That rather bland title is about the only thing drab about Bill’s, the sparkling new restaurant that anchors the building at the southeast corner of Woodward and Long Lake in Bloomfield Hills. As you might surmise from the four-star rating, this place is a real contender.
The sixth in the Roberts Restaurants stable, it is the first one that includes the head man’s name. Bill Roberts had to be talked into it, but his friends and colleagues managed to do it. Bill’s it is, and maybe that name isn’t so bad after all, because anyone who might be mislead by its blandness is apt to be blown away by the highly detailed setting from the design wizardry of Ron Rea of the Birmingham firm of Ron & Roman, who has been the creative muse behind every one of the six. And that’s Beverly Hills Grill, Streetside Seafood, Town Tavern, Roadside Bar and Grill, and Café ML, with each one having a distinctive look and feel. No cookie cutter stuff here.
Nor does the menu read like something you’ve seen before. It is as distinctive as the 90-seat room, which is divided into several seating areas and set off from the bar by etched glass dividers and includes a row of high-top tables tucked into booths, luxurious butterscotch leather banquettes along one wall and tables in the back of the space beside a candle-filled fireplace under a huge brass chandelier. Walls are filled with a collection of paintings, photographs and sculptures, some reflecting the origins of the space — it was once Fox & Hounds — and others more contemporary and eclectic.
The appealing menu does much the same, with its combination of retro offerings, including escargot-stuffed mushrooms and clams casino, along with up-to-date dishes such as stuffed figs, whole brook trout, truffle fries and egg-topped prime rib hash. And yes, there is kale on the menu in the terrific Caesar salad variation made not with romaine, but with baby kale and plump jumbo shrimp in a subtle dressing without the heaviness of the standard Caesar dressing. It also may be had with chicken, and it is one of four entrée salads.
Subtlety is one of the hallmarks of the kitchen. Nothing in two visits seemed overdone or fussy, and happily there is none of that striving-to-be-trendy feel. Don’t look for sliders or poutine, but there is the obligatory burger, a custom blend of beef dolled up with arugula, a choice of Gruyere or Roquefort and wine-braised onions. Soups include a lovely pistou (pesto) for a little touch of bistro, and there’s also a little trattoria in the meatballs atop polenta and the carbonara made with king crab and black pepper fettuccine. Steaks come in relatively modest cuts, with a 14-ounce ribeye the biggest of the bunch, and others ranging from 6- and 8-ounce filets to a 12-ounce New York strip au poivre.
In addition to the one-page menu printed on heavy ivory stock, there is a chalkboard with offerings that change daily but often include grilled Scottish salmon. And for a final retro touch, one of the housemade desserts is baked Alaska with coconut ice cream and pineapple sauce.
Service by a staff in dress shirts and ties is knowledgeable and professional, reflecting the man whose name is over the door.
39556 Woodward at Long Lake Road, Bloomfield Hills
Rating:4 stars (out of 4)
Hours:11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.,
11 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat.,
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.
raw bar selections $12-$15,
with market price for oysters,
lunch sandwiches $14-$16, entrée salads $16-$20, dinner entrees $15-$28, steaks $27-$40, desserts $5-$6
Credit cards:All major
Liquor:Full bar and an interesting cocktail, wine and beer list
Wheelchair access:No barriers