Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oops, missed one...

Originally published in D-Tales here.

Inyo Restaurant Lounge in Ferndale. Which already has Sakana Sushi Lounge. Not to mention its own fair share of other trendy lounges (bosco, Gracie's Underground, Via Nove). But sure, why not another sushi lounge. I mean, really.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In a Down Economy, Dine!

Has anyone else noticed the disproportionate number of new restaurants that have opened/are opening lately? And I don't just mean in Detroit, but all over the metro area. It's too much for a foodie like me to keep up with! I may need to adopt a "one new restaurant a week" policy...if only I could find someone to pick up the tab (blogger for hire, will work for food).

So here's what's going on:

Ferndale's favorite brunch location Toast has opened an brand-new boutiquey location which also serves dinner and alcohol in Birmingham. Early reviews have been great, and a friend of mine who works there raves about it. What I had seen of the interiors in early September looked promising--very warm, inviting, and arty. The menu also sounds fab.

Hit-or-miss (mostly miss) Andiamo Restaurant Group is extending their quasi-cultural appeal into Mexican cuisine with Rojo Mexican Bistro in Novi. With an extensive (and likely expensive) tequilla menu, it sounds kind of Agave-ish, and all I can say is IT'S ABOUT GODDAMN TIME. And also, why Novi? WHY??????

In Detroit, we all know all about Mercury Coffee Bar. But do we also know about Angelina Italian Bistro? It's a trendy new place best described to me as an "Eye-talian restaurant for Detroit hipsters" (thanks to Supergay for that one, pun on the pronunciation intended). I have a review-ish pending on that one...perhaps One of My Gays will meet me for lunch there tomorrow so I can do it send email...

Also, the Westin Book-Cadillac has brought us Michael Symon's ROAST, now open and already very popular. I, too, enjoy dead things on plates and find its early success no surprise. Soon there will also be Spa 19 24 Grille, which...*sigh.*

Now, what exactly is going on in Dearborn? Maestro's opened in Dearborn's West Village Commons earlier this year, featuring executive chef Liam Collins who has worked in Las Vegas, Mackinac Island and most recently opened the Hotel St. Regis, is owned by Najib Rizk whose record is...questionable. Accusations of illegal activities a la La Cigar (in east Dearborn) and La Shish have been fairly rampant, and the reviews from locals have been mixed (it claims to be Mediterannean/French but seems more Lebanese, based on what Dearborners have said). But it is pretty inside.

Also, Dearborners apparently like sushi, as the downtown west Dearborn business district is about to have more than its fair share of sushi joints. We already know about the ultra-popular and ultra-trendy Crave; now there is also Kabuki Sushi, which has lower prices and more of a "family" (i.e., non-clubber) appeal. This is the second location of owner Michelle Lee's popular Kabuki Sushi; the original is in Farmington Hills. Further west down Michigan Avenue (like, a block) will be the aptly-named Sushi: A Japanese Restaurant. This one is still very much in the early stages of development. So now in less than one mile of Michigan Avenue diners will have no fewer than three different sushi options. Just. In. Case.

Ever wondered what would become of all those empty La Shish locations? A place called Palm Palace will be taking over. It will be exactly the same. Executive chef Jamil Eid is the "foremost expert of Mediterranean cuisine in the Midwest," having traveled all over Africa, Australia, Lebanon, and the US over the past 50 years, developing his culinary style and skills. Mark my words, it will be exactly the same as La Shish. Which is fine, because I rather liked their food.

What else has been happening in Dearborn? The much-buzzed-about opening just yesterday of P.F. Chang's and Bravo Cucina Italiana in the new restaurant plaza in Fairlane Town Center. Neither of which have great food (only varying shades of edible to decent), but both of which now add to my list of "Places I can be one shot and half a vodka martini into my evening less than 10 minutes after leaving work." And for that, I'm thankful. Friday's still has the best happy hour prices, though.

That's all for now. I will continue in my efforts to bring you all dining-related news and gossip, as well as thoughfully snarky restaurant reviews. A blogger's work is never done...

I'm Still Calling it Harmonie Park

Originally published in D-Tales here; edited for content.

...The Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, know for their uncanny ability to make the bestest decisions ever, note that they are trying to "revive the cultural legacy of Paradise Valley." Already in the works are plans for the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center--dedicated to the support of African and African-American arts--in the Harmonie Club, as well as a new restaurant venture from restauranteur Frank Taylor (Seldom Blues, Sweet Georgia Brown) called Detroit Fish Market @ Paradise Valley. (Taylor has a proven track record of success and I do look forward to seeing what he does with this place, especially since the city is sorely lacking in quality fish markets and NO Fishbones and Tom's Oyster Bar are NOT quality.)...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Michigan Winery Makes Robert Parker's Top Producers List

Originally posted in D-Tales here.

