1) BON VIE Troy
OPENED NOV. 1, 2005
On the south side of Somerset, in the space once filled by Portabella, is one of Troy’s new dining jewels. A lower-key sibling of Brio Tuscan Grille, the Left Bank-stylebistro called Bon Vie is done up with rows of red-padded banquettes, faux-finished walls and tin ceiling, as well as its own version of a sidewalk cafe under red-and-white striped awnings and red umbrellas. French-accented fare includes onion soup gratinée, bouillabaisse and steak frites, nicely done and served by a staff that, thankfully, doesn’t pretend to be French. Both restaurants emanate from the Ohio-based Bravo! Development Inc., but there’s no chain feeling here. Somerset Collection, 2801 W. Big Beaver Rd.; 248-458-2014.
HOUR TIP: Chicken, spinach and Gruyère crepes.
2) MOSAIC Detroit
OPENED JULY 20, 2005
Something different came to Greektown when Mosaic opened on the corner of Beaubien and Monroe, with the stated purpose of serving “world cuisine.” No cries of “Opa!” here, but an upscale menu of dishes from various cuisines. Porcini-dusted scallops, classic filet mignon and lobster spring rolls areserved in adramatic setting of art glass, marble, waterfalls and, of course, mosaics. Athina Papas and her sisters, Maria and Stella, are the proprietors, who say they were determined to bring a glamorous restaurant to Greektown. “From the architectural design [by John Janviriya] to the original menu creations [by Chef Mark Kelly], our vision was to offer a truly unique dining experience with a sense of adventure and imagination,” Athina Papas says. Although they had hoped to open in time for the All-Star Game, they didn’t quite make it. 501 Monroe; 313-962-9366.
HOUR TIP: Lobster spring rolls.
3) ÉTOUFFÉE Southfield
OPENED SEPT. 29, 2005
Everything about the Star Southfield Entertainment Centre is big – huge, in fact. So you don’t expect a cozy little restaurant to turn up under its massive roof. Despite the étouffée name, which probably evokes a little roadside restaurant in Cajun country, the restaurantis on a grand scale. It does have the expected gumbos, blackened catfish, ribs and pulled pork, served in a bi-level room with several seating arrangements, from rows of banquettes to well-spaced tables, all surrounded by massive art pieces. An in-house brewery can be glimpsed through windows on the upper level, and that adds to the high-tech effect. The Matt Prentice Restaurant Group knows how to run a restaurant, and this, its newest, is no exception. Service is emphasized. Star Southfield Entertainment Centre, 25333 W. 12 Mile Rd.; 248-750-0700.
HOUR TIP: Shrimp Creole, with a couple of the warm, spicy corn muffins.
4) VIA NOVE Ferndale
OPENED Feb. 23, 2005
Anchoring the Ferndale restaurant row on Nine Mile Road, the appropriately named Via Nove added its dramatic tri-level space with tables in a pair of very different rooms, one dark and moody, the other lighter and brighter, and both with the witty touches of Ron Rea, who transformed what had been The Temple. The menu of contemporary Italian dishes is shared by two chef Beatos: the veteran Joe Beato and his nephew of the same name. The elder Beato came out of retirement to join his nephewin the project. The younger Joe spent time in Rome working at Cafe Veneto to prepare for the venture. The bill of fare includes intricate housemade pastas, veal dishes, such as veal chops with garden salad and green beans, as well as a number of seafood dishes. 344 W. Nine Mile Rd.; 248-336-9936.
HOUR TIP: Cavatelli all’ortolana, hand-formed rolls of pastatossed with braised rapini and fresh garlic.
5) BOMBAY GRILLE Farmington Hills
OPENED AUG. 5, 2005
Indian fare emerged beyond modest storefronts when Bombay Grille put the amenities of fine dining into its attractive setting in a free-standing building. It has an authentic Indianmenu but one that explains each dish and makes ordering as simple for Westerners as it is for those born to the cuisine. The setting of linens, fresh flowers and handsome serving dishes and plates includes hot towels before food is served.”I wanteda fine-dining, upscale Indian restaurant not like any other Indian restaurant,” says chef/partner Paddy Rawal, “with a menu that was easily understandable by everybody, not just Indians. All of the service staff speaks English and understands that extra service will make a day for the clientele.” 29200 Orchard Lake Rd.; 248-626-2982.
HOUR TIP: Chicken malai kebob, chicken breast marinated in lemon juice, ginger, garlic, whitepepper, sour cream and yogurt and cooked on skewers in the tandoor oven.
