Bistro 82 • By Esther Allweiss Ingber

February 26, 2015 | The Jewish News

If attentive service and a handsome setting matter to you as much as access to first-rate food and beverages, then you can’t do much better than Bistro 82 and Sabrage Lounge, kicking up the excitement level in downtown Royal Oak. Bistro 82, winner of last year’s Jewish News readers’ poll for Best New Restaurant, is located on South Lafayette at the corner of Fourth Street. Along with Sabrage, it’s part of a luxurious, two-story entertainment complex that celebrated its first anniversary Feb. 12. Owner Aaron Fenkell Belen, president and founder of Berkley-based AFB Hospitality Group, oversaw the renovation and design of the former tenant restaurant. Space was boosted to 9,500 square feet. The exterior facing Lafayette sports windows on both levels. Inside Bistro 82, the two walls opposite the windows feature a glowing onyx bar and a huge, multi-colored abstract by artist Stan Friedman. Softtouch, faux leather for seating in ivory also brightens the gray, contemporary dining room. Black chairs and dark gray tables left bare provide a contrast to the parade of white china. Spanish porcelain tiles cover floors. The cool vibe is enhanced by an unobtrusive, Harman-designed state-of-the-art sound system. “We used the best materials to elevate the guest experience,” Belen said. For example, “our NanaWall single track sliding glass system allows for proper insulation in the winter and open air dining in the summer.” Sabrage, a posh space that can be rented, offers a DJ and dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. Guests may choose to continue their evening upstairs after dining on Executive Chef Derik Watson’s exquisite French-accented cuisine. He’s a veteran of Iridescence in Detroit’s MotorCity Casino, Rugby Grille in Birmingham and former Tribute restaurant in Farmington Hills. Sous chef Norman Fenton assists Watson. Visitors to Bistro 82 order from digital tablets instead of menus. Pressing the name of an item on the screen produces its picture, price and sometimes ingredients and/or wine pairings. Tablets allow for quick menu changes. My husband, Mike, and I chose the same soup at dinner. Wide-brimmed bowls held a mushroom medley. Simultaneously, two servers poured hot mushroom bisque over the mushrooms and presented a thin Parmesan cracker. The soup tasted earthy and light. Appetizers include lamb spare ribs, cauliflower Romesco and grilled artichoke. The chilled shellfish is popular. Mike’s entree was Wagyu hanger steak, perfectly prepared to his medium-well specification. His plate included always-yummy Béarnaise sauce. Cobia, the restaurant’s best-selling entree, has a taste similar to sea bass. Our personable server Dave helped me decide in favor of roasted sea scallops, his favorite. Bistro 82’s seafood chef perfectly seared my scallops. They came with parsnip puree and root vegetables, including salsify, which is pale with a hint of nuttiness. The presentation was gorgeous. My plate looked like the state of Florida, with six large scallops marking cities on a map. Green forgione sauce was on either side of the peninsula, resembling rolling waves. We shared ratatouille: pinwheel slices of squash, zucchini and eggplant with tomatoes. A little sea salt perked up the vegetables. For dessert, I chose bread pudding with candied pecans, almond creme, cherries and a dollop of Calder’s vanilla ice cream. Joseph McGlynn, the dining room manager, brought a little more ice cream in a tabletop holder with a depression. Caramel sauce goes there for dipping tiny cinnamonsugar beignets. Another notable dessert is yogurt panna cotta, blueberry compote with lemon. Scott Sadoff is director of operations for AFB Hospitality Group. Assistant general manager Matthew Hollander oversees Bistro 82 and its beverage program, featuring 350-500 bottles in the bistro’s wine cellar and 500 in Sabrage’s champagne cellar. Belen aptly named his restaurant Bistro 82, “because 1982 was one of the best in 100 years for vintages in the Bordeaux wine region, and it’s also my birth year.” RT BISTRO 82 401 S. Lafayette Royal Oak, MI 48067 (248) 542-0082 $$$ out of $$$$ B

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