The revival of the former Forest Grill brings a highly contemporary restaurant to Birmingham’s Triangle District, a bit off the beaten track even though it is within hailing distance of downtown Birmingham.
The original setting of wood and glass has been renovated and updated. The rectangular dining room, overlooking the glassed-in kitchen on one side and the street scene on the other through a wall of windows, is spare and understated. Soft light — so soft you might need a flashlight to read the menu — beams from intricate overhead fixtures and the color palette is monotone.
No spashes of color or extraneous details distract from the main event — well-prepared food from executive chef Nick Janutol and his staff behind the glass. Small, almost unobtrusive menus come to the white linen-covered tables. The menus, illustrated only with the tiny logo of an evergreen tree mounted on a fork, are like everything else here — low-key and understated, in the manner of Victor Saroki, the architect behind the room, and in fact, behind the design of the entire small office building where Forest occupies the first floor.
It’s as if proprietor Samy Eid and his partners, including chef Janutol and his wife, Allicia, who runs the front of the house, decided not to offer any distractions. They are willing to stand on one thing and one thing only, the quality of the food. I don’t know if that is going to be enough for some people. Often the distractions are what give a place personality and seduce diners into wanting to return. Time will tell.
This new version of Forest has only been open since mid-November. Certainly, the food measures up well, from the warm mini-baguettes that come to the table in little canvas bread bags with a slate liner that keeps them warm, to the pristine little slices of olive oil cake that is one of four current desserts.
The pared-down selection of small plates and main courses with a faintly Mediterranean spin will be updated as seasons and ingredients change. The compositions, from such fish dishes as grilled lake trout, salmon and sturgeon, may all be considered specialties. Each is individually garnished — the accompaniments are often fruit, such as pears or other fruits, mushrooms and greens. Portions are relatively small.
Service is knowledgeable and courteous, reflecting Allicia Janutol’s management skills. Among the attractions other than the food is the 1,000-bottle wine cellar, some of which is displayed at the entrance. Large crystal wine glasses and the white china tableware are noticeably high quality.
Janutol and his talented crew are doing their best to provide a memorable experience with what is on the plates.
735 Forest, Birmingham
Call: (248) 258-9400
Hours: Dinner only, 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Closed Sun.
Prices: Soups and small plates $7-$14, entrees $26-$40, desserts $8-$12
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Low
Wheelchair access: No barriers
What the ratings mean
★★ — good
★★1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent
★★★★ — outstanding