Adachi team open pan-Asian restaurant Zao Jun Monday in Bloomfield Township
For the massive menu, Jamaican-born chef Lloyd Roberts pulls from his experiences growing up in Queens, working under world-famous chefs and his own travels
A shopping plaza in Bloomfield Township is the home of Zao Jun, a new Pan-Asian restaurant with a menu designed and executed by a Jamaican-born, New York City-raised chef.
Here, chef Lloyd Roberts is pulling from his decades of traveling and working under world-renowned culinary masters to create a menu that blends Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean flavors.
"We're trying to pack five countries into one restaurant," said chef Roberts of Zao Jun, which opens to the public Monday.
Roberts, who just came to Metro Detroit last May, is also running the kitchen at applauded Adachi, a Japanese restaurant inside a repurposed mansion in downtown Birmingham. Both Asian-themed restaurants are owned by Clint Mansour and brothers Kenny, Carlo and Derek Koza.
"Adachi is an inspired Japanese menu and it's the same thing here ... an inspired Pan-Asian menu," Roberts said, adding that his cooking is influenced by his upbringing in Queens. "It's like the melting pot of the Asian community."
Roberts has studied under the wings of world-famous chefs Jean Georges and Nobu Matsuhisa, which also greatly informed his approach to Asian cuisine.
"Working for Jean George when I got out of school ... Jean George spent six years in Thailand, working at Bangkok International Hotel, traveling to far east Asia, seeing what's out there," he said, adding that he himself also traveled throughout Asian while living in London in his 30s. "All of this, I combine all of it for my inspiration."
While Adachi is mainly Japanese and more of a fine dining setting, Zao Jun (a Chinese name meaning "kitchen god," according to the restaurant's press release) is far more casual with televisions in the bar area, and a family-friendly, colorful setting with bright lemongrass touches, hip pop art on the walls and geometric metal light fixtures. Grand Rapids' Tylor Devereaux Interior Design is behind the look of the modern space.
The menu has just about everything you would want to see coming out of an Asian kitchen: maki rolls, bao buns, spring rolls, lettuce wraps, lo mein, beef yakitori, fried rice, dim sum, stir fry, grilled vegetables and even almond boneless chicken.
Naturally, a lot of the made-from-scratch dishes carry some well-placed spice, or "purposeful heat," as restaurant manager David Kraus puts it. A stir fried version of edamame is tossed in chili garlic, ginger and oyster sauce. More heat is found in a shredded papaya salad with cilantro and peanut and the stir fried kung pao chicken with red chili peppers, onion and cashews.
The menu features dozens and dozens of options, mostly as small, shareable plates running in the neighborhood of $6-$16 or entrees that can be around $16 and up. Kraus said they're looking to add more affordable bento boxes for the lunch crowd in the near future.
The bar offers bottled beer and pop from Asia, plus draft beer, wine and craft cocktails that match the menu.
For Zao Jun's opening weeks, the owners will donate a portion of proceeds to charity. Monday through May 12 some sales will be gifted to the Bloomfield Township Firefighters Charities, and the following week a donation will be made to the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center.
Starting Monday Zao Jun, 6608 Telegraph in Bloomfield Township will be open 5-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs. and 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. at first, with lunch service added in a few weeks. Visit zaojunnewasian.com or call (248) 949-9999. Once open, reservations will be taken via the RESY smartphone app or on the website.