January 13, 2011 at 1:00 am

Molly Abraham

Dearborn spot thrives on good food and good service

Teriyaki glazed salmon is served over spinach and zucchini with garnishes. )

The neon-sparked restaurant that was directly across the street when Bistro 222 opened a little more than two years ago is gone, its flashiness apparently not enough to keep it in business.

The smaller, almost unobtrusive bistro, however, thrives. Score one for subtlety and reserve. Sometimes those who speak softly get the most listeners, or in this case, diners.

The quiet skill of chef/proprietor Michael Chamas keeps his 60-seat spot a haven for those who appreciate handcrafted fare prepared by a meticulous crew and served correctly.

The L-shaped room with big windows that offer a view of the passing traffic is something of an oasis. It's entered from the rear, through a courtyard-style passageway. Although wine and beer are served, there is no bar, leaving the space for linen-covered tables surrounded by a nice collection of art. (A second floor lounge is under construction for overflow seating.) The Europe-meets-California feeling is unmistakable. Single page menus offer a list of dishes that include pastas, some housemade, a few vegetarian selections, and a nice mix of seafood and meat choices all freshly garnished with vegetables and herbs.

Signature dishes include bacci (purse-shaped pasta) stuffed with Italian sausage in spicy marinara sauce; Asiago, pecorino and ricotta cheese-filled gnocchi in the creamy pink tomato sauce known as palomino; and chicken scallopini made with sauteed chicken breast and offered in a choice of Marsala or piccata style.

Herb-crusted lamb filet, served with saffron risotto, is just one of the dishes that incorporates herbs.

On a recent visit, two fish dishes were especially appealing: Lake perch, with just enough of a creamy caper and garlic sauce, had an underlay of crispy shoestring fries and garlic mashed potatoes, for a blend of textures that set off the tender filets of fish. It's another signature dish.

The other was a simple grilled filet of salmon atop sauteed spinach and zucchini, accompanied by roasted potatoes. Plate presentation, while emphasized, is certainly not fussy; rather, it seems to be designed for a harmonious, geometric look. (Could that stem from the chef's training as a mechanical engineer before he got into the restaurant business?) Recently, the delicate French pastries made by Schoolcraft culinary graduate Robert Souied were added to the ever-changing dessert list, typified by chocolate Chambord, bananas Foster cheesecake and Napoleons.

Service is very much in keeping with the Chamas' philosophy. It's courteous, warm but not over the top. Waiter Reggie Richardson, one of the waitstaff, worked with Chamas in the early '90s at the Jacques Demers restaurant at the Embassy Suites in Southfield. They were reunited when Richardson walked into Bistro 222 before its opening in 2008 to apply for a job. "I hired him on the spot," Chamas says.

Bistro 222 offers a special wine dinner each month. Coming up the last week of January is one featuring Pinots and Bordeaux style reds from Oregon and Washington State, accompanied by a six-course dinner. Exact date not yet decided.

Abraham67@comcast.net

(313) 881-2382

Waiter Reggie Richardson takes orders at Dearborn’s Bistro 222, open a ... (Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News)
Bistro in Dearborn a hit without fanfare. (Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News)
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