spices, dried fruit and nuts, seeds – even kri kri, a Japanese snack food.  They stock over 40 herbs, 35 different botanicals, Turkish coffee supplies, cheeses, candy . . . the list goes on.

Whole dried hibiscus, with an array of dried fruits and nuts, including some of the biggest cashews I’ve seen.

They continue to import direct, dealing as much as possible with the same local farmers and distributors they’ve worked with over the years.  Because of this, most items are a bargain.

Japanese Kri Kri

They also continue to look for better sources.  Currently, they import their kri kri from China, the main supplier of this snack food.  However, Adam has found a better source in Australia, and they are awaiting their first container of this new product.

Adam has a degree in biochemistry, and a strong belief in holistic living.  He’s happy to make suggestions for helpful purchases, or to guide you through the selection of their own 28 tea blends.  When my daughter asked for rose water and tea tree oil, not only did Adam guess she was using them for a mask, he was also able to provide her with their own mask mix, a formula created in house.  So if you are looking for botanicals, essential oils, or other holistic tinctures, Hashem’s is your place.

From left to right: whole mustard seed, pink brining salt, saffron, whole mahlab, and whole nutmeg

And if you’re a cook, then you’ve hit the mother lode.  Hashem’s stocks spices I’ve never heard of, along with most that I have.  And because they import direct, the spices are fresher, seemingly of higher quality, and much, much cheaper.  If you are planning on holiday baking, you really need to make a trip to Hashem’s.  From true cinnamon, to whole nutmegs, to whole cardamom, to saffron, Aleppo pepper, Hashem’s has them all.  They even stock the biggest cashews I’ve ever seen.

True cinnamon, in natural bark form, and ground. The smell was incredible!

At bargain basement prices.  Seriously, I can’t believe how inexpensive these are, in comparison to the familiar red and white containers in the grocery spice aisle.

Dark roasted coffee. In spite of its appearance, the coffee is not oily. The beans are completely dry, but roasted darkly rich. Hammered copper Turkish coffee vessels are pictured in the background.

Even better, if you check in on Yelp while you’re there, you get an additional 10% discount, making a great deal even better.  And if you tell him you found them through this article, he’ll at least throw in a friendly smile.

A pot of blooming tea

During this holiday season, you need to visit Hashem’s.  Take some time.  Look around.  Sample the various tastes – the candy, the dried fruits, the nuts and seeds.  Drink some tea with Adam.  And enjoy a bit of Old World culture and hospitality few have actually experienced.

Hashem’s Roastery is located at 13041 W. Warren Road, Dearborn, MI.  They’re open from 10 AM to 10 PM daily, Sundays 10 AM to 8PM.  There are two other locations in the Dearborn area.

Otus Supply – Fabulous in Ferndale

The ubiquitous owl logo

It started with an Italian grandmother.  Well, not the restaurant, but the chef.

Chef Myles McVay

For Myles McVay, 37, the executive chef at Otus Supply in Ferndale, the interest in cooking began with his Italian grandma, “She was always cooking.” From there, it was a short trip to the neighborhood pizzeria. At 13, he started working there, washing dishes. He moved up to making pizzas, and a career was born.

His career has reached its current apex at Otus Supply, an original concept for metro Detroit. Open since December of 2016, Otus is a 10,000 sq. ft. space: a combination concert hall, craft cocktail/beer bar, and restaurant under one roof. Designed by Alex Morales from SmartMouth Designs, a Chicago-based restaurant design studio, the Otus space features

Down the hobbit hole?

funky lighting, textural walls, and flourishes of owls (“otus” is the genus of owls).

Myles oversees the kitchen, where everything* is made from scratch.  And everything is designed to be prepped from order to table in 10-12 minutes.

The kitchen is large, and it has to be. Otus combines quality and quantity, serving up to 500 patrons on a summer weekend concert night. Guests are treated to a menu that’s difficult to categorize – there’s pizzas and pastas, a number of vegetable dishes, and four or five larger proteins. So Italian, right?

Well, no.

There’s a serious amount of influence from other cultures, from the kimchi used in the cucumber salad, to the complex mole residing under the unctuous beef short rib.

Fusion?  World cuisine?  I’m not sure.  How about if we go with “unique”?

What I do know is this is great food.  In two visits, I was able to sample a number of dishes.

Crispy, charred, bubbly crust

Let’s follow the menu, and start with the pizza.  Pizza is all about the crust, and here, the crust is made daily.  Beginning with “00” flour, the dough is mixed, then allowed to rise in large plastic tubs.  Because of the fineness of the flour grind (the “00”), and the natural leavening, the result is a finished crust that has the crispy exterior, airy, bubbly interior, and just the right amount of “chew”.  I tried the “Our-inara”, the Otus take on the traditional margherita, featuring fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, garlic, and basil.  The crust was perfect, and the sauce spicy, both from the garlic, the oregano, and the generous amount of hot pepper flakes.

There’s a similar care taken with another simple dish, the bread and butter.

“Simple” bread & butter

The bread is a malted wheat sourdough, with a crackling crisp crust, and a light interior.  The bread has a slightly sour taste (hence the name), worth mentioning because of the plethora of  “sourdough” breads sold in the various markets that are neither crusty nor sour, and have no evidence of the required starter.  That is not the case here, with a bread that is heartier than the traditional white San Francisco sourdough, but still features that great fermented taste.

The butter is made in–house, and combined with roasted garlic and Kalamata olives.  It’s tasty.  However, they change the blends often, even going with plain butter now and again.  So the dish will always be a bit different.

The house-made pastas should make his grandmother proud.  They’re cooked al dente, and have the creamy richness that comes from being tossed with the sauce.

