A flurry of restaurant openings made it under the wire for Super Bowl week, and may the strong survive after the big game’s gone. One of the most interesting is the meticulous restoration and reopening of Cliff Bell’s, a posh downtown supper club at the corner of Park Avenue and Elizabeth Street. Designed by prolific Detroit architect Charles N. Agree — he also did the Vanity Ballroom, the Beverly Theatre, the Whittier and Belcrest hotels, Harpo’s Concert Theatre and the Trans-Lux Krim Theater among many others — it closed 30 years ago, but now finds a second life under the owners of Traffic Jam and The Bronx Bar.
Out yonder, in Plymouth, Five Restaurant — a contemporary fine-eats addition to the Inn at St. John’s conference complex — has hung its reputation on the cooking skills of chef Tom MacKinnon. Based on the longtime quality of Tom’s food at MacKinnon’s in next-door Northville, it should be a safe bet.
Also benefiting in big ways from its architectural housing is Grand City Grille, opened late last month in the Fisher Building. It’s the newest from Frank Taylor’s downtown dining powerhouse, the Southern Hospitality Restaurant Group, including Seldom Blues in the RenCen and Breakfast House & Grill @ Merchant’s Row, adjacent to Campus Martius.
Westerly fans of the little Breakfast Club in Madison Heights will be pleased to know it’s added a location in Farmington Hills.
Eat the Page
Want Spanish eats in metro Detroit? Good luck finding a restaurant. Yet, most ingredients are available, and an informative Spanish cookbook can help you reproduce most any dish. The Cuisines of Spain (Ten Speed, $40) is one of the best. Chef and author Teresa Barrenechea covers the classics and includes native tips to pull off such deceptively simple-sounding stuff as papas arrugadas ("wrinkled potatoes"): To keep the steamed spuds from sticking, place "small, clean, uniform stones on the bottom of the pan."
A Tasty Beverage
Pu-erh, one of the least known teas outside its native China, could be called an acquired taste. But it’s the heavy aroma — dank and earthy — that may at first give pause. Sip the tea, hot or iced, and you find the imposingly dark red brew is unexpectedly crisp, pleasant and refreshing, with a distinctly sweet aftertaste. Credited with many health benefits, it actually improves with age. Available online, including from the highly informative pu-erhtea.com, and the metro Detroit merchant, grandteastand.com.
Few kitchen gadgets sound less likely to work, but deliver big time, than KitchenArt’s Buttermate. Sized to hold one stick of butter or (feh!) margarine, it both dispenses and slices pats as thin as a sliver or in measured increments by the teaspoons or tablespoon. The guillotine slicer cuts with a taut wire, similar to a cheese cutter, and is spring loaded so you can use it with one hand while working with the other. Around $15 locally; Amazon sale price, $8.