Review: Macomb's Regale stacks the table with comfort food from around the world
Petiscos are to Portugal what tapas are to Spain.
The former is a slightly larger plate. Petiscos are essentially entrees that are served as smaller portions so you can share them, and you're still left with an appetite to try a variety.
This is what fills the menu at Regale Craft Food and Drink, a 3-month-old restaurant from husband-and-wife team Rachelle and chef Shawn Mckerness.
OK, a chef-driven, small plates restaurant serving craft cocktails with cute, modern decor and limited seating is hardly groundbreaking these days. It’s nearly the norm in places like downtown Detroit, Royal Oak and Ann Arbor.
Because of Regale’s location, though – the border of Macomb and Shelby Townships in Macomb County – it is something unique. There are global influences in this area’s independent dining landscape (mostly Italian, Mexican and Thai) but not usually all in one restaurant.
Regale’s menu soars from European comfort foods such as the potato pancakes to African dishes including the tagine with root vegetables, garbanzo beans, dried apricots and yogurt. There are American favorites like macaroni and cheese and a beef burger dripping with Gruyere cheese, Cajun aioli and barbecue short ribs.
Japan is represented with the tuna tacos, which are small and crunchy wonton shells packed with sashimi tuna, avocado, soy sauce and sesame seeds. Setting these apart from all the other wonton tacos I've seen on menus lately is a whipped cream sauce seasoned with togarashi, a Japaneses chili powder.
Chef Mckerness even gives space on the menu to his native Canada with short rib poutine and a Nova Scotia chowder (he's from Halifax) made with a variety of seafood, plus dill and red potatoes.
There are also twists and fusions. A Scottish egg takes a detour a few thousand miles through India and the Middle East. Instead of pork breakfast sausage, this pub favorite is made with a perfectly soft-yolked egg coated in spiced lamb meat and served with a basil yogurt dipping sauce. A complementary and bright, crunchy slaw is made with apples and cucumbers.
The dish that had me thinking about Regale days later was the lebna. Somewhere between a dip and a vegetable antipasto, this colorful plate is gorgeous and an absolutely killer first course.
Fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, roasted peppers, green olives and points of fried pita are skillfully arranged above a bed of the thick white lebna, which is akin to cream cheese or Greek yogurt. The bright, green Yemeni zhoug sauce and purple-ish sumac sprinkled on top seal the deal. It's flawless in its simplicity.
The Mckernesses were able to immerse themselves in different cultures around the world because of their previous employment. Shawn was a chef on a cruise ship where Rachelle worked as a dancer in the nightly production. She's now a certified public accountant, a skill that is much more useful to the restaurant than the dancing, she says.
Rachelle said Shawn's idea of adventure on the cruise ship would be to look for the local street food whenever they pulled into port rather than the tourist destinations. He's visited all seven continents.
With the cruise days in the rear view, the couple, who don't live far from Regale with their toddler Taya, are enjoying running their first restaurant. Shawn can be seen in the kitchen every second they're open, and tries to stop by each table to make sure everything was satisfactory. It's a manageable effort considering there are only a few dozen seats.
While this is the first time owning a restaurant for the chef, he's no stranger to opening them. So far it seems the Mckernesses are doing things right. Besides being hands-on and offering a diverse menu at affordable price points, they're also tackling smaller restaurant problems with common sense.
Something I always run into while dining is not having enough table space for all the plates I want to order. At Regale they've stocked up on these cool, two-tier trays that fit their serving bowls perfectly so you can have your chicken and dumplings on the bottom and Malaysian barbecue chicken wings on the top.
And with nearly a dozen menu items priced under $10, you can order a lot. That's where the name "regale" comes in; they want to lavishly supply guests with food and drink.
Another thing that just makes sense: half beers and two sizes of wine pours. This allows diners to try a few things without imbibing more than they should. Guests can order wine by the glass in 6- or 9-ounce pours.
The wine list is curated by Royale's general manager Gedde Naschak, who has worked at several area restaurants including Social Kitchen & Bar and Fillipa's Tap and Barrel; he also helped open Kid Rock's Made in Detroit at Little Caesars Arena.
With just a few dozen seats and dinner-only hours six nights a week, the Mckernesses seem to have the right approach to their new suburban spot. They didn't want to have a big splash when opening this July and instead opted to ramp up slowly and get a strong footing. After three months of business, they have seem to have found their groove, so come aboard.
Regale Craft Food & Drink
48810 Hayes, Macomb
(586) 991-7943 or regalecraftfood.com
Rating: ★★★ (excellent)
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. and 4 p.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat.
Prices: small plates, $5-$24; desserts, $5-$6; cocktails, $9-$10; wine, $7-$42 per glass or $25-$139 per bottle.
Reservations: Call or e-mail email@example.com to reserve. Reservations strongly recommended, especially on the weekends.
Noise level: Medium
Accessibility: No barriers
Parking: Large lot for strip mall
What the stars mean:
★ — routine
★★ — very good
★★★ — excellent
★★★★ — extraordinary