The extensive menu features Wagyu beef sirloin with parsley puree and French green beans. (Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News)
It takes only a glance at the imposing office building on the corner of Woodward and Maple to know the new restaurant on its first floor is not going to be some cute little café.
No, the Stand Gastro Bistro is a major production, from its stunning Victor Saroki-designed setting to the talent in the gleaming open kitchen.
The building’s owners, Greenleaf Trust, put the space in the hands of two restaurant pros, chef Paul Grosz of Detroit’s Cuisine and John Kelly, formerly of Capital Grille in the Somerset Collection, who got the tasty assignment of bringing the space back to life after the previous tenant, Zazios, failed to make a lasting impression.
Anyone who happened to go to Zazios during its 2½-year life span won’t recognize the place. The daunting size has been broken up into several dining areas, including the clubby cocktail lounge with its communal table made of wood reclaimed from Tiger Stadium and refinished by the students at WARM training center.
It dominates the room under a copper chandelier/sculpture by Eric Gorgess of Voodoo Choppers, illustrating the commitment to local artists and artisans, as well as to local ingredients. All of the framed glass sculptures in the main dining room are also by local artists, adding a spark of color to the subdued palette of the room.
The activity in the kitchen, visible from the bar, is the heart of the operation. Previously used for what could be called dinner theater — the chefs at Zazios prepared dinner for an audience watching from stadium-like seating, complete with speaker system and closed-circuit TV — it is now simply a working kitchen. A chef’s table is in the planning stages.
There’s not one, but a series of menus. Those dining in the bar choose from a 10-item bar menu that includes steamed mussels, an assortment of flatbreads and duck fat fries, as well as the full dinner menu; in addition, they may request the eight-item vegan list typified by ratatouille of acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash with cashew cream. There’s also a charcuterie assortment, and it almost goes without saying the offerings are all house-made. Grosz teaches charcuterie at Schoolcraft College.
In the early going, some of the stand-out dishes include a tasting of three soups, prettily served in an attached trio of small white china bowls, with the current list including mushroom bisque made with shiitake and chanterelle mushrooms and a finishing touch of Brie, a sturdy beef barley, and lobster lightened with crab broth. The lobster is so good it might just blow the other two away. You may also order each soup as a single serving.
And that typifies the many choices offered on the imaginative a la carte. This may be the Stand, but there is nothing standard about the menu, from the salads such as the combination of quail egg, watercress, frisee and tomato in roasted garlic vinaigrette, to the list of vegetables with none of the usual suspects. Instead, there are brick-oven roasted turnips, caramelized cauliflower and spaghetti squash with brown sugar butter among the choices, and all are meant as sharable dishes.
Among entrees are some fish options that again depart from the routine, such as sturgeon with foie gras and housemade pasta that Grosz assures is made daily, and grilled striped bass in mushroom consomme, with a touch of delicate celery root puree and a sprig of watercress. Meat selections include the seldom-seen rack of rabbit with polenta, carrots, cherries and pistachios, a must-try and not because it is the lowest priced entrée at $25. Tender Wagyu sirloin is offered in 10-ounce and 20-ounce cuts and is served sliced, with parsnip puree and green beans. Like these, all of the dishes have carefully chosen accompaniments. No vegetable du jour from Grosz’s kitchen.
Pastry chef Kevin Kearney turns out such creations as goat cheese cheesecake with caramelized bananas (maybe the most flavorful bananas I’ve ever had) and chocolate bread pudding made with brioche in orange crème anglaise with a touch of praline, as well as ice creams and sorbets.
Service by the professional staff is in keeping with the ambitions of the kitchen. Even though this is a work in progress, it is certainly four-star caliber.
The Stand Gastro Bistro
34977 Woodward at Maple Road, Birmingham
Call: (248) 220-4237
Rating: 4 stars (out of 4)
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs, 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. (Hours to be expanded to include lunch in early November)
Prices: Bar menu $5-$22, appetizers $9-$15, entrees $25-$55, vegan dishes $10-$12, desserts $9
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar with extensive wine list
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Valet or nearby municipal structure
Wheelchair access: No barriers