Bistro 82 & Sabrage

February 26, 2014 | REAL DETROIT WEEKLY

401 S. Lafayette Ave., Royal Oak • 248.542.0082 •

Bistro 82 Hours: Tuesday-Wednesday, 4 p.m.-10 p.m.; Thursday, 4 p.m.-11 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 4 p.m.-12 a.m.; Sunday, 4 p.m.-9 p.m. Sabrage Hours: Friday-Saturday, 9 p.m.-2 a.m.

When Aaron Fenkell Belen returned my phone call last Thursday, he spoke with a great deal of intensity and passion. His restaurant Bistro 82 and accompanying ultra lounge, Sabrage, had been open for almost two weeks and things seem to be going quite well. There's been plenty of coverage and reviews seem to be overwhelmingly positive. With a multi-million dollar overhaul of the space itself, Belen has assuredly taken the former Sangria to new heights. The French-inspired menu of Bistro 82 was and is spearheaded by Chef Derik Watson, a man who's helmed the kitchens of Rugby Grille, Iridescence and the now defunct but much beloved Tribute. The second story lounge is home to a state-of-the-art sound system that, according to Belen, delivers sound akin to seeing the actual artists perform live. An 1,100 gallon fish tank adorns the DJ booth and the space is outfitted with sleek leather couches and an absolutely gorgeous bar (seriously, pictures don't even do it justice).

Open for dinner service six nights a week, Bistro 82 is a concept that those who enjoy the finer side of dining will find very agreeable. No, it's not FORMAL formal (there was a guy wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt and jeans when I was in for dinner), but the food is beautifully and masterfully prepared using wholesome and fine ingredients, most of which are procured locally when possible. In fact, keeping it local was a big part of crafting the concept of Bistro 82 and Sabrage, according to Belen.

"I want to rally and support quality Michigan-based companies," says Belen, citing not only food companies but vendors across the board. Indeed, Belen hopes that his vision and concept will help not only boost the Michigan economy but that of the city of Royal Oak itself.

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"I'm trying to wake everyone up," he says. "I'm trying to convince everyone to bring their dollars to Royal Oak."

At just 31, Belen's vision seems astoundingly fully formed for one so young and it goes well beyond just running a restaurant and lounge.

"I'm focusing on pushing development," he says. "We're doing something that won't go unnoticed."

That 10,000 square foot, two-story edifice on South Lafayette is certainly hard to ignore. And the concept behind it is sure to garner just as much attention. Of course, I had to visit for myself to find out. I popped in for dinner on a Sunday night and enjoyed a number of dishes off Bistro 82's menu including the poutine, French onion soup, pork chop and grilled calamari– all were incredibly delicious especially the poutine, which was a different take on the currently mega popular dish. Made with polenta steak fries (yum!) and topped with stewed beef (this was also super yum!) and Vermont cheddar, the mixture of textures and flavors was spot on and scrumptious. Although Bistro 82 has a stellar wine list along with a draft list that includes Michigan-made favorites, I went with a couple of craft cocktails to accompany my dinner. The Moscow Mule was made with Russian Standard vodka and served in an absolutely adorable copper mug and then the Experience Z which was made with ZIM's 59 Vodka, Lillet Blanc, a blood orange puree cube and garnished with a simple twist of orange. After dinner I sampled the beignet's which were served with candied bananas and a salted caramel dipping sauce along with a liter of French pressed coffee (according to the maître d the coffee served at Bistro 82 is a special blend made just for the restaurant by D&M Coffee in Wixom), everything was ridiculously tasty and the service was nothing short of outstanding.

Afterward I took a trip upstairs where Belen gave me the grand tour. The gorgeous couches, stunning bar (I seriously can't get over that bar), simple and elegant color scheme and amazing view solidified Bistro 82 and Sabrage's reign as the new crown jewel of Royal Oak. | RDW

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