PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARVIN SHAOUNI
When the restaurant Lady of the House, in Detroit’s buzzing Corktown neighborhood, was praised in the New York Times and subsequently nominated for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant earlier this year, the rest of the country learned what Detroiters had known since the place opened in September 2017: Chef Kate Williams is turning out some of the most inspired—and, more importantly, delicious—dishes in the country. One of the more sneakily game-changing menu items is the steak tartare and eggs, which she serves for brunch at her homey 60-seat restaurant.
Williams, who is Irish-American and says Lady of the House is Irish-inspired, nevertheless acknowledges other influences on the menu: “We have a fun play on the classics, but some dishes are more experimental and from all over.” Count the tartare among those. It’s to be expected, given Williams’s background: She studied food science at Michigan State University, and then left for New York and the French Culinary Institute, before heading to Chicago and then back home to Detroit, stopping to cook in Copenhagen for a few months.
“I’d made tartare in a lot of restaurants throughout the years, and I really started to love it when I was in Copenhagen,” she says. “The Danish have a really interesting take on raw meat.” (Think of Noma chef René Redzepi’s beef tartare with sour ants.)
For her own version, Williams soft boils eggs and marinates flat-iron steak (sourced in Michigan, like most of Lady of the House’s ingredients) before chopping it by hand along with herbs such as tarragon, parsley, and chives. Next, she spreads garlicky aioli on a slice of in-house baker Shelby Janisch’s rye-sourdough, which she tops with the tartare and a perfectly runny-yolked egg. Pickled mustard seeds add texture, she says. “It’s almost syrupy and candied, but it’s pickled, so I like the bite of it and the contrast to the soft meat and crusty bread. There’s this pop in your mouth.”