Monday, May 5, 2008

May is Asian Heritage Month!

Originally published in D-Tales here; see original post for pictures.

And so for you, dear readers, I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of 7 days of Asian-themed fun.


Head over to Fashionable Ferndale to Sakana Sushi Lounge. Fridays and Saturdays are busy, sure, but Tuesday nights are just as hype and are a touch less jam-packed.

Sakana has a great super-trendy atmosphere, very modern minimalist, and as far as sushi joints go, Sakana is probably one of the more artful and exotic. Their sushi selection goes far beyond your basic California roll, with a choice of specialty rolls, nigiri sushi, sashimi, maki, temaki, and now also brown rice sushi. They also have the most impressive presentation I've seen for a sushi place, treating each piece as its own stand-alone art instead of a full roll sliced, plopped on a plate and served.

They also have one of the most impressive drink menus, with over 50 specialty drinks made with hard-to-find liquers. Resident mixologist Brent Foster knows that the drinks are just as important and can be just as artful and unique as the food, and I appreciate anyone who understands that. I like drinky.

Tuesday nights you can expect lounge, jazz, and electronic music courtesy of Tuesday night resident DJ Shortround and guests. Get there early, because it can get a bit crowded--this place is kind of like what the Bosco used to be before everybody went there, back when only mostly everybody went there.


Celebrate Hump Day at Mon Jin Lau in Troy with their extremely popular Shanghai Wednesdays. This party has grown out of control; make reservations and get there EARLY if you have any ambitions of getting a seat. Chill with the music of DJs Tom T and Matt A, featuring the "Medicine Man" Bruce Cobb on percussions.

Now that it is getting warmer, people are pouring into the restaurant and out onto the patio as early as 7:00PM. As for the dress code...I was just there a couple of weeks ago wearing a cute summer dress and heels and felt woefully underdressed. Men wear suits, or at least shirts with ties, and women are dressed like they're going to V afterwards--low-cut barely-there tops, microminis, sky-high heels, 3 pounds of makeup, straight-from-the-salon hair, lots of sequins and even some latex.

This is your standard club night, just in the middle of the week. It is a singles haven (but of the slightly older singles crowd), and the clientele is pretty much the same that you would find at Crave the Sunset (i.e., lots 'o Arab folk--which is probably in part due to the fact that Jay Noonchester used to promote this, though I don't think he still does), with some Troy-area 30-something divorcees mixed in.

Mon Jin Lau has great Nu Asian cuisine, though I actually think their Chinese-focused dinner menu is superior to their sushi selection, which I found to be standard at best.

But, honestly, if you're coming out to Shanghai Wednesdays, you're really not there for the food anyway.


Metro Detroit's newest dining darling, Chen Chow Brasserie, just opened last November in Birmingham and is has already exploded on the scene as the newest hotspot, as well as already garnering accolades for Restaurant of the Year (well, almost--the buzz is pretty solid there that they will win when the various publications start bestowing the honors again).

A quick flip through any of the nightlife publications (Metro Times, Real Detroit, Six Degrees) will show you many mentions of Chen Chow, whether as something cool coming up, something cool that happened, or just something cool in general. They were also voted by Real Detroit readers as 2008's "Best Restaurant to be Seen At."

So they've succeeded in attracting the trendy Birmingham crowd, but how is the food?

Under the guidance of acclaimed Detroit Executive Chef Robert Courser (who hails most notably from Opus One and Seldom Blues, which won Restaurant of the Year while he worked as Executive Sous Chef under Jerry Nottich), the menu is being hailed as one of the best and most inventive contemporary Asian menus around, incorporating American classics (beef, beef, and more beef) with a distinctly Asian flair. The wine list is unsurprisingly Napa-heavy, but surprisingly French-infused. And yes, you can order Cristal and Latour, and it will only cost you your monthly car payment (if you drive a Benz).

Thursday nights are as good as any at Chen Chow Brasserie (and a popular night to be out in Birmingham--see: Forté, the Corner Bar). The interior design of proprietor John Janviriya (who also designed Mosaic, as well as other lesser-knowns) is rich, warm, and terrifically trendy. It's cozy contemporary, with a soft circular pattern throughout. The lighting is dim but richly golden, with the intricate detailing of the walls and ceiling adding to calm coolness of the atmosphere.

It will be busy. There will be loud groups of trend-seekers crowding the bars. But for a stylish drink and a stylish meal in a stylish setting, Chen Chow Brasserie can't be beat.

(Reservations strongly recommended.)


Oslo has reopened...quietly, and without much ado. They started by reintroducing DJs into their basement, then suddenly, without much word, the restaurant was once again open and serving.

Of all the restaurants and bars that open and close in the city of Detroit (and my God there are a lot of them), Oslo's mysterious and sudden closing kicked up the most rumors as well as the most mourning.

Everything from unpaid taxes, borderline bankruptcy, disputes with the landlord, and prejudice against the owner as a gay man were cited as reasons for Oslo's shutdown.

Then, about a year later (at the end of 2007/beginning of 2008), Oslo began hosting DJs again (and Kevin Saunderson was one of them), and shortly thereafter the tempura was cracklin' once more--this time under new ownership. Katalia Lemos and mother Lumpai Rossbach are now in charge of Oslo, and they've decided to take it in a slightly different direction--adding hot food to the menu, and bolstering more of a Thai food theme (Rossbach is a native of Thailand).