THE Robert Parker. The guy who instigated the infamous 100-point scale for rating wine and probably the most influential wine critic in history (the 100-point scale he introduced in his wine conoisseur newsletter The Wine Advocate became widely imitated by such publications as Wine Spectator and such second-rate critics as James Suckling, who most will agree is a tool). He named Traverse City's Left Foot Charley as one of the top producers east of the Rockies in his 7th Edition of Robert Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide.

I fondly remember my own experience in their tasting room earlier this year, and I will once again encourage my foodie readers to make the journey out to Traverse City. I had such a wonderful time there being fully immersed in Michigan's rich agricultural traditions and exploring all of the wonderful contributions of Michigan's farmers, winemakers, and chefs. Traverse City is a feel-good foodie paradise; if Pinot is your passion and sustainable cuisine your battle cry, look no further than Michigan's western shoreline.

Parker's acknowledgement of Left Foot Charley is a first for Michigan wines, and will increase Michigan's wineries' visibility in the global wine world. Granted my palate is not nearly as refined as some, I can say that I have in my life experienced a wide, full range of wines (some that have even cost in the quadruple-digits--I can also say that just because something is expensive doesn't it make it the best) from regions all over world; from low-production farms on tiny specks of land to the big-wig palatial Californian and Italian estates; from all over the Americas including south of the equator to southern Europe to eastern Europe to the Far East to South Africa to Down Under. In my most humble and sincere opinion, Michigan wines can compete on a global scale.

FYI: I said it before Robert Parker did.

Congratulations to Left Foot Charley, Bryan Ulbrich, and Old Mission Peninsula on this prestigious acknowledgement.

Because "Z"s are Trendier.

Originally published in D-Tales here.

Another month, another nightclub. This time it's inside the Greektown Casino, MGM's and Motor City's bratty (and bankrupt) little brother who screams "But what about meeeeee????"

In true fashion, Greektown Casino is about 8 steps behind the other two. First MGM brought us V (thank you), then Motor City brought us Amnesia (no thank you), and now Greektown brings us Eclipz. With a z.

I haven't been there yet. A friend of mine who NEVER comes downtown was trying to get me out there last Friday to see her musician ex, Tony Lucca, but Lager House and Oslo won that battle. Aside from that, the buzz on this place has been all but nonexistant...I suspect with reason.

Now I'm not saying that it sucks, but...well, let's just say the potential for suckiness is high. It is on orange alert for suck. Outlook not so good on the suck scale. Etc.

Currently they have a limited menu of cheese flights (and so it gets some leniency from me), chocolates, and boutique popcorn. They do plan on expanding their menu. They have a variety of speciality cocktails, including a $15.00 Passion Margarita. Hon, New York this ain't. Better knock a few bucks off that price tag. They do not have a cover charge but their music is all over the map--from acoustic musicians to the crappy DJs from 955's bomb squad to Motown. It is said that their clientele is "a nice mix of young and old." Old people at a nightclub? Pass. A jazz club, sure. Ditto with a dinner club. But a nightclub trying to be "hip" and attract a youthful, trendy clientele? Until they pick an image and promote it, this "come one come all" approach is going to do about as well as...well, as a bunch of other shit that has failed in Detroit has done.

I need to check it out before I form a proper opinion, but right now it sounds to me (and my background in marketing, promotions, branding and imaging) like it's way too all-over-the-map for its own good. It's fine to want/try to attract a diverse clientele and cater to a variety of different interests...but take that too far and you'll ultimately end up driving everyone away.

There will be theme nights--Monday is Service Industry Night with $2.00 drinks; Wednesday is singles nights utilizing a colored bead system signifying whether one is single, taken, or looking; Thursday is $10.00 hookah and free tea night. On Friday, November 21st they will be holding a "pajama party"--come in PJs or lingerie.

Yeah. I know. Not terribly inspired.

The d├ęcor is supposed to be rather impressive--60-foot glass ceilings (yep, just like Amnesia) with a glass global sculpture hanging from above, bold jewel-tone colors throughout, and a dramatic elliptical glossy wood bar with a granite surface and chrome accents comprise the interior design. Admittedly, it sounds pretty.

Suffice it to say that overall I'm skeptical, but intrigued. Terrible name, though. Absolutely terrible.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Day After the Election at Cafe 1923

Originally published in D-Tales here; edited and renamed for content.

...The morning after, I stopped at Cafe 1923 in Hamtramck (thank you Supergay for reminding me this place existed and for being patient with my dabble into politics), a completely fabulous place that is very new-Detroit trendy in that old-Detroit way (my double espresso con panna and Michigan Cherry Roast coffees were simply decadent), where we listened to NPR all morning and I learned that when Obama's victory was declared people poured out into the streets of Detroit to celebrate. You know, the way they usually only do when a sports team wins some big trophy thing. Yes, Detroit was nodded to in national news (specifically because of the concentrated African American population), and in a positive light no less...