Mafalde with pork sugo

The first pasta, the Mafalde, is a different noodle.  Legend has it this pasta shape is named after a princess.  Whether that is true or not, if you took a lasagna noodle, and eliminated 2/3 of the flat noodle in the middle, you’d have mafalde, a long flat pasta noodle with ruffles on both sides.  There’s a lot of texture to this noodle, so the sauce needs to be hearty, to stand up to it.  No problem here, as the pork sugo has the deep taste of slow simmering.  A surprise here is the included hazelnuts.  Yes, they are called out on the menu (no hidden allergen concern here), but it was a new inclusion for me.  This is a dish with wonderful layers of texture:  thick, al dente pasta, crunchy hazelnuts, tender bits of pork.  The dusting of parmesan atop completes the dish.

Squid Ink Pappardelle with Flying Fish Roe and Cured Egg

The second was a squid ink pappardelle, a dish of glistening jet black pasta, topped with cured egg yolk, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, garnished with orange roe.  The flying fish roe appears jewel-like, almost luminescent.  It may be the most beautiful dish I’ve photographed, and the taste?  It’s like eating the ocean.  The dish tastes of rich, salty brine, with a textural counterplay of the “pop” of the fishy eggs. and the chew of the noodles.  It’s tremendous, one of the two signature dishes here.

The third pasta was a root vegetable agnolotti.  On this day, the root vegetable

Parsley Root Agnolotti

in question was parsley root.  The pasta is sauced with brown butter, bits of caramelized apples, and garnished with sage, parmesan, and flavored bread crumbs.  It’s a fall dish, a sweeter sauce with holiday flavors.

Sweet & Sour Cucumber

 

Of the vegetables, the Sweet & Sour Cucumber was delicious and refreshing.  This is a molded cylinder of matchstick cucumbers, sweet corn, and charred lemon bits, topped with feta, a cracker, and black sesame seeds.  It’s light and tangy, either as a salad course, or a substantial palate cleanser before the larger dishes.

The wood fired broccoli is as it sounds, but sauced with a seaweed aioli for a

Wood Fired Broccoli – you can see the chili powder on the sunflower seeds

different taste.  It’s garnished with sunflower seeds and togarashi (Japanese red chili powder).  This is a solid dish.  While certainly vegetarian, vegans will need to ask them to hold the aioli, as it contains egg.  Chef Myles says they’re happy to accommodate requests like these.

Zucchini Fries

I also tried the zucchini fritters.  As you can see, these are beautifully plated and presented, topped with English peas, shaved fennel, and garnished with a bit of parsley mayo (also containing egg).   However, these are zucchini fries, not fritters.  Thin, long rectangular pieces of zucchini are battered and deep fried.  And they largely taste like really fresh, expertly battered, fried zucchini.

Wood-fired octopus

Woodfired octopus was an interesting dish.  Banish thoughts of calamari.  This has nothing in common with the rubbery little circles of squid over-fried in other establishments.  This is a classic Mediterranean dish, tender grilled tentacles of octopus, served over kimchi, garnished with puffed black rice (think “Snap, Crackle . . . oh, I always forget the third one!), dressed with a kombucha and honey vinaigrette.

I expected a heavy shot of funk with this dish, due to the two fermented items.  However, the kimchi had a smooth, mild flavor.  I asked Chef McVay, and he informed me that longer fermentation mellows the harsher flavors of kimchi.  Because of this, it complemented the octopus nicely, rather than taking over the dish.  The overall result was a balanced dish, one I would eat again.

The final dish was a show-stopper, the beef short rib.

Let’s start with size.  This thing is huge.  Otus obtains a special order cut of short ribs, and they average 22 – 24 ozs. per rib.  That’s at least double the size of most restaurant portions, and triple that of some.

So it’s a generously-sized portion.  It’s big enough to share.

Giant beef short rib, the signature dish

You won’t want to, though, as it is cooked to perfection.  The meat is well-seasoned, which, in the case of beef, means it has been properly salted.  The meat also has a solid sear, creating a good crust.   It has been cooked for several hours (braised, sous vide, both?), until the meat is fork tender, rendering the provided steak knife completely extraneous.

The rib is served in a pool of mole, the complex Mexican sauce consisting of 20 – 30 ingredients, including garlic, multiple types of chiles, chocolate, nuts, dried fruit, seeds, and spices.  Chef McVay’s mole is mildly spicy, but earthy and rich.

The rib is garnished with chimichurri, roasted squash, and crispy shaved carrots.

The beef is richly unctuous, redolent with deep flavor.  It’s grandma’s pot roast on steroids, fork tender comfort food.  In my opinion, it’s their signature dish.  If this is on the menu, order it, and plan the rest of the meal around it.

It’s that good.

Otus Supply is a unique restaurant, and Chef McVay brings a unique vision to the kitchen.  There’s really nothing like either in the area.  You should go.

If you can’t get a reservation, don’t worry.  About 1/3 of the seats are saved for walk-ins, so there’s hope.  Go with friends, order lots of dishes, and share and pass them around.  That’s the best way to experience Otus.

“Owl” see you there.

Otus Supply is located at 345 East 9 Mile Road in Ferndale.  It opens at 5 PM Monday – Friday, 4 PM on Saturday.  The kitchen serves till 10 PM Monday – Thursday, 11 PM Friday and Saturday.  The bar is open till midnight Monday – Wednesday, and 2 AM Thursday through Saturday.  You can make reservations by calling 248.291.6160, or by clicking the button marked “Click Here!” at www.otussupply.com.

*In discussion with Chef Myles, it turns out that the mozzarella is the only item not (yet) made in house.  However, by the time you read this, it probably will be.