Rodin, Torya Blanchard's New Midtown Endeavor

Sculpting a Vision: With Rodin, Torya Blanchard carves out a niche for an adventurous spot in Midtown, combining food, drink, and dancing


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An empty corner space on the main floor of the historic Park Shelton, a trip to London, and a woman who thought Detroit really needed a place to dance have combined to produce Rodin, a bar and restaurant scheduled to open any minute now.

Rodin will offer something just a little different to the Midtown/Cultural Center neighborhood.

“A David Lynch film as a bar with dancing,” is the way free-spirited entrepreneur Torya Blanchard describes the new endeavor. Blanchard — locally known for putting crêpes on Detroiters’ plates at Good Girls Go to Paris, which also does business in the 1926 building — has been planning Rodin (named in honor of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ outdoor Rodin sculpture next door) since 2010.

Her ideas crystalized after a trip to London, where she happened upon LoungeLover, a trendy bar on Whitby Street in London’s Shoreditch section. It’s a place she describes as whimsical, colorful, and outlandish with an ambience that takes patrons to another world, and that’s exactly what she is hoping Rodin will do.

Although London’s LoungeLover doesn’t serve food (its adjoining restaurant, Les Trois Garçons, takes care of that) Rodin is a restaurant as well as a bar, offering a menu of all small plates with a French touch. Admitting she’s not a chef (“I just make crêpes,” Blanchard says), she had to hire one, and by “sheer luck,” as she puts it, she met Kate Williams, to whom she was introduced by none other than Park Shelton leasing agent Mike Martorelli.

Williams, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York (now the International Culinary Center), is from Northville and had been sous-chef at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant in Chicago. She returned to metro Detroit and was working for Plum Market catering when she was introduced to Blanchard.

When they met last year, Blanchard says they hit it off immediately. “I didn’t even taste her food,” Blanchard says, “but the ideas she had were just what I was looking for”: French dishes translated into American pub food.

For example, Williams prepares a recipe that has all the ingredients of coq au vin, but with chicken wings and candied bacon accompanied by mint-and-cilantro slaw. The classic navarin (stew) of lamb becomes “sloppy lamb,” made with braised lamb shoulder and served with onion jam, pickled carrots, and brioche toast. Croque-monsieur becomes grilled cheese and tomato soup made with raclette, chèvre, apple butter, and smoked cherry tomatoes. The cassoulet “but not really cassoulet,” Williams says, features duck confit with puréed white beans.

What is a David Lynch film as a bar? “Bright colors, the sense of another world, very sexy, very adult,” Blanchard says. “Strange, but resonates with a lot of people.”

Rodin, in the Park Shelton, Woodward at Kirby, Detroit, rodindetroit.com. 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Tue.-Sun.

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