Parc puts fine dining on display in Campus Martius
Downtown Detroit’s newest gem is ensconced in the heart of Campus Martius, offering a view of the festively lit park and the cityscape through expanses of windows on three sides.
Given the location, you might be pardoned for thinking, oh, a nice little spot for a quick bite. Not at all. Parc — the spelling reflects Detroit’s French origins — is a four-star restaurant with a well-thought-out menu, a professional staff and a crisp contemporary setting done in soothing colors of seafoam green, white and natural wood.
It offers an upscale dining experience at the exact point from which the streets of Detroit were laid out after the 1805 fire, and Parc takes note of that historical fact on its well-designed coasters, just one of the little details that make this new place special. And it is completely new, with no vestiges of its predecessor, Fountain Bistro.
Chef Jordan Hoffman, a Schoolcraft culinary graduate who returned home after 10 years in Las Vegas to take the post, sends out nicely composed plates to tables set under an assortment of open filiment bulbs and clusters of tiny lights that add a sense of theatrical flair to the room — which, after all has to complete with the city view. He also is often seen out in the dining room, chatting with diners and getting their feedback, a nice touch.
Seating arrangements include banquettes as well as the uncovered tables nicely set with linen napkins and glassware, and there are 15 comfortably backed chairs at the bar. Wine drinkers are going to love the outsized 33-ounce wine glasses that add another touch of glamour.
Grilling over wood is a key part of the kitchen’s direction. All of the meats, from the bone-in veal and half chicken to filet mignon and at the top of the price scale, dry-aged steaks served with bone marrow and roasted onions, are prepared that way.
Other wood-grilled dishes on the menu include such dishes as branzino (Mediterranean sea bass) teamed with arugula salad, giant prawns attractively served in the shell but easily extracted, and oysters grilled with seaweed. While there is a list of sides that may be added to the chosen entrée, they really aren’t needed, because each dish comes with appropriate accompaniments that are more than just trimmings.
The well-dressed waitstaff works in pairs to expedite service.
Pastry chef Tori Parnell sends out the desserts, including one show-stopper, hazelnut brownie sundae with ribbons of chocolate that looks like an edible sculpture.
A happy hour menu, served 3-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, is especially appealing because of the gentle price structure. Dishes from Maine mussels, short rib tacos and sliders are each $7, with wine $6 for six ounces and $8 for nine ounces and beer at $5. And the early time frame seems to be attracting a lot of downtowners who want to get a look at this new dining option.
My compliments to the chefs and proprietors Zaid Elia and Matthew Shiffman, who have added a real contender to downtown’s upscale dining scene.
800 Woodward, Detroit
Call: (313) 922-7272
Hours: 3-10 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 3-11 p.m. Thurs-Sat., 5-9 p.m. Sun. (Bar later)
Prices: Appetizers $12-$16, entrees $21-$45, sides $8-$10, desserts $10-$12
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar and extensive wine list
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Street, nearby lots and underground garage. Valet parking is in the works.
Wheelchair access: No barriers
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good
★★1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent
★★★★ — outstanding