Bastone, named for the Belgian city Bastogne, is in a rehabbed 1939 building in Royal Oak. (John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)
Bastone took a little heat when it opened in 2004, because of the abbreviated spelling of its name.
Yes, it should have been Bastogne, for the Belgian city that inspired it and for the sake of authenticity. All was forgiven, however, because the brew pub and restaurant in the handsomely rehabbed 1939 building on the corner of Main and Fifth streets quickly became part of the fabric of downtown Royal Oak.
And while its Belgian dishes are few, the sturdy, high-ceilinged atmosphere, the house-brewed pilsners and ales flowing from the big white taps at the bar, and the European brasserie flavor more than make up for it.
Purposely scuffed heavy wooden tables under spinning ceiling fans and shiny white tile walls and floors in the bar on one side of the room add to the beer-hall effect.
The menu doesn't go on and on, but offers a well-edited list of dishes, starting with some very appealing appetizers. This is where the Belgian accent comes in, with mussels, cheese assortments, frites and pate.
It's true here, as it is at so many restaurants, that many of the most appealing dishes are the lighter ones, including appetizers, salads and pizzas -- tartes in the Bastone vernacular.
And many of them are sharable for those seated in the wood-sheltered booths around the parquet-floored dining room or at picnic-bench-style seating in the front window.
Steamed mussels top the list, of course. They are offered with a choice of sauces including mustard/saffron, white wine and bleu cheese, and tomato with herbs and garlic.
Another is whole roasted bulbs of garlic with oyster mushrooms and herbed goat cheese to be spread on slices of baguette. Pork and chicken pate -- as well as the sampler of three cheeses that includes big, golden brown crackers that, surprisingly, are made in-house -- are other appetizers meant for sharing.
Thin-crust pizzas come in varieties including a particularly tempting one topped with cheese, bacon, caramelized onions and fresh thyme, but no tomatoes.
Nicoise salad with its fluffy greens, redskin potatoes, thin French green beans, hard-cooked eggs, seared tuna and generous scattering of tiny Nicoise olives in vinaigrette could easily be an entree.
Among actual entrees, the pork tenderloin atop a very compatible mix of fingerling potatoes, mushrooms and tart cherries is especially good.
The kitchen at Bastone, presided over by chef Cassandra Portalski, handles more than one bill of fare. It is also responsible for the menu at the adjoining wine bar, Vinotecca, and the small Cuban cafe, Cafe Habana, in the rear of the space.
Commune, formerly called Cinq, the cellar-level lounge, has its own small menu of appetizers and pizzas.
This is one hot corner.
You can reach Molly Abraham at (313) 222-1475 or abraham67@ comcast.net.
Mussels, like these steamed in a tomato herb and garlic sauce, are a ...
Trout Mitonee, left, rainbow trout sauteed in a light broth, is another ...
Dubbel beer, center, is micro-brewed in the basement.
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