6) PEARL RESTAURANT Farmington Hills
OPENED AUG. 29, 2005
Michael and Winnie Mak also took on the task of pleasing two communities, Asian and non-Asian, when they opened Pearl Restaurant in a building that had housed a succession of restaurants over the years. And they especially liked the building’s strategic location near the 696 and 275 freeways, Michael says. They offer two menus – the authentic one aimed at the Asian audience, and a second, more standard menu – but anyone who wants may order from each. The setting, with indirect lighting and a subdued color scheme of burgundy, ivory and mahogany, could be the backdrop for any contemporary restaurant. The Chinese food,from either version of the menu, is top-notch. 38259 W. 10 Mile Rd.; 248-615-8866.
HOUR TIP: Szechuan pepper shrimp with crispy spinach.
7) SLOWS Bar BQ Detroit
OPENED SEPT. 16, 2005
Slows Bar BQ was an instant hit when it began serving its slow-smoked barbecued ribs, beef brisket, chicken and pork from the hickory-wood smoker in two 1880s storefronts with original brick and wood salvaged from the original buildings and others in the Corktown neighborhood. Sides of macaroni and cheese, mashed sweet potatoes and potato salad live up to the mains. The 100-beer list, not surprisingly, dominates the small wine list. “The reason we opened was to fill a niche in the downtown area with a restaurant that would appeal to everybody, and that’s what barbecue does,” says Chef Brian Perrone, whose partners are Phillip Cooley and Dean St. Souver. 2138 Michigan Ave.; 313-962-9828.
HOUR TIP: Pulled pork with Mom’s green beans.
8) BAILE CORCAIGH Detroit
OPENED FEB. 3, 2005
After three years of work and a total transformation of the crumbling old Hummer Bar near Tiger Sta-dium,Sharon and Leo Malinowskiunveiled Baile Corcaigh (City of Cork), a cliché-free Irish stronghold, with a menu as authentic as the Irish origins of its Corktown neighborhood. “Fresh, seasonal fare cooked simply,” says Sharon,is the premise of the menu, and it was inspired by her 12 weeks of study at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, where everything they cooked was grown locally and organically. 1426 Bagley; 313-963-4546.
HOUR TIP: Lamb and onion carrot stew in double crust, known as Dingle pie.
9) VINCENTE’S CUBAN CUISINE Detroit
OPENED JUNE 15, 2005
Nothing gave downtown Detroit more of a boost than the opening of Vicente’s Cuban Cuisine on formerly forgotten Library Street, the creation of Vicente Vazquez, whose enthusiasm couldfuel the tank of a jetliner. From opening day, it pulsated with an upbeat Cuban vibe, Lucy and Desi in black-and-whiteon multiple TV monitors, and black bean soup, fried plantains, mojo sauce andropa vieja. And it got even better when along came Spanish Chef Roberto Caceres, who added an extensive menu of authentic tapas to the mix and updated some of the Cuban classics. “Our mission is to share the Cuban experience,” says Vazquez, who was born in Cuba – and he’s done it. 1250 Library St.; 313-962-8800.
HOUR TIP: Arroz con pollo.
10) DETROIT’S BREAKFAST HOUSE & GRILL Detroit
OPENED OCT. 4, 2005
The loft buildings sprouting along Woodward in the heart of downtown Detroit provided a location for the upscale Detroit’s Breakfast House & Grill, where the first meal of the day gets its due. No one could have predicted what a hit it became almost immediately, but the crowds started rushing in for Chef Jerry Nottage’s notable omelets, housemade turkey sausage and stuffed French toast even before they could get a mimosa or Bellini. Frank Taylor of the Southern Hospitality Restaurant Group says that “looking at downtown restaurants that opened over the past few years, not one concentrated on breakfast. It was a major void in the downtown area, and we wanted to fill that void, definitely.” 1241 Woodward; 313-961-1115.
HOUR TIP: The Southern omelet, made with corned beef hash, caramelized onions and sharp cheddar.
11) BIN 151 Windsor
OPENED FEB. 3, 2005
On the east side of Windsor, Chef Martin Atkins took over a bi-level space andunveiled BIN 151, a name that emphasizes his love of wine. The chef has a distinctive touch with a fusion menu that ranges from Mediterranean tapas to wild mushroom risotto. Everything in the darkly romantic balconiedspaceis handpicked, from the outsize wine glasses to the sugar cubes with silver tongs, and that includes the distinctivefusion menu, set up with small plates, middle plates and final plates. 1515 Ottawa St.; 519-977-0112.
HOUR TIP: White and black sesame seed-crusted ahi tuna with baby bok choy, Asian long beans andcrispy curry noodleswith a wasabi glaze.
12) THE MILL STREET MANOR Windsor
OPENED JUNE 14, 2005
Windsor can almost always be counted on to provide new destinations, and 2005 was no exception. The historic Victorian house on the corner of Mill and Peter streets near the Ambassador Bridge reopened as The Mill Street Manor, with new proprietor Jeff Kondrat turning out a French/Mediterranean menu from fresh ingredients, with everything prepared in-house. Kondrat is not a newcomer to student and then went on to the Stratford Chefs School, returning in 2002 to be sous-chef to founder Peri Alan in the Mason Girardot Alan kitchen – and the family entrusted their house and some of the antique furnishings to him. 411 Mill St.; 519-253-9212.
