Best of Detroit 2013
Nutritional Value - Staff Picks
Our staff picks for dining in Metro Detroit
Published: March 20, 2013
Best Upscale Nontraditional Mexican Restaurant
19459 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Woods
What Burrito Mundo may lack in authenticity it more than makes up for in creativity. Some tacos are classics, including the Gringo (shredded cheese and lettuce, diced tomato and ground beef), the Santa Fe (shredded cheese, chicken and lettuce, with corn salsa and black beans) and the Asado (shredded cheese, roasted poblano and red bell peppers, onion and marinated steak). But the inventive specials can include braised pork tacos, heaped with house-braised pulled pork, smoky roasted corn salsa with black beans, and cilantro on sturdy hand-pounded corn tortillas. Or the chili lime shrimp taco with jicama slaw, habanero guac and cilantro, generously mounded with grilled marinated shrimp, perfectly cooked, almost buttery, drizzled with rich Mexican crema. Perhaps best is the mahi mahi taco, sporting generous little fillets that flake apart in the mouth, topped with just enough garlic aoli to make them pop.
Best Budget-Gourmet Italian
962 Dix Hwy., Lincoln Park
A former chef at Bacco’s brings his sensibilities downriver but bows to the local price structure. Chef Ernesto Magdaleno makes his own pastas and sausages and a don’t-miss cannellini bean dip, spices up mussels and calamari, and serves such favorites as carbonara and lasagna as well as a house specialty called gemelli norcina, with truffle oil and tomato cream sauce. There’s nary a meatball to be found, and most pasta dishes are $10 or less, veal at $12-$14 — with side dishes included in the price. The lack of atmosphere and liquor license can be worked around.
Best Kinda French Restaurant
15 E. Kirby St., Midtown
Owner Torya Blanchard wanted “a play on French,” and she and chef Kate Williams are having a great time with it. Classic French dishes are interpreted freely — very freely. Bourride, a fish stew with aioli, becomes a drier dish with salmon and roast potatoes. Duck confit cassoulet loses its casserole character but keeps white bean gravy. Coq au vin emerges as chicken wings coated with candied bacon dust. Beignets are doughnut holes. Great things are done with spiced-up pommes frites. It’s all delectable and served small-plates-style, and the all-French wine list is complemented by fun but not-necessarily-French cocktails — and dancing.
Best Shandong Food
29505 W. Nine Mile Rd., Farmington Hills
Yes, it’s probably the only Shandong food in the area, but that doesn’t make Empire Dynasty less excellent (and the chef cooks Szechuan and Cantonese dishes, too). Shandong province, located on the Pacific and home to one of China’s eight traditional cuisines, is known for its salty seafood, complex vinegars and use of noodles instead of rice. Try Empire Duck instead of Peking Duck, for example; it’s cooked very crisp, with the interior losing none of its fatty lusciousness. Ask for Shandong Soup or one of several steamed fish, brought to your table still simmering, which allows the flavors to become concentrated. This place deserves more traffic from those looking for authentic Chinese of any variety.
Best Nonstandard Middle Eastern
8731 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck
Forget hommous — it’s not traditional in Yemen — and seek dishes far afield from the well-known Lebanese. The 8 a.m. to midnight, seven-day-a-week café is no-frills — no raw juices, no dessert — and oriented toward men from the neighborhood. A giant piece of flatbread (malooga) is the utensil of choice. Basically, lamb is spiced and cooked in a variety of ways, in large servings: on the backbone with vegetables; in a dark broth; ground with egg and vegetables; in stews called soups and served in heavy cast iron pots. Prices are nonstandard too: $5-$10 for entrées.
Best Goan Food
44175 W. 12 Mile Rd., Ste. F-143, Novi
The tiny seaside Indian state of Goa adapted its Portuguese rulers’ culinary habits, and the result was a culture whose national motto is susegad — no worries. Indo Fusion makes the most of a cuisine based on rice, fish, coconut milk and lots of spices. You’ll forget all about naan after trying light and spongy sannas: steamed dumplings made of ground rice, fresh coconut and buttermilk. In robust pork dishes like dhukramas, sorpotel and chorizo curry (that’s the Portuguese side), meat and spices make equal contributions to flavor. Goan Green Chicken is spiced with chilis, cilantro, ginger, garlic and cinnamon, and Goan shrimp are cooked with peppers and served on a slaw of cabbage and cilantro. And who would expect to find a Goan Christmas dessert, bebinca, in Michigan? This restaurant is one more bit of proof that fusion makes the world go round.
Best Sushi Buffet
Fuji Japanese Buffet
32153 John R Rd., Madison Heights
We’ve gone to sushi bars and found that, after gorging ourselves on nigiri and rolls, the bill sometimes amounted to more than $80. No such fears at Fuji, where the fixed-price buffet means you can stuff your face with quality sushi and still not break the bank. Even though Fuji’s talented sushi chefs work overtime to keep the sushi counter loaded, it’s only natural that many diners’ first choices will be salmon, crab or tuna. But all the sushi choices are quite good, if the cuts aren’t as generous as when you buy sushi a la carte. And if you love the oily tang of fresh fish, there’s no reason to shy away from the mackerel nigiri. On both visits, we were able to load a plate with more than a half-dozen pieces of the shiny-skinned, scallion-topped pleasures.
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