The Michigan Farmer's Plate and Pork Loin Chop with mixed beans and corn ragout is garnished with a warm apple-smoked bacon dressing. )
Sometimes what looks like a major problem turns out to be a lucky break. That's what chef/proprietor Mary Brady must be thinking as she looks around her relocated restaurant.
The space puts the resilient Diamond Jim Brady's Bistro bunch in a much more prominent location in the Novi Town Center than the first one, which closed last November to make way for a big-box store.
Teaming with new partner and fellow chef Sharon Juergens, Brady unveiled the new quarters last week. (Diamond Jim's will not begin its full schedule including lunch and brunch for approximately two weeks. It is dinner-only right now.) It's a great-looking room — yes, just one room plus a patio — with an open kitchen where Juergens directs a staff that includes sous-chef Greg Brown turning out dishes such as grilled rib eye with crisp onions and housemade steak sauce, potato-crusted whitefish and, of course, the Diamond Jim burger, made as always with a coarse grind of 80/20 beef chuck and cooked on a flat grill. It's been served by one Brady or another since 1954, when the original Jim opened what he called his "saloon."
The menu, which smartly fills just a single page, will change on a regular basis. To start, Brady and Juergens are offering a number of interesting "snacks," such as peanuts jazzed up with bacon, maple syrup and a hint of spice ($2), and chicken liver pate with fig jam, a surprisingly compatible combination, to spread on crisps of toasted flatbread ($5) while sipping a drink.
Those numbers are indicative of the price structure. This is an affordable restaurant, especially considering the quality delivered by the kitchen, with most entrees $16-$19, including Caesar or house salad.
Standouts in the early going include tender mustard-crusted chicken breast served with a little heap of spinach, cheddar mashed potatoes and caper butter, steamed mussels in a choice of spicy tomato broth or Belgian beer style, black lentil salad with fried halloumi cheese, tomatoes and basil vinaigrette, and a sandwich of prime rib served on a pretzel roll with a spicy splash of horseradish, not only delicious, but gently priced at $9. It's big enough to serve as an entree, and it might well be the best sandwich I've had this year.
Those who claim one of the 50 seats in the upbeat room with windows on two sides, uncovered tables and a few black-upholstered booths between the small bar and the gleaming kitchen are going to be glad they did.
The room is comfortable, unpretentious and yet stylish, done up in black and white, with a nice mix of decorative items brought from the former location. The '20s wood-burning Garland stove and the "diamond" that illustrates the inscription quoting the legendary Diamond Jim — "Them what has them, wears them" — are sharing the room with the handsome new shaded chandeliers and framed artworks.
About half of the service staff returned after the long layoff, and they project the warm and friendly attitude that fits this straightforward place that offers just the right combination of casual tavern and ambitious kitchen.
The reinvented bistro has only been open for a few days, but if there are any opening jitters, they are certainly not showing. These restaurant pros know what they are doing.
Diamond Jim Brady's Bistro
43271 Crescent Blvd., Novi Town Center, Novi
Call: (248) 380-8460
Rating: 3 stars
Hours: Diamond Jim's will not begin its full schedule including lunch and brunch for approximately two weeks. It is dinner-only right now. Call for current hours; eventual schedule will be: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-midnight Fri., 10 a.m.- midnight Sat., 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Appetizers, snacks and sides $2-$12, salads $12-$18, sandwiches $8-$11, entrees $15-$25, desserts $7.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar and good beer and wine lists.
Parking: Attached lot
Wheelchair access: No barriers