Known as both the best place for sushi in the city as well as the best electronic music venue, Oslo is the place to be on a Friday night to catch some phenomenal local DJs spinning hardcore techno and trance tracks--something you won't find at the majority of other "electronic" clubs, which pretty much just play house.

Plus, the food is great, and pretty cheap.

The best part is, Oslo's reopening was done so very quietly that the place isn't yet flooded with people who want to be seen there, as it was shortly before it closed. At this moment Oslo is kind of an open secret--those of us who know about it don't want to jinx it again by buzzing about it too much.


Take thee to Asian Village. You can choose to first dine at the phenomenal Fusia, or just lay low until 10:00PM to hit the newest much-hyped Saturday night party as AV transforms into the newly-launched Sutra Lounge. My fave Jay Noonchester is promoting this party, and booths are already selling out in advance.

I've talked about Asian Village several times before, and have tracked its progress from rumored near-closure to Detroit's newest hotspot, thanks to the help of night manager and special events coordinator Scott Hummell and key partnerships with nightlife powerhouses like Noonchester. Since then, Asian Village has taken a 180 and is now considered one of the top nightlife destination spots in the city on a Saturday night. Over the past couple of months the buzz over AV has become increasingly louder, and now I overhear friends and customers of mine talk about how they'll be at AV.

Sutra Lounge is $10.00 for ladies, $20.00 for guys, and tables are $199 with Ketel One Bottle Service or $225 for booth, bottle service, and 5 admissions. Ketel One cocktails and appetizers free until 10:30PM.


It's almost summertime, and you know what that means? Crave the Sunset is back.

The hottest parties of the summer start Sunday, May 18th, and this one has a Halloween theme. Slutty costumes aren't just for October anymore! So break out the old naughty nurses and angel wings (worn only with a matching white lace bra-and-panty set, natch), and keep it sexy.

Crave the Sunset is a five-part party series that runs over the course of the summer at Crave Lounge in Dearborn. The outdoor patio is all done up with white tents and tiki torches and local DJs (like DJ Tom T) spinning. Make dinner reservations and hang out for a while to get into the party free; otherwise tickets are $20.00 per night ($30.00 for the end-of-season White Party), and a season pass to all five events is $45.00. Tickets are on sale now at Neptix; the party starts with dinner at 5:00PM and runs all the way until 2:00AM.

This is another Jay Noonchester party (this blog entry officially DINGS!), so you know it's going to be good. (And packed to capacity, so get there early, and be sure to dress the part of Detroit-area's hottest annual series of parties. I.e., they won't kick you out for wearing jeans, you just shouldn't.)

Oh, and Crave is also considered to have the best sushi in the metro Detroit area (formerly second only to Oslo, and now probably up for debate), so you won't want to miss this dining experience either.


Sadly, I know of no hot Asian-related parties happening on Mondays. Mondays remain the one night of the week that people just don't do anything. However, if you want to get a full 7 days' worth, here are a couple of suggestions:

Try Hong Hua in Farmington Hills, previous recipient of Hour Detroit's "Restaurant of the Year" title. Hong Hua succeeds in offering a quality Chinese menu in a fine dining atmosphere, with superior service and dishes that range from classic Chinese (Peking Duck, Hot and Sour soup) to more exotic choices like Shark's Fin and Abalone. This is some of the best Chinese food you will find in the metro Detroit area, and the prices are quite reasonable. The atmosphere is quite unabashedly fine-dining, and not of the trendy sort--white tableclothes, high-backed plush booths, minimalist lighting and dark oak comprise the décor. The service is also stellar, forgoing the typical burn-and-turn Chinese food mentality for true attentive and leisurely fine dining service.

You could also try Ronin Sushi Bar in Royal Oak, located on the plagued northeast corner of Lafayette and Fourth St. (over the years in recent memory that spot has played host to a very good steakhouse and a sports bar, but no restaurant has been able to hold that spot yet), and home to some of Oslo's former sushi chefs. Ronin's menu is best described as New-Nu Asian: try their signature "slider," made with your choice of Kobe beef, crab cakes, or Ahi Tuna. Or how about some diver scallops with some black rice risotto, or cripsy King Salmon with Asian Cherry BBQ sauce? Or, for sushi lovers, try the "Mountain Dew Roll"--tempura-battered asparagus, shittake mushrooms, and sweet potato wrapped in green soy paper. As for their drink menu? Drinks with names like "Hot Orange Spiced Sake" and "Lemon Ginger Sorbet" rule the drink menu...color me impressed. Ronin Sushi Bar certainly has a unique, creative take on now-old Nu Asian favorites...let's just hope this place can survive its curse.

Royal Oak also has Little Tree Sushi Bar, a long-time Royal Oak staple and a favorite of many who want to eat some sushi without all the trendoid frills. They also have an extensive pan-Asian menu--order dishes from all corners of Asian cuisine, including the slightly-more-exotic Korean and Phillipino preparations. The atmosphere is very casual; lots of bamboo. Actual Asians inside eating. Caters to American tastes, but the conoisseur can sidestep this. Smells like tea.


Well, kids, let's here it for your 7 Asian Days in Detroit. Everything from high-end dining to trendy nightlife and quiet corners await you (plus there's all the ones I didn't include, like NOMI in Northville or Katana Japanese Steakhouse, another Royal Oak spot). And celebrate Asian Heritage Month the D-Tales way: with food and booze!