April 10, 2008 at 1:00 am

Molly Abraham

Dirty Dog takes up food's harmony, and improvises

Seared sea scallops nest atop an oxtail ragout drizzled with a red wine reduction. )

Just as jazz is all about improvisation, so is cuisine. And at the new Dirty Dog Jazz Café, executive chef Andre Neimanis is taking his cue from the musicians, turning out a creative, tapas-style menu that is his riff on the subject.

It is far from a standard menu. Each dish -- and despite the highly detailed composition, they are small -- has several elements.

For instance, he pan-roasts a nugget of salmon filet and teams it with a stew of chorizo and white beans, and a bit of braised fennel.

He puts braised beef brisket atop tiny sourdough hamburger buns with roasted onion, cheddar and celery root slaw. It's his take on the slider, and each one makes for a single bite.

The fried egg BLT brings sourdough bread topped with a sunny-side up egg, cheddar, applewood bacon, lettuce and tomato ($7).

Steak and eggs turns out to be a beef tenderloin filet with poached quail egg, duck fat croutons and wilted greens, and at $18 it is the highest-priced menu item.

Most of the other plates range from $7-$14, and are meant to be ordered in multiples.

One shareable tapas is the country chicken pate ($9), but most are just enough for one.

When the restaurant opened in February, bread was a missing element. Proprietor Gretchen Valade stepped in, and now an array of bread is offered, but in the same petite vein as other dishes, perhaps two or three nuggets of brioche with cinnamon butter, or a few cubes of focaccia, just enough to satisfy.

It, as well as everything else, is house-made, including ice creams and sorbets for dessert.

The café is meticulously put together, with wide-plank parquet floors, suede-like fabric in a deep red shade on walls outlined with dark wood, and artfully lighted by chandeliers and wall sconces with parchment-colored shades that cast a soft glow around the 65-seat room.

Black-and-white photographs of jazz musicians share space with sculptures and paintings of dogs, most notably the gold-framed portrait of springer spaniels over the bar.

The attention to detail extends from the servers' striped shirts and dark vests to the handsome upholstered chairs pulled up to linen-covered tables.

The intimate room is a perfect fit for the balanced helping of music and food.

The early seating, from 5-7 p.m., is accompanied by background piano, with the main performances at 8 and 10:30 p.m.

You can reach Molly Abraham at (313) 222-1475 or abraham67@comcast.net">abraham67@comcast.net.