Birmingham's The Stand adds a French twist 

It seems like every other restaurant in metro Detroit these days is offering what they call a charcuterie board. These renditions are hit-or-miss and are often a far cry from the real deal. Thing is, serving a few cold cuts, cheese cubes, and maybe some olives on a cutting board does not necessarily make a charcuterie board.

Which makes such spreads like the ones served at chef Paul Grosz's Birmingham restaurant, the Stand Gastro Bistro, stand above the fray. This spot, which sits on the ground level of an office building at East Maple Road and Woodward Avenue, has been around for a while — it opened in 2013 to rave reviews.

What you'll find on Grosz's charcuterie board is a love letter to the Michelin-starred French bistros where he honed his craft in his younger years. You'll find velvety, razor-thin slices of prosciutto, a chicken galantine that blends the richness of the poultry with peppery spices, a duck terrine that exudes a deep and robust flavor, a French garlic pork sausage whose fatty gaminess resembles that of a fine venison, firm slices of hunter sausage, and finally the summer sausage that pairs swimmingly with the house-made, sinus-clearing spicy mustard. It makes for a heavenly feast, down to the thick slivers of pickled carrots and red bell peppers it's garnished with.

Another hit is the bone-in beef short rib, so juicy and tender it glides off the bone under a fork. Grosz braises his short ribs, then places the beef on a bed of grits, nicely creamed, with just the right amount of goat cheese — nothing overpowering — but just enough to leave you with a rich, lasting, almost buttery sensation in your mouth.

Seafood is strongly represented on the menu. If you're in the mood for something light, the tuna crudo is a sensual choice, with the almost translucent crimson fish (which we're told is delivered fresh, almost daily) that dance with juicy bits of strawberry, citric fruits, and crisp radish slices, all splashed with soy and sesame oil on a long, shareable plate.

As for entrées, the lobster spaghetti is said to be Grosz's favorite dish. For the sauce, he sautées garlic, tomatoes, crunchy pieces of chopped asparagus, and bite-sized morsels of lobster with extra virgin olive oil and heaps it atop thin spaghetti. The result is a well-blended melody of flavor and texture — although the noodles are so thin they can become soggy, as was the case during one of our visits. A dining partner opted for the roasted duck breast confit leg, accompanied with a buttered quinoa and braised peaches, with a white peach duck glaze. This is an unexpected treat, as the leg doesn't always come still attached to the rest of the bird. It really works here, giving our company a harmonious mix of white and dark meat and that glaze made the breast pop with crispy sweetness.

The drink menu is plentiful with choices, with several personalized takes on classic cocktails, like the Dark and Snappy, Alameda Mule, and the Running Wild — a spin on a Whiskey Sour that uses Wild Turkey Rye 101, Bonal Gentiane, lemon juice, green tea, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters. The taps almost exclusively feature Michigan brews, and there are 39 varieties of bottled beer. The wine list is also extensive, with a strong showing of California wineries, some French and South American, and a few Michigan ones thrown in.

The Stand, co-owned by Grosz and John Kelly, is a culmination of the chef's years of training in French cuisine. He's worked under the likes of legendary French chef Jean Banchet at Le Francais, studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu and worked in Michelin-starred eateries like Paul Bocuse and Pierre Orsi.

He brought that French-influenced background here to Detroit, first at the Whitney and eventually at Cuisine in Detroit and now the Stand. In addition to his work in the kitchen, he also shares his knowledge of charcuterie as an instructor at Schoolcraft College.

The Stand's carefully crafted offerings are set in an inviting, yet sophisticated atmosphere. Though its locale is right up against one of the most-traveled highways in metro Detroit, you don't feel overwhelmed by the bustle outside. Guests have a choice to sit in the spacious dining room, the cooler bar and lounge area, or, for $100, they can sit at the chef's "stand," a counter with 10 diner-style stools that face the open kitchen, