La Dulce opened in Royal Oak in August of 2015, but after nearly two years, the proprietors realized that it wasn’t the right location for the increasing party crowd on Main Street.
The new address, the Crowne Plaza on Detroit’s riverfront, brings it to a setting that brothers Luis and Juan Negrete hope will be more compatible with their carefully crafted décor that includes chandeliers made of white china teacups and saucers, open shelving holding antique books and lithographs and a sense of European flair.
The setting was designed by Gaspar Sobrino, who came from Spain to oversee the project in Royal Oak. It’s all been transported to the new location.
Certainly, people will be surprised to find an authentic Spanish restaurant just off the lobby of a downtown hotel.
After a little less than two months, La Dulce is still a work in progress. The waitstaff has been expanded, and so has the menu, including, oh, no, the cheeseburger required by hotel management. Nothing wrong with a good cheeseburger, but it doesn’t exactly fit the Spanish theme.
Seating is at linen-upholstered couches pulled up to coffee tables, as well as at conventional tables. Those who stopped by La Dulce in Royal Oak will recognize it immediately, although it is larger and has bar seating. The bar turns out fruity red or white sangria with a touch of rum, and a number of good Spanish wines, as well as gin with house-made tonic and a range of cocktails using syrups and infusions, also made in-house.
In keeping with the highly detailed decor, the plate presentation is stylish, with a variety of serving pieces that complement such dishes as the charcuterie board of cured pork loin, chorizo and thinly sliced Iberico ham, cheese boards chosen from a selection of three or five cheeses ($18 or $22), sharable as are most of the tapas, including mixed Spanish olives, Iberico ham with a lightly applied tomato and garlic sauce, olive oil in a little amber vial to be used to individual taste, and rustic bread warmed in the grill.
Ceviche (a blend of fish, shrimp and octopus marinated in lime juice) is nicely garnished with hot peppers, coconut cream and potato chips made with heirloom purple potatoes. All of these are in small portions except, perhaps, the deep-fried soft shell crab, a very pretty dish that may be picked up in the fingers and eaten shell and all. Soups seem to be something of a specialty, gazpacho, of course, and my favorite, pea and almond pureed to a satiny smoothness.
The menu continues with somewhat larger dishes, including a fork-tender braised beef, but none of the dishes is large by American standards. Paella is made to order, requiring a 45-minute wait, but I did not sample it. You’re on your own with that.
I did try the classic tres leches cake. The light and fluffy three-milk cake was predictably delicious.
As La Dulce settles in, it will improve, but for now it has a way to go to achieve what it accomplished in the original location.
Crowne Plaza Detroit Hotel
2 Washington Blvd.
Call (248) 268-1719
Rating: ★★ 1/2
Hours: Breakfast 6:30-11 a.m., lunch 11 a.m.-5 p.m., dinner 5-11 p.m. (bar later) daily.
Prices: Breakfast dishes $6-$15, lunch tapas $7-$14, soups and salads $7-14, entrees $15-$18, dinner tapas and pintxos (snacks) $6-$18, soups and salads $7-$14, entrees $15-$35, paella (served for two or more, $15-$18 per person), desserts $7-$8.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Low to moderate
Parking: Hotel valet ($10) or nearby lots and street
Wheelchair access: No barriers
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding