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 Ambassador’s 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 says. 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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