December 18, 2013 at 1:00 am

Molly Abraham

Grosse Pointe's Marais offers up intricate fare, beautifully prepared

A bottle of Chateau D'Yquem 2006 dry sauterne Ygrec 'Y' goes with one of Marais' signature dishes, butter-roasted halibut. (Photos by Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News)

From its exterior painted the color of dark Belgian chocolate and lit with flickering gaslights to the pristine white dining room set with softly upholstered chairs and gleaming stemware, the new Marais Restaurant is an elegant presence on the corner of Kercheval and St. Clair in Grosse Pointe.

Marais’ ambitious menu matches the setting with a list of highly detailed dishes from chef David Gilbert, who named the restaurant for his and wife Monica’s favorite historic district in Paris.

Walk in the side entrance on St. Clair rather than the front door, and you’ll get a glimpse of the activity in the beautifully equipped kitchen where the culinary artistry takes place, and also the adjacent wine room with its impressive stock.

Gilbert, whose local kitchens have been at the Forest Grill and the Townsend Hotel’s Rugby Grill, both in Birmingham, and who previously cooked in Europe, offers a one-of-a-kind selection of eight appetizers and 10 main courses, each completely composed with individual accompaniments to enhance the seafood or meat centerpiece.

The impeccably dressed staff discusses the menu as if they had apprenticed in the kitchen, and it’s a good thing. Yes, most of us will need assistance as we peruse such listings as “diver scallops with flageolet bean ragout, garlic puree, pine nut and watercress pesto and crispy bone marrow” or “veal breast and sweetbread with Riesling-braised Savoy cabbage, licorice-dusted sweetbreads, baby turnips and salsify.”

While the intricacies of the labor-intensive fare might seem intimidating, the atmosphere itself is comfortable, and the waitstaff makes a point of being friendly and accommodating as they serve in ensemble fashion without hovering.

First to the tables is the current amuse-bouche, and it sets the tone. In a hollowed-out eggshell, Gilbert presents truffled egg custard with duck demi-glace-infused mushroom duxelle and watercress puree, just a few delicate sips, so good, in fact it almost trumps what follows.

Among appetizers are ricotta gnudi, tiny gnocchi-like dumplings, with accompaniments of yam, prosciutto and pecans, set off by ruffles of kale and a swirl of aged Modena balsamic vinegar; and roasted quail atop couscous, with smoked potato, parsnips and pumpkin seeds in red wine sauce — each would make a good prelude to one of the seafood main courses, notably butter-roasted halibut with lobster salad, or Dover sole with mushrooms, grapes and walnuts in wine sauce, one of the simpler presentations.

Other choices on the current menu (it will change seasonally) include stuffed saddle, chop and rillette (pate) of rabbit, and beef tenderloin with oxtail ravioli, truffle-scented croutons and green apple. There are also, as would be expected, lovely desserts, housemade as is pretty much everything here, typified by a luxurious chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and coffee cardamom ice cream and puff pastry embellishments.

The adjoining, dimly lit cocktail lounge has its own entrance, and it is less formal than the main dining room. The entire menu may be ordered there. Some diners have even tackled the tasting menu while seated at the bar.

To sum it up, Marais is a restaurant for those who appreciate fine dining at the highest level.

Marais Restaurant

17051 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe

Call: (313) 343-8800

Rating: Four stars (out of four)

Hours: Dinner only, 5:30-10 p.m. Tues.-Sat.

Prices: Appetizers $17–$21 , entrees $34-$38, desserts $9. Six-course tasting menu $115 per person.

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: Full bar and extensive wine list

Noise level: Moderate

Parking: Rear municipal lot

Wheelchair access: No barriers

Food and beverage calendar

Trooper Ale Release Party at Small’s Bar: Limited supply of Iron Maiden’s Trooper Ale from the United Kingdom’s Robinsons Family Brewers. Iron Maiden tribute band Today I Maiden performs. 8 p.m. Thurs. $5-$12. 10339 Conant, Hamtramck. (313) 873-1117 or www.smallsbardetroit.com.

Winter Solstice Release Party at Kuhnhenn Brewing Co.: This indoor and outdoor party is a chance to taste rare, special-occasion beers from the Kuhnhenn vaults. Detroit BBQ Co. will provide the food, and punk bands CbJ and St. Thomas Boys Academy will perform. Clothing, dog food, toys and nonperishable food donations will be collected. 3 p.m. Fri. No cover. 5919 Chicago, Warren. (586) 979-8361.

Dinner with Chef Kate Williams at Revolver: This week, Hamtramck’s Revolver restaurant hosts Rodin’s former executive chef Kate Williams. She prepares a five-course dinner; menu available at www.revolverhamtramck.com. 6:30 and 9 p.m. Fri. $40. 9737 Jos. Campau, Hamtramck. (313) 757-3093.

New Year’s Eve Beer Dinner at Clubhouse BFD: A five-course dinner paired with Unibroue beers, plus appetizers, games, other beer and Krispy Kreme sliders at midnight. 7 p.m. Dec. 31. $100. 2265 Crooks, Rochester. (248) 289-6093.

Pairing the Mitten at Fox Theatre: Sample wines from Michigan companies like St. Julian, Sandhill Crane, Black Star Farms and enjoy food made by the chefs from Olympia Entertainment and Motor City Casino Hotel. 6 p.m. Jan. 15. $95. 2211 Woodward, Detroit. (800) 745-3000.

Craft Beerfest at Royal Oak Music Theatre: VIP ticket holders may enter one hour for earlier access to special beers from 6-8 p.m. 7 p.m. Jan. 25. $40 advance, $45 at the door, $60 advance, $65 VIP at the door, $5 designated drivers. 318 W. Fourth, Royal Oak. (248) 399-2980.

abraham67@comcast.net
(313) 222-1475

The Marais menu includes such listings as 'diver scallops with flageolet ... (Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News)
Chef David Gilbert has worked at the Forest Grill and the Townsend Hotel's ... (Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News)