Best of Detroit 2012
Nutritional Value - Staff Picks
Our staff picks for dining in Metro Detroit
Published: April 25, 2012
Best New Restaurant
167 Townsend St., Birmingham; 248-494-7110; bellapiattirestaurant.com
Far too many restaurants lose sight of the complete dining experience. Not Bella Piatti, this year's clear standout among newcomers. The shareable plates and upbeat space are fun, the food is consistently delicious, the wine, beer and cocktails are thoughtfully selected, and the servers are knowledgeable. It's pricey, but it's superb. And though it would be easy to write an entire paragraph just on the handmade pasta, if we had one piece of advice for first-timers, it would be to take advantage of the offerings that are otherwise uncommon to southeast Michigan: The grilled fresh sardine, the Kobe rib cap, and the perfectly executed honey and pine nut tart among them.
Best Ground Floor City View
800 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-237-7778; fountainbistro.com
Everyone oohs and aahs over the views from such restaurants as Iridescence or Coach Insignia, where, at an altitude of several stories, diners are afforded the luxury of gazing out over the city, the river and the loveliness that is our neighbor Windsor. Dining at ground level, however, is usually a different story; restaurants often look out onto vistas of concrete, parked cars or the liquor store across the street. But acrophobics, fear not: Fountain Bistro offers the most charming street-level view in town. Situated adjacent to the fountain in Campus Martius, the restaurant's floor-to-ceiling windows and seasonal outdoor seating offer an ambience that is delightfully European, bringing to mind the sidewalk cafés of Paris or Rome. One of the most generous happy hours in the city makes this a natural choice for a post-work nosh and a glass of wine; come after dark and the fountain is illuminated for a romantic atmosphere.
22039 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-8400
The name, the look and the menu under new ownership are exactly the same. Portion control is still nonexistent. We don't know whether new co-owner Marwan Haidar has retained the same cooks that made the original La Shish the gold standard, but they're certainly using the same recipes. The chain that closed in disgrace in 2008 is now down to the Michigan Avenue flagship, but it's packing in customers just as before — for the warm puffed pita with creamy garlic sauce, the crushed lentil soup and tomato-based chicken noodle, mjadra generous with caramelized onions and yogurt, fattoush as the default salad, and lots of lamb (sadly not a given in every Middle Eastern restaurant anymore).
Best Menu Overhaul
155 S. Bates St., Birmingham; 248-731-7066; tallulahwine.com
Overhaul might be a strong word, but there's no doubting that Tallulah Wine Bar in Birmingham has changed over the past year. With a new chef and a new sommelier has come a superior overall approach. At the bar, the drinks have improved mightily, embracing the movement (back) toward thoughtfully crafted cocktails. The wine list still has plenty of big California wines but seems to be branching out in different directions as well. And the food is superb and wine-friendly, from the charcuterie plate — featuring products from Edwards of Surry and La Quercia — to the somewhat more rustic, earthy main dishes.
Best Sea Change
Joe Muer Seafood
400 Renaissance Center, #1404, Detroit; 313-567-6837; joemuerseafood.com
While there are certainly references to the past — shrimp in an almond casino butter and Dover sole a la Meuniere, servers in white tuxedo jackets and tiered dessert carts rolling through the dining room — Joe Muer hasn't just been reborn, it's been reinvented. With an eclectic decor that blends old and new, sweeping views of the Detroit River, a menu that includes several Asian influences, and several chef's tables among its hundreds of seats, it's unquestionably a new restaurant despite the venerable brand name.
Best Pop-Up Restaurant
Metro Detroit saw its fair share of pop-ups in 2011, but perhaps none was as focused, as successful or as delicious as Komodo Kitchen. Offering Indonesian fusion cuisine using a range of local and organic ingredients, Komodo serves up spicy but subtle dishes that generally showcase flavors common in (and unique to) Indonesian cuisine. Each dish at each of their initial events has been beautiful — elegantly plated, intoxicatingly aromatic and thoroughly delicious. For the time being, the team behind Komodo Kitchen is remaining cautious, planning one dinner at a time, but the fact that their March event at MOCAD sold out in 15 minutes would seem to indicate there's demand for more.
Best Urban Oasis
Le Petit Zinc
1055 Trumbull Ave, Detroit; 313-963-2805; lepetitzincdetroit.com
Corktown has its share of great dining options, expanding exponentially of late. Some of these even have secluded outdoor seating (Slows, Mercury Burger Bar, the Lager House) that allows you to overlook the fact that you're facing a large abandoned structure or a busy five-lane thoroughfare. But our favorite spot to grab a light meal or a café au lait and "get away from it all" is Le Petit Zinc. Walk through the wrought-iron gates and you find yourself in a pretty walled garden dotted with flowers and a small fountain. Tables have adjustable umbrellas in case the sun is too strong. The vibe is laid-back, and it's not typically too hard to snag an outdoor table despite the small size of the courtyard. Best of all, the menu offerings (crêpes, salads, sandwiches) are all less than $10, offering a respite for your wallet as well as your senses.
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