Royal Oak's new Bistro 82 serving up beautiful plates From The Detroit News


It’s a stunning transformation. The two-story space on the corner of Fourth and Lafayette in downtown Royal Oak where Bistro 82 and the upstairs Sabrage are taking root could win an architectural award as well as a culinary one for its clean, contemporary look.

When I first read the pre-opening comments about Bistro 82 — and calling it a bistro is about the only false note — I thought the writers had gone just a tad overboard. Now I know they didn’t.

Even at the tender age of 1 month, Bistro (oh, all right) 82 ranks as one of the most promising restaurants in the area, with the kitchen headed by executive chef Derik Watson living up to what the sophisticated dining room leads diners to expect.

The room, which meanders from the entrance on Fourth Street and stretches around the corner under big, uncovered windows, is all shades of cream, white and soft gray except for the underlit black-and-gold onyx bar top and backbar and a painting that add splashes of color. White napkins with a navy stripe are custom made, just one of many touches that show the attention to detail here.

The chef’s extensive experience in Chicago, Las Vegas and Detroit, where he was most recently at Iridescence, gives him the credentials to run the most important part of the operation, and the quality of the beautiful plates he and his staff are turning out testify to that.

Before the food arrives at the uncovered tables, diners can get a preview. Tablets, not paper menus, offer the option of clicking on a selection and bringing up a photo and also a suggested wine pairing. Remarkably, the plates come out looking just like their images.

The menu is relatively brief. There are a few snacks, notably a trio of goat, cow and blended cheeses, and croissants with housemade butter, to nibble while perusing the electronic menu. Appetizers include an array of East and West Coast oysters, the likes of which I haven’t seen since the beautiful SaltWater closed at the MGM Grand downtown.

There’s also an upscale take on the French-Canadian poutine, not a junk food at all in this interpretation with its polenta steak fries, gravy made with beef shank and Vermont cheddar. Bone marrow with fresh herbs and crostini, as well as classic steak tartare made with Wagyu beef, are other possibilities.

Among the baker’s dozen entrees, the least expensive is especially notable. Chicken paillard, chicken breast pounded scaloppini thin and grilled, is accompanied by a scattering of watercress and a hint of fennel pollen, and for those who appreciate simplicity, it is perfection. Word is that it’s the favorite of proprietor Aaron Belen.

Other options include a handsome, roasted heritage pork chop, bouillabaise made with lobster, shrimp and mussels, and three steak choices, typified by the 12-ounce ribeye served with roasted potatoes.

Each plate is individually garnished, but for those who want to add a soup, salad or side dish, the possibilities include chef Watson’s beautiful French onion soup, definitely not the garden variety of this often butchered dish, as well as butter lettuce salad with buttermilk-chive dressing and a soft boiled egg, and vegetable choices such as grilled asparagus and pommes frites.

Desserts are relatively simple, ranging from panna cotta with blueberries and cider poached pear to cinnamon-dusted beignets with caramelized banana.

The menu will change regularly, according to the chef, who insists on fresh, high-quality ingredients.

Service by an experienced staff wrapped in gray, black and white bistro aprons is attentive but not overpowering.

Sabrage, the night spot on the second floor, is open only on Friday and Saturday, and it is completely separate from Bistro 82. And if you’re wondering about that number, it was chosen because ’82 was a great year for Bordeaux — and also the year proprietor Belen was born.

Bistro 82

401 S. Lafayette, Royal Oak

Call: (248) 542-0082


Rating: 4 stars (out of 4)

Hours: Dinner 4-10 p.m. Tues.-Wed., 4-11 p.m. Thurs., 4-midnight Fri.-Sat., 4-9 p.m. Sat.

Prices: Appetizers $8-$16 (except for the shellfish towers), soups and salads $6-$12, entrees $19-$35, desserts $6-$8

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: Full bar and an extensive wine list

Noise level: Moderate

Parking: Valet, street or nearby lots

Wheelchair access: No barriers
(313) 222-1475

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