We've been there
Restaurants Metro Times has recently reviewed
Published: August 8, 2012
$=$5-$10; $$=$10-$25; $$$=$25-$50; $$$$=$50+
Al-Ameer 12710 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-8185; 27346 Ford Rd., Dearborn Heights; 313-565-9600; $: As at many Middle Eastern restaurants, there are far too many choices at Al-Ameer for any but the most faithful visitor to do justice to. Besides 20 "main entrées," there are 20 "house favorites" and 15 "special house favorites," plus 12 vegetarian salads, eight vegetarian plates and 11 appetizers. Some of these, to be sure, are platters, trays or combos of other dishes, so the actual number of foods on offer is a bit less than 86, until you factor in the sandwiches, soups and juices, which push you way past 100. And portions are gargantuan. Service is swift, friendly and helpful. And Al-Ameer shines as brightly in its side dishes as in its mains.
Barrio 203 Hamilton Row, Birmingham; 248-593-6060; barriomi.com; $$: Chef Hammond Lawton has chosen to take a step in the direction of upscale Mexican fare, but not to go all the way there. Mostly he sticks with dishes whose names are oh-so-familiar: quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas and lots of tacos. The ingredients are upscale and generally the flavors are good to excellent. The emphasis, in truth, is on the tequilas: 12 margaritas, eight tequila cocktails, tasting samplers of three 1-ounce shots ranging from $19 to $48. The way to go is the chef's selection of tacos: five for $24, with three sides. They are correctly served on corn tortillas, rather than the blander flour. These tacos are elaborate: at least three salsas or slaws or cremas or quesos top the meat in each one. We loved our mahi-mahi with crisp cabbage slaw — a contrast of temperatures and textures that is the essence of a good taco. Same for tiger shrimp with chile-jicama slaw, and a beef brisket with mole verde.
Bella Piatti 167 Townsend St., Birmingham; 248-494-7110; bellapiattirestaurant.com; $$$$: One of Birmingham's newest hot spots, Bella Piatti has thoroughly and successfully adopted the trend toward shareable dishes and upbeat social dining rooms. The dining area, with cocktail bar, antipasti bar and lots of open space, oozes energy, and the food is excellent. Starters range from such charcuterie as soppressata, capicolla and even wild boar cacciatorini to a trio of sweet shrimp tossed with a horseradish and set atop thinly sliced pickled green tomato. Main plates start at $24 for half a richly seasoned chicken and rise from there to $70 for a 1-kilogram porterhouse. Kobe beef makes an appearance on the menu here in the form of the rib cap ($42), a heavily marbled cut that isn't common to many menus in town. The porchetta — a boneless pork roast sliced paper thin — is remarkably tender, piled atop a piece of toast, and served with onion and lightly dressed arugula for a nice contrast between fatty and bitter.
El Rincon Taraxco 1414 Junction St., Detroit; 313-843-6595; $$: A Mexican restaurant with no beans? Rincon Taraxco, which bills itself as "the First Mexican Seafood Restaurant in Detroit," opened in 2000. It features oysters and octopus rather than chimichangas or chicharrones; there's just one taco on the menu, and that's fish. Rincon ("corner") sits in the heart of the barrio but off the beaten tourist track, and most customers' first language is Spanish, as is the menu's (it includes English translations). Decor is basic, but Rincon Taraxco's price is very right, the drinks menu is out of the ordinary and live musicians often take requests on Sunday nights. The fish soup is spicy enough to make you cough but not enough to make you send it back, with big chunks of tilapia and carrots, potatoes and cabbage. There's a shrimp soup too, and a more expensive "Seven Seas" with shrimp, tilapia, octopus, clams, oysters, scallops and real crab legs in the shell. Don't miss the $1 horchata (a rice drink; here the flavor is more vanilla than cinnamon).
Frank Street Bakery 420 E. Frank St., Birmingham; 248-792-5192; frankstreetbakery.com; $: This tiny soup-and-sandwich joint just off Old Woodward on the outskirts of downtown Birmingham features, somewhat unexpectedly, a pressed Cuban sandwich as its house specialty. Ham, roasted pork and salami with Swiss, mayo, mustard and pickles are smashed into submission, transforming the zesty components into something almost delicate — a thin and crunchy wafer of a sandwich that nevertheless packs a lot of flavor. Vegetarians also have choices, including a Caprese panino (fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, pepper and salt) and a "Hummer" (hummus, taboulleh, cucumbers, lettuce and tomato wrapped in lavash). Many of the sandwiches are available in a half or whole portion, leaving room for soup or dessert (or both).
Green Zone Pizza 17008 Kercheval Ave., Grosse Pointe; 313-332-0559; greenzonepizza.com; $: Owner Markus Wierderkehr has a background in recycling, and his countertop, where patrons place their orders, is made from recycled glass bottles and his floors from recycled tiles. He uses organic mozzarella, organic shrimp from an Okemos farmer, organic flour from Avalon and organic cherry juice in his barbecue sauce. The results are tasty, with pizzas and sandwiches that are both planet-friendly and palate-friendly, Nine white-flour or whole-wheat pizza options (plus infinite build-your-owns) include some familiar titles: pepperoni, vegetarian, Greek, California, Hawaiian. But there's also a shrimp and a "cherry BBQ chicken." Also of note is Green Zone's wine dispenser, a serving system that is operated by card, with eight bottles, four cold and four room temp, kept fresh with argon gas, offering out tastes, half-glasses or full pours.
> Email Metro Times food staff