Cliff Bell's lobster bisque with finishing touches (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)
Soup is a pretty amazing dish. It can be elegant, like the tomato basil served by Assaggi Bistro, earthy like the white bean soup called fasule at the Park Grill, or exotic like the ginger-sparked mulligatawny at Mazza Indian Cuisine. It can be down-home, like the hearty rishta at Brigette's Café.
Soup can be the main part of a meal or a simple prelude to what comes next. It can be served hot or cold. Can there be anyone who doesn't like soup?
These seven aren't, of course, the only restaurants that serve great soups, but we think they are especially noteworthy.
Steve & Rocky's mushroom
Chef/proprietor Steve Allen of Steve & Rocky's offers three soups every day, and one of them is always the mushroom soup that dates back to the Golden Mushroom where Steve got his start. He calls it Chef Milos' mushroom soup, in tribute to Milos Cihelka, the now-retired chef who trained so many local chefs at the restaurant in Southfield.
Its base is a rich stock made with beef or veal and chicken, fresh white button mushrooms — "pretty straightforward," says Allen, but creamy and delicious. The secret is in the stock, a time-consuming task that sets the soup apart.
Steve & Rocky's, 43510 Grand River Ave., Novi (248) 374-0688. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., and 1-9 p.m. Sun.
Park Grill's fasule
Fasule, the hearty white bean soup served at the Park Grill, is from a recipe provided by proprietor Adi Kokoshi's mother, Mira, and she often makes it for the family restaurant.
The Kokoshis are from Albania, and fasule is their version of the Italian pasta fagioli, although it does not contain pasta.
The vegetarian soup includes potatoes, carrots, onion and garlic, a basic peasant soup that is served in one version or another in Eastern European countries.
Park Mediterranean Grill, 15102 Kercheval Ave., Grosse Pointe Park (313) 332-1435. Hours 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun.
Assaggi's tomato basil
Assaggi's tomato basil was on the menu when Josie Knapp and George Gize opened the doors of their Ferndale restaurant in 2000.
And it has remained there ever since, beautifully garnished with a polenta crouton and creme fraiche.
Although other soups are added from time to time, the blend of diced tomatoes and fresh basil (from the kitchen garden at the back of the restaurant during the growing season) is a perennial.
330 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale (248) 584-3499. Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tues.-Fri., dinner 5-10 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 4-9 p.m. Sun. Closed Mon.
Brigette's Café's rishta
This vegetarian soup, made with brown lentils and homemade noodles and served by chef Miriam DeLamielleure at Brigette's Café, is from her mother's recipe. It's a soup she and her sisters grew up on, a very hearty soup with a little kick from black pepper and allspice.
Brigette's Café, 43253 Garfield Road, Clinton Township (586) 226-0947. Hours: 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 4-9 p.m. Sat. Closed Sun.
Cliff Bell's lobster bisque
At the elegant vintage supper club, Cliff Bell's, chef Matt Baldridge did some research before adding lobster bisque to the spring menu, a soup that's a fitting complement to the Art Deco setting. He found some articles from the old days at Cliff Bell's in co-proprietor Paul Howard's office "to see how they did bisques in that era. I learned they used short grain rice to thicken it."
He makes lobster stock and uses Arborio rice, "which adds an almost fluffiness to it," he says, and purees and then strains the soup, adding a dollop of sherry as the finishing touch.
2030 Park Ave., Detroit (313) 961-2543. Hours: 5 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Tues.-Thurs.,4 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Fri., 5 p.m.-1:30 a.m.-Sat., brunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun., dinner 4 p.m.-midnight.
Chef Ed's Weekday Café's variety
Few if any restaurants can rival the soup repertoire of Ed Shogren of Chef Ed's Weekday Cafe. He offers four every day at the little restaurant he runs with his wife Candace, but that's nothing compared to the 150 varieties in his repertoire, all made with his own meat and seafood stocks.
Ed's soups are as diverse as Cajun clam and white bean, shrimp bisque, turkey tetrazzini, sweet pepper and corn chowder, and there's one he calls beef Stroganoff because it contains all the ingredients for that beef and mushroom dish named for a 19th century Russian diplomat.
Ed doesn't keep recipes, just lists of ingredients. "All chefs improvise," he says. "I'm not a cover band. I do originals."
16749 E. Nine Mile, Eastpointe (586) 778-6433. Hours: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri. Closed Sat.-Sun.
Mazza Indian Cuisine's mulligatawny
Mulligatawny soup (pepper water) seems to be a soup of a hundred recipes. It is different in each Indian restaurant that serves it.
At Mazza Indian Cuisine, it is a pureed vegetarian version with depth and complexity lent by the ginger, garlic, lentils and freshly ground spices that give the soup its deep orange color.
Mazza Indian Cuisine, 3354 W. 12 Mile, Berkley (248) 543-6299. Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon.-Sat., dinner 5-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.