At first glance, Brome Modern Eatery chef Zane Makky and Cinnamon pastry chef Matt Knio may seem like an unlikely couple to team up on a breakfast and brunch-centric concept.
Makky’s first restaurant was a quick halal burger and fresh juice shop which is a hit in Dearborn, while Knio sells fine French pastries at Cannelle, his formidable upscale bakeries in Birmingham and downtown Detroit.
But together, they channeled their collective powers to accomplish what few restaurateurs and chefs can these days – develop an inspired, creative and fresh menu. And, nothing less, they’ve pulled it off in a culinary arena that can be as stale as they come – breakfast.
The Great Commoner avoids falling into the usual breakfast-brunch trap of recycling classics by incorporating a concept that fuses ‘American’ breakfasts with dishes and elements from the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the United States. France. There’s an eye for detail, sparkling presentations, and a rare depth to a restaurant breakfast, and it’s all very accessible.
While brunch is the focus, Great Commoner also offers a short range of sandwiches, display cases filled with Cinnamon pastries, and a full menu of coffee drinks. Dinner service is in the works, but there is no set launch date.
In the meantime, go straight Full mudammas, a standard Middle Eastern breakfast that looks like a stew with a mixture of beans and chickpeas in a garlic broth of lemon juice and olive oil. It’s coated with chopped mint and parsley, then topped with a small mound of sweet cherry tomatoes and chopped radishes. Knio’s excellent sourdough is used as the perfect tool for soaking and scooping up the mixture.
It’s a brilliant dish, and further enhanced with sour punches of a creamy, green version of peas from chatta, a hot Middle Eastern sauce that Great Commoner makes with dehydrated jalapeños mixed with oil, red wine vinegar, or lemon juice. My only previous experience with chatta was a looser, choppy version in the Yemeni-American sandwich shops of Hamtramck, and there’s no arguing with Makky’s version. I could eat it with a spoon.
Another highlight: the Labneh toast, which looks like a Lebanese version of avocado toast. Although the presentation of each plate is strong, this one stood out. It arrives with four colorful spoonfuls of labneh (similar to a soft cream cheese) and one of goat cheese coated in different seeds, spices and nuts. The labneh is processed with Knio’s secret za’atar blend; finely chopped Aleppo peppers; kammouni, a blend of spices often used in kibbeh that contains floral notes from the addition of hibiscus; and baraki seeds, sometimes referred to as “black caraway,” which Makky says is an ancient black seed from “the time of the prophet Mohommed” that was used as a health remedy. The goat cheese is covered with pistachio, and the spoonfuls are to be spread on Knio’s “gombette” bread, then assembled with cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, olives, mint and fig jam.
My table partner said her big commoner couldn’t beat her Bulgarian mother’s shakshuka recipe, but I found it to be an incredibly bright and deep take on another Middle Eastern classic. Its tomato sauce is particularly bright, which I thought was due to the use of lemon or sumac, but Makky said neither is added. He speculated that my heads had been fooled by the acidic, high-quality Italian San Marzano tomatoes, which are spiced with cumin and cilantro. Leeks, onions and shallots provide an aromatic depth, while kale, lentils and chickpeas provide a hearty component. It’s topped with sunny eggs, a thick layer of chopped cilantro, and Knio’s sourdough bread is here again to dip and scoop.
It’s hard to read the menu and get past the “burnt cinnamon whipped mascarpone” which is a key part of brown butter pancakes. Mascarpone is a soft, creamy Italian cheese, and the concoction is perfect with the blueberry compote that soaks part of the three large, soft pancakes that have a texture almost like cornbread. Makky browns the butter for more nutty which could also be behind the texture, he said, and the wrapper is adorned with carbonated sugar.
On the lunch menu, the grilled chicken is accompanied by a thick slice of charred chicken breast that is stacked on a tomato and basil focaccia with pickled red cabbage, muenster, cilantro and aioli. burnt corn. A cup of Mediterranean tomato soup was thick and creamy, although the soup options change daily.
The interior is large and occupied both by customers and visually, and is reminiscent of a European cafe. The restaurant, which is a partnership with restaurateur Sam Abbas, offers a limited number of outdoor seating and attracts a diverse clientele. There have already been discussions about adding a location to Ann Arbor.
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