Passport Restaurant, Ann Arbor, MI

Passport Restaurant and Lounge recently replaced what was previously the Cherry Blossom on State St. just south of Briarwood Mall. It’s a bit tricky to pull into the parking lot because there isn’t a direct driveway off State Street, the entrance is actually off of Airport Blvd.

When we drove up around 1pm for lunch on a Saturday the parking lot was nearly empty. I began to second guess whether the hours online were correct, but they were indeed open, just quiet. I’m assuming because of their location and newness they do more business during the week with the industrial area nearby.

My husband and I were greeted by the hostess right away who also gave us the option of a booth or table. Our waiter came to take our drink orders while we looked over the menu. I appreciated his tip that the iced tea was Nestea and not fresh brewed. When I ordered water instead he noted that  customers have said they couldn’t tell the difference in taste between fresh iced tea and the Nestea from the fountain; it didn’t sway me. I was disappointed that such a nice restaurant wouldn’t take the time to brew their own iced tea, especially when charging $2.50 for it.

The Passport menu has a variety of dishes with influences from around the world including Asian (lots of sushi!), Italian and contemporary American. The menu doesn’t indicate that the lunch entrees include sides, but they do indeed come with your choice of white rice, butter-balsamic rice or fries and vegetables. I ordered the Hawaiian Chicken BBQ with the butter-balsamic rice (an odd combination, I know) which included julienned squash, carrots and onions for the vegetable. The grilled chicken had a slightly charred exterior that was little bit tough, but the inside remained fairly moist and juicy. The tamarind gave the spicy barbecue sauce a more complex flavor that I really enjoyed. The grilled pineapple on the side was phenomenal and the julienned vegetables were perfectly seasoned and delicious. The butter-balsamic rice was an interesting change, but probably would have paired better with a different dish (I knew that full well going in!). I also appreciated the reasonable portion sizes for lunch. I wasn’t stuffed to the gills afterward, but pleasantly full.

The desserts were a bit on the expensive side, around $10 each, but the presentation was stunning. We tried the Passport chocolate tower. The dessert consisted of frozen chocolate mousse in a tower of white and dark chocolate ribbons and raspberry coulis and a white chocolate sauce. I wasn’t expecting the mousse to be frozen (think gelato in texture) rather than light and fluffy, but it was good. The dessert construction, while visually beautiful, made it challenging to eat. The taste was worth the struggle in the end.

The decor of the restaurant is mostly Asian in feel, but the music from the audio system is a mix from around the world. The room we were in played something in Italian and a bit of jazz. Another room, which may have had an event at the time we were there, was playing contemporary rock/dance music that could be heard where we were sitting as well. They may want to reconsider piping in different music in each room until they resolve the acoustics issues.
I’m looking forward to coming back another time to try some of the other items on the menu. Hopefully, the business they have during the work week and in the evenings makes up for the light business they had the day we were in for lunch. Based on their first visit, I’d like to see them stick around a while.

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