Height of Taste


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If you’ve ever been tempted to visit that neon high-rise casino that’s visible at night from just about any downtown Detroit freeway interchange, certainly go. The new restaurant is beautiful, and the food is well worth the visit.

I was not prepared for what I found at Iridescence, the high-end dining room on the 16th floor of the MotorCity Casino. Like it or not, some of the uninitiated don’t associate slot machines and roulette wheels with gastronomic pleasure. Despite such preconceptions, I found the opposite: Iridescence is very good.

The two-tiered dining room is inviting, with a soaring ceiling that rises 40 feet. One entire side is composed of windows that provide an expansive view, a panorama that takes in the Ambassador Bridge, the downtown skyline, and points east. Accenting that scene are 30 or so clear, blown-glass globes suspended from the ceiling at varying heights, creating the sensation of being inside a champagne glass full of bubbles.

“I like to say that we went from a restaurant with no windows to a restaurant with all the windows in restaurants in town,” said then General Manager Georges Mokbel (who has since moved to another position at the casino). “When I came on board, we changed the whole concept.”

Soon after my visit, I discovered another reason why Iridescence is good. Having eaten in Chicago just a few nights earlier, I had a marvelous meal at Takashi, the current restaurant of the great Takashi Yagahashi, who was the founding chef in the 1990s at the now-defunct Tribute.

It turns out that Derik Watson, the new chef at Iridescence (and formerly at Rugby Grille and Peabody’s), came from Takashi. And, in another twist, Don Yamauchi, also a Tribute veteran, is now executive chef overseeing all MotorCity Casino restaurants.

Iridescence is distinctly white linen, and it has the flavor of high dining. It offers well-done contemporary American dining with a steak-menu appendage, and stops just short of being highly refined gourmet dining.

The food is prepared with extreme care and skill, and is every bit as solid as restaurants in the other casinos and as worthy as metro Detroit’s top suburban restaurants. The service is crisp, attentive, and slightly reserved.

On our arrival, we were seated in one of the six semi-circular banquettes on the main floor of the two-tiered dining room. A negative note here: The restaurant design includes vented radiator boxes across the length of the glass façade that are just tall enough to obstruct the skyline view when you are seated. Mokbel says that the complaint is being reviewed.

The kitchen has no such obstruction, fortunately.

Among our selections was the five-course chef’s menu for one person, which looks intriguing and turns out to be a well-balanced delight. It begins with a “crudo,” an Italian-influenced sashimi. In this case, it’s a plate of prosciutto, hamachi, kumomoto oyster, white beans and herbs, and red-pepper coulis — all very fresh and delicate.

Next to arrive was a curious piece of fun artistry: two little versions of foie gras on one plate. The first, called a “Reuben,” is presented as a tiny bun the size of a half-dollar with a piece of pan-seared foie gras in it, along with micro greens, some white truffle, and a creamy sauce. The second is a “Peanut Butter and Jelly.” The jelly part is a red-fruit preserve under a slice of foie gras “torchon” (paté, essentially) sprinkled with granular dehydrated peanut butter. It was quite good, although I found that the peanut verged on being too much for the delicacy of the foie gras.

The main course is another oddly named amusing item, a “Sheppard’s Pie”— two small servings of roasted de-boned lamb on one side and braised beef short rib on the other — accompanied by wilted spinach and potato purée. It’s not that traditional English shepherd’s pie, certainly, but nicely done.

Next up, an assortment of cheeses: Roquefort, petite Basque, and a triple-cream Explorateur, each with accompanying relishes and thin slices of baguette. Altogether, the five-course meal was $55 (or $11 a course), which is very reasonable.

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