A Blend of Experience

May 2014 | Ambassador Mag

Situated on the corner of Lafayette Avenue and Fourth Street in
downtown Royal Oak, the posh Bistro 82 restaurant commands a certain
level of attention and adoration.The slate gray, two-story building with
a sleek, multiple-window design piques interest and definitely has an
alluring aura that is undeniable. This French-inspired venue was just
the right option for
latest Dinner Party.
The ambience of Bistro 82 for most of the night’s attendees
would be the center of conversation. The simple yet chic décor
immediately catches the attention of anyone who enters due to its subtle
hints of refined luxury. Bathed in various tones of gray, steel and cream,
the interior design of the restaurant is clean and slightly masculine,
yet unassuming with little things like white-and-navy napkins against
stark white linen to add the subtlest touch of class. The mix of both high
and low tables, exposed ceiling vents and the expansive bar adjacent to
the main dining area creates a feel of sophistication.
Just past the bar and tables, tucked behind the wine cellar and
right before reaching the kitchen, lies the private dining room where
the evening’s cocktails and dinner were served. But before the evening
got going, guests mingled, sipped, and nibbled on the restaurant’s
signature cocktails and a shellfish platter.
Chef Derik Watson, formerly of Iridescence, was responsible for the evening’s menu. He was able to pause for just a brief moment to
spill details on the night’s expansive menu and the inspiration behind
it. “We have just taken some of the highlights of the menu. Some of the
more popular appetizers and some of the snacks, as well,” says Watson,
who has also worked with famed Master Chef Takashi Yagihashi. “We’re
going to serve them family-style in the beginning and then we’re going
to move into more of a coursed dinner.”
For starters, guests enjoyed goat cheese salad with honey
balsamic vinaigrette, green apple, mixed nuts, vanilla-raisin purée,
and apple reduction. For the second course, they were served sautéed
cobia with parmesan risotto, roasted mushrooms, fava bean, and beurre
rouge. The third course included Wagyu hanger steak with baby carrots,
English peas, whipped cauliflower, and sauce bordelaise. For dessert,
guests had their choice of a strawberry shortcake with strawberry
consommé, pistachio sponge cake and vanilla ice cream, or a dark
chocolate tart with hazelnut and raspberry. “We just want to highlight
some of the more popular dishes that people have really taken to,”
Watson says.
The changing season and warmer weather could be credited
for more than just the great ingredients of the menu. It also contributed
to the upbeat atmosphere of the party. “We love to come here. They have some of the best food in the area,” says Christine Tobias, who has
frequented the restaurant quite often since its February opening. “I love
the chicken pappardelle, and the goat cheese salad is good ... We love
it here. Upstairs is fun, too! We go there on the weekends.”
The second story is a weekend lounge hotspot called Sabrage
– the French term for opening a champagne bottle with a saber – that
features a DJ booth, a champagne cellar and all the dancing your feet
can handle.
Dinner guests seemed genuinely excited to be out and about
during the warmer weather, and many could be overheard sharing
their upcoming plans and activities. Ryan Fishman, a candidate for
state senate in Michigan’s 13th district, was happy to be celebrating the
success of Bistro 82, as was Aaron F. Belen, president at AFB Hospitality
Group. “For me, watching a friend of mine who is a young adult in
the community making this commitment to Royal Oak where he has
invested millions of dollars and created 75 jobs is an inspiration for any
of us who have come back to Michigan or decided to stay in Michigan,”
Fishman says.
Fishman also expressed his love for warmer weather and the
outdoors. “We have such beautiful seasons here in Michigan, and I’m
ready to just take advantage. I’m a cyclist, so as soon as it gets really
nice out, there are so many beautiful cities in the area to ride through,” he says. “I’m definitely ready to mix some color into my wardrobe. You
can’t do the bright pink and yellow when it’s 2 degrees outside, and
there’s snow everywhere. Mix in some good colors, and you can make
a suit pop yet still look classy. I think anybody can manage to mix some
color into their wardrobe.”
Aside from spring fashion, being outdoors during warmer
weather is what many of the other dinner party guests looked forward
to most. Seth Rogers, an insurance broker, and his friend David Colman,
who works in real estate, both enjoy outdoor sports and play in the
same hockey league. “I do two things: squash and hockey,” Rogers says.
“David and I play every Wednesday morning before work at Oak Park
Ice Arena in a hockey league.”
Colman explains that they get together with roughly 20
people at 7 a.m. for hockey. And in addition to that, every Saturday
morning Colman plays squash at the Detroit Athletic Club. “I like to just
stay healthy, run outside, play basketball and a lot of golf this summer,”
Colman says. “That’s it. Being in the gym I find a little boring, so I like
to get out and do more active things.”
Unsurprisingly, talk of fitness usually turn into conversations
about health. Rogers says he loves getting drinks from Beyond Juice in
Birmingham. “I love the Green & Lean, and I also just stay away from
carbs,” he says. Colman shares Rogers’ sentiment. “I just try to eat healthy. Eat
light, keep it tight. That’s it,” he says. “It’s been a super rough winter in
terms of the weather, so I’m just looking forward to the weather being
nice and being outside getting on the boat, being on a lake. Just being
outside in general; I think we all deserve it.”
Sitting across the table and listening in was Jeff Scott,
president of Duffey Petrosky. “I’m looking forward to spending time
outdoors with my kids,” he says. “I love to bike and walk.” Springtime
also gives Scott more time to venture into other areas of interest. “I have
an avocation; I’m a singer-songwriter, so I’m working on a new album
that will be coming to completion in the next couple of months,” he
As far as eating healthy, Scott says he loves fruit, especially
apples. “At the end of the day, an apple, which has 70 calories, will fill
you up and has a massive amount of fiber in it. It tastes great and is
good for you. However, I’m convinced that honey crisp apples are a plot
to get people addicted to them,” he says with a laugh.
Attorney Zaina Elia was another guest who enjoys delicious
fruit and the beautiful outdoors. “I enjoy fresh fruit in the morning, and
try to get some smoothies in for my kids,” she says. Elia is also excited
to wear this season’s spring trends including moto jackets, fit-and-flare
dresses, and of course, the black and white trend that was seen on so
many fashion runways this year.
Shawn McClain, a James Beard Award-winning chef, can’t
imagine spending the warm-weather season anywhere else but
Michigan. “I think Michigan is a fabulous place to spend the spring and
summer,” he says. “But for me, I have two young daughters ages 5 and
3, so it’s really about being able to spend a lot of quality time together
and having a fun summer with them.”
With so much talk of spring, fun, food and the fabulous new
restaurant, it was only right to talk to the person who was responsible
for the night and incredible venue – Aaron F. Belen. “I’m happy to be
hosting an event with Ambassador, and I think that the people seated
around this table share many common interests, including a passion
for top-notch culinary experiences. My new company, AFB Hospitality
Group, was launched with these concepts – Bistro 82 and Sabrage – and
this property is more than simply a restaurant and lounge or nightclub,
it’s a lifestyle brand,” he says. “I think we’ve succeeding in bringing a
sophisticated and cosmopolitan feel to ... Southeastern Michigan, to
Royal Oak.”
With the success of the evening, we’d say Belen and his staff
are doing a fine job at bringing this kind of luxury and fine dining
experience to metro Detroit.
— Kori Fields

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