HOUR TIP: Seared and roasted veal tenderloin with celery root mash in a cabernet demi-glace.
13) BRIO TUSCAN GRILLE Troy
OPENED AUG. 18, 2005
The Somerset Collection became even more of a dining destination when two new restaurants joined the cast. Bon Vie and Brio Tuscan Grille. Brio was the first to debut, on the main level, not far from P.F. Chang’s. And while there’s no shortage of Italian restaurants in the area, this one offers a setting that is intimate on a grand scale, with the formality of the classic sculptures, prints and paintings leavened by the energy of an open kitchen turning out a menu inspired, but not bound, by northern Italy. Wood-grilled meat and fish, lightly sauced pastas and great flatbreads and pizzas are served in a high-ceilinged room that’s full of spirit. Somerset Collection, 2801 W. Big Beaver Rd.; 248-643-6045.
HOUR TIP: Wood-grilled salmon with Romano cheese-crusted tomatoes.
14) VINOTECCA Royal Oak
OPENED APRIL 20, 2005
An authentic wine bar was missing from the local mix until Vinotecca came along with its wine-country atmosphere and menu of wine-compatible small plates – all in a smoke-free environment. Everything in the long, narrow room is evocative of the colors and textures of the wine country. Glass boxes display the various soils in which vines grow, cork is used for wall panels and around the perimeter of the bar. Kristin Jonna says she put the place together to be a celebration of wine without pretension or snob appeal. The menu of small plates, including some beautiful cheeses displayed in a temperature-controlled glass case at the end of the bar, is just right. Thiswas designed as aprototype, and the first clone is under construction in Ann Arbor. It’s called Vinology, in deference to thecollege town location. 417 S. Main St.; 248-544-6256.
HOUR TIP: Grilled Gruyère cheese with sage butter on rustic Italian bread.
15) GALA Farmington
OPENED MAY 13, 2005
“Bites, drinks and music” was the premise when James Williams and Jeff Condit opened their attractive Gala (pronounced Gahla) in a spacedown a flight of stairs in a vintage building in downtown Farmington. The bites and music were available right away, but the drinks had to wait a few months until the liquor license came through six months into the run. Chef Condit devised a wrought-iron plate stand that holds three square white plates, serving two. His fixation on the number three includes offering three elements with each “bite.” It’s intriguingly different, and the small menu ensures that everything at this new American bistro is pristine. “The idea is to share, especially for a date or romantic dinner,” Chef Condit says. “It’s something we’ve kind of lost in the last couple of decades. We don’t sit down to eat together anymore, especially at home.” 33316 Grand River; 248-478-2355.
HOUR TIP: The threesome of souffléed blue crab cake with sweet pepper slaw and avocado salsa.
16) ANDIAMO/SECOND CITY Novi
OPENED AUG. 4, 2005
Just a couple of months after unveiling Andiamo Riverfront, overlooking the Detroit River at the Renaissance Center, the AndiamoItalia empire reached 10 whenthe handsome Andiamo/Second City opened in a redesigned space in Novi’s Main Street development.The menu has a retro touch in its meatballs and paglia e fieno but also offers more contemporary steak and veal dishes. The restaurant is a companion piece to the upstairs tenant, the Second City improvisational theater. Andiamo’s Joe Vicari sayshe chose the location because “We thought the area was underserved, and it was a good opportunity for both Andiamo and Second City to provide a good night out. The response has been overwhelming for the restaurant and the theater.” But not more so than for Andiamo’s first foray into Detroit. Andiamo Riverfront has been a surprising hit, he says. 42705 Grand River; 248-348-3838.
HOUR TIP: Bocconcini alla Aldo, medallions of veal tenderloin with prosciutto, fontina cheese and fresh tomato.
17) BONEFISH GRILL Sterling Heights
OPENED DEC. 5, 2005
Bonefish Grill surprised a lot of people with its focused menu and clean, straightforward, unfussy monotone setting. Both are gimmick-less (for gimmicks, see its sibling right next door, the Jimmy Buffet-inspired Cheeseburger in Paradise). The well-trained staff, attired in chef’s jackets, serves just nine choices of oak-grilled fresh fish and a few steak and chicken dishes, all fully garnished, and they almost make the list of appetizers superfluous. Though it’s one of 80in arelatively new St. Petersburg-based chain, it seems less like a clone than an individual restaurant. 13905 Lakeside Circle; 586-532-4158.
HOUR TIP: Mahimahi with warm mango salsa.