Branching Out?

Cuisine’s Paul Grosz makes The Stand Gastro Bistro a vibrant addition to the Birmingham scene
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Right: The Stand’s décor features rough wood textures and blousy curtains that allow the table and food to be the constant focal point. // Photographs by Joe Vaughn

Chef Paul Grosz has long been one of the great talents in Detroit dining. His cooking has been relentlessly masterful, and his restaurants are always on every top 10 list.

For 12 years, Grosz’s home has been Cuisine, literally in the shadow of the Fisher Building in Detroit’s New Center, a warm and welcoming old townhouse bathed in bright blues and yellows.

Cuisine is still Grosz’s home base, but he has now branched out — launching The Stand Gastro Bistro, Birmingham’s latest upscale dining spot with a new partner, John Kelly, who for many years was the managing partner at Capital Grille, the Somerset Collection’s uber-steakhouse.

“Jack Kelly and I grew up in same neighborhood,” Grosz says. “He approached me about doing something together years ago. After a lot of discussions, we became convinced that if we did something it would have to be in the suburbs.”

The original plan was for a superb burger place, which changed as ideas came and went. “So when we came up with this space, it changed again. Jack had some of the same ideas that I had. We adjusted again, and here we are.”

The Stand is located at street level of a prominent building on Woodward, previously home to Zazios, an experimental Italian restaurant that closed after a brief run. It joins a long list of new restaurants that have opened in the last three years, all part of a burgeoning post-economic recession mini-boom.

Cuisine is, in many ways, a reflection of the more voluptuous pre-recession dining, whereas The Stand is clearly more post-recession, more restrained.

With the industry growing once again, owners are greeting a changed customer at the door. “There is no doubt that there is a big difference,” Grosz says of the pre- and post-recession diners who come to his restaurants. “People are more cautious about how they spend these days, no question.”

Although the patrons for Cuisine-style food are still there, the new restaurant-goers are also looking for simpler, savory food — and value. “What I find in Birmingham is a quite wide range of people, not so much in their income but in their spending habits,” Grosz says.

Many of the new generation of fine-dining restaurants differ very little from one to the next, but The Stand at least does have some unique twists in both the menu and the look.

First, architect Victor Saroki has redone the space, moving it away from Zazios’ lively and colorful splashy design to a quiet, calming, and neutral atmosphere with rough wood textures and blousy curtains that allow the table and food to be the constant focal point of attention.

The menu at The Stand is brief, but several items set it apart.

Left: Naan bread is baked in The Stand’s oven.

Take, for example, a first course called the Lobster Fried Egg. It consists of a soft-boiled egg rolled in brioche crumbs that arrives in a bowl sitting atop a nice red chunk of lobster claw and buttered asparagus. Puncture the yolk and let it flow sinfully from the slightly crunchy egg over the lobster meat.

Rabbit is not seen too often on menus. Here, the loin rack is served with sausage, sage polenta, and a medley of carrots, cherries, and pistachios. A duck confit cassoulet departs from its French roots and is served with farro, quinoa, tomato, and chorizo.

Asked about these combinations, Grosz pauses for a minute and says, “The food is different. People ask what kind of food is it? It’s modern with heavy influences of French techniques. It’s really the current approach to fine dining, which means it has to be a little more relaxed in how you do it.”

That same approach was evident in a risotto cake first course that comes topped with a perky tuna tartare, capers, tomato concasse, and red onion.

But not all is simply experimental. Our visit to The Stand coincided with the annual arrival in the Detroit market of the rare, fresh Italian white truffles. So Grosz, for a little while only, added a magnificently simple and lusciously aromatic white truffle risotto, a truly beautiful dish. Nothing complicated, just perfectly simple. A fresh truffle should never be over-handled, but allowed to be itself, which is what Grosz did here.

Left: Charcuterie plate.

The Stand also leans toward the traditional. The five fish offerings include a Dover Sole wrapped with cured salmon and Michigan farm-grown shrimp. (Yes, there’s actually a commercial shrimp farm in Okemos.) And a nicely prepared fresh sturgeon dusted in dry mushroom is served with a piece of grilled foie gras in a ravioli sheet.

Grosz has an interesting history. He trained under one of the great French chefs in Chicago, Jean Banchet at Le Français. He then went to France and learned pastry at Le Cordon Bleu. Afterward, he em-barked on a series of brief apprenticeships at Paul Bocuse in Lyon, and with Jacques Maximin, who made his name at the Hotel Negresco in Nice and the Moulin de Mougin where he was known as a bit of a bad-boy star chef of the French Riviera.

Once back in the Detroit area, Grosz made his mark at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn in the late 1980s, which led to a decade at The Whitney in De-troit, and on to Cuisine in 2001.

Grosz has long been one of those chefs highly ad-mired and appreciated by diners who cared enough to trek loyally into Detroit to Cuisine.

Over those years, some have wondered when Grosz would do what so many other Detroit restaurants did: Pack up and move to the suburbs. To his credit, he hasn’t. And he has no plans to do so.

“Yes, it is quite conflicting to work between the two,” Grosz says. “Both areas are labor-intensive, but we have good crews in each.”

At The Stand, the general manager is Robin Silveri. Reid Shipman and Ricky McCormick share the chef-de-cuisine duties. Grosz also has a charcuterie chef, Lisa Hysni.

And every time I have eaten at Cuisine — admittedly that’s five or six times — I’ve done what everybody seems to do: slapped my thigh and declared this is the best meal I’ve had in the city.

The Stand is not Cuisine, but then it wasn’t supposed to be. But it’s very solid and a fresh and vibrant addition to the new-style restaurant scene. And well worth a visit.

34977 Woodward Ave., Birmingham, 248-220-4237 D Mon-Sat.

Cook is Hour Detroit’s chief restaurant critic. Email: editorial@hour-media.com

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