Ciungan’s Shrimp House was a mainstay in the downriver area of Detroit for years. Though a lot of people thought it was a Chinese name, the family was Romanian and it was pronounced “Chun-gan,” but a lot of people that I knew pronounced it as “Chewing Gum.” The restaurant was located in Ecorse, Michigan and it was the shining star of eateries in that community. It was very worthy of a trip for diners across the Metropolitan Detroit and it had a legion of loyal regulars that enjoyed the fish and seafood offerings. The whole restaurant had a nautical feel about it, from the décor, especially with all of the ship models; in fact there were only a few meat dishes offered, everything else was from the lakes or the seas.
The appetizers were oysters, clams, marinated herring, shrimp and escargot as best as I can remember. The fish offerings were sole, Finnan Haddie, trout, pickerel, whitefish and scrod, all the basic fish of that era. Then there were lobster and crab dishes, including one of the few places I ever had Lobster Newburg, outside of Boston. Then there were the shrimp dishes, shrimp was offered in many different ways, from cocktail style, boiled, deep fried, sautéed, and probably a couple of other ways that I know that I am missing. My favorite dishes there were frog legs, either in a Road House style or Provincial with just garlic and butter. At one time Detroit was the epicenter of the country for frog legs and there were many purveyors to supply restaurants across the country, and I am starting to see this dish appear again on menus after a long hiatus. I always enjoyed having dinner there, though nowadays my Bride would probably chide me, because back then, there were a lot more fried dishes offered, then one finds today.
It was one of the few restaurants that I would always have a bottle of white wine with dinner, because I always had some sort of sea food plate, and maybe on an occasion “surf and turf,” but it was usually an entrée that called for a white wine. One of the white wines that I remember from there was a bottle of Chateau la Tourette de la Louviere Graves Sec 1971. Graves is a district in Bordeaux, where probably two thirds of the wine produced is white, and the rest red. Here in the States, the name Graves sounds ominous, but it has nothing to do with internment, it refers to the highly gravely soil of the district, which lends a special terroir to the wines that is its own. The most common varietals from Graves for white wines are Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, and the majority of the wines are dry whites, and that is why it is mentioned on the label, so that the consumers would not confuse it with another famed Bordeaux white wine Sauternes. I do not see as many white Graves wines nowadays, as I did back in the day, and I presume that is because Sauvignon Blanc has become famous in its own right and grown quite well in many parts of the world, but once you have had a Graves wine, the others taste like a distant cousin, as far as I am concerned. Alas, this restaurant is now part of history for the Detroit area, and it was brought up in a conversation that I had, which then sparked this article.