Living in Southwest Detroit, we are big fans of Ima (今, Japanese for “now”), the brainchild of Detroit chef Mike Ransom. Ima went from a tiny storefront space with an appended sort of biergarten setup on the south side of Michigan Avenue (across from the Jundland Wastes that make up the parking lot of Motor City Wine– whose potholes are not to be traveled lightly), to the former location of Gold Cash Gold on the north side of Michigan, which closed in February 2020 (a great time to be closing a restaurant, but probably not a great time to start looking for new tenants). The irony of a bunch of suburban white people buying a former pawn shop and turning it into one of the crown jewels of the New Detroit dining scene, was not missed– but Ima is a nice, culturally nontoxic replacement. And meanwhile, Ransom’s new-ish spot, Supercrisp, is more of a burgers-and-wings joint– but still with that dank umami flavor. (Yes, I’m aware that it’s been open for a year, but I just had never made it there until a few weeks ago!).
Supercrisp complements now an entire portfolio of restaurants by Ransom and friends, including Ima Izakaya on Michigan (the old one was just ‘Ima’), Ima’s older location in Midtown (just around the corner from SuperCrisp), and a newer location in Madison Heights (Detroit’s equivalent to a Chinatown, but if Chinatown were located in a multiple-square-mile strip mall masquerading as a municipality).
The menu offers halal meat as well as vegetarian options, so it’s clearly responding to a diversity in market demand (beyond the run-of-the-mill USA Meat Burger Joint, LLC, etc.). There is also fried tofu! One thing it’s not offering a whole lot of is healthy food, but– let’s be real- you are probably not coming here to order the Power Salad ($12). We completely stuffed ourselves– four full-grown, hungry adults- but definitively messed up our check at $96. Probably could have skipped the second order of Oki fries ($7).
What is karaage? East Asian-influenced fried chicken has blown up in recent years alongside the popularity of fried chicken sandwiches in general in recent years, particularly the southern hot chicken style, which has an endless number of varieties, ranging from the intense, more dry, “Nashville Hot” style, to more traditional fried chicken sandwiches smothered in buffalo sauce (which, let’s be real, are old hat at this point!). Korean-American David Chang’s chain Momofuku and other fried chicken pioneers have laid the groundwork in North American markets for that particular Asian flavor of fried chicken, whether we’re talking about Thai fried chicken (Detroit competitors at Takoi), Korean fried chicken (found only in the suburbs for reasons Handbuilt co-conspirator Calley Wang and I have argued over extensively), or, of course, Japanese fried chicken.
The Japanese Kara-age just means “deep-fried.” Japan, meanwhile, a country known for its skinny, long-lived people, has pioneered a few globally renowned styles of frying– ranging from the crispy-crunchy karaage to panko (breadcrumbs, but a bit more pointy– also notably from “pan,” the Japanese word for “bread,” imported from Portuguese, and -ko, basically just breading or flour) to tempura (batter-fried).
But if you want to really emulate the Japanese in terms of their health and enjoy their impeccable quality of fried food (as imagined by Americans), you’re going to have to walk there. SuperCrisp is located in Midtown Detroit at 4830 Cass Ave. Suite C. Check out Mike Ransom on Instagram.