Rockefellers offers rich menu in a familiar setting
Oysters have been served in the clubby space on the corner of Mack Avenue and Nottingham Road in Grosse Pointe Park ever since Tom Brandel established his first Tom's Oyster Bar there in 1985.
And the tradition continues, now that Jai-Lee Dearing has freshened up and reopened the attractive space that was in its most recent incarnation, Dylan's. Wisely, he hasn't tampered with the setting. The big piano is still there in the front corner of the tin-ceilinged bar, and it's still presided over by Marty Balog, who seems to know every song in the great American songbook, including the lyrics.
The sushi bar and oyster bar share space between the cocktail bar and the two dining rooms, with the sushi chef and oyster shucker working side by side. And the down-east style décor with sailing memorabilia and framed New Yorker covers is still the backdrop.
No more blue-and-white checked tablecloths, though. The tables are now covered in white linen overlaid with crisp white paper.
Rockefellers has been open just about a month now under the new regime, and it's already a hit with patrons returning to a familiar address and those just discovering it.
As you might expect, oysters Rockefeller are on the menu, and they are very good, topped with fresh spinach, cheese and just a hint of bacon, and the $12.95 serving is enough to share. True oyster lovers, however, will probably be more temped by the raw East Coast bivalves, with varieties listed on one of several chalkboards around the rooms. They are currently served with just horseradish-sparked cocktail sauce, but the subtler mignonette sauce and some West Coast oysters are promised in the future.
The popularity of oysters is attested to by this statistic: On one recent Monday evening, no less than 238 oysters on the half shell were served. And sushi? On yet another evening, the chef had so many orders, there was a half hour wait for the spicy tuna, eel and yellowtail.
Oysters and sushi, of course, are not all that's being served. Executive chef Don Kruse sends out some very nice soups — notably clam chowder and cream of onion — as well as sandwiches from burgers to perch and grilled chicken, and salads including Caesar, spinach and the classic wedge, although he dolls up the wedge with dried cherries and raspberry/honey vinaigrette. He might want to re-think that one.
Entrees, in addition to changing fresh fish selections, include a couple of steaks, linguine with wild mushrooms or smoked salmon, chicken Marsala and sauteed frog legs.
Service is friendly and accommodating, and that's something the proprietor wants to emphasize. He is usually there, doing what all good proprietors do, lending a hand where it's needed in both the front and back of the house.
Rockefellers is off to a promising start.
Rockefellers Oyster Bar and Grill
15402 Mack at Nottingham,
Grosse Pointe Park
Call: (313) 626-5000
Rating: 2½ stars (out of 4)
Hours: Dinner only, 4-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 4-midnight Fri.-Sat. Bar open later
Prices: Sushi rolls $6-$9, combinations $18.50-$26, sashimi plates $16.25-$22.50, appetizers $6.95-$14.95, sandwiches
$9.95-$11.95, entrees $15.95-$25.95,
housemade desserts $6.95
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Valet and street
Wheelchair access: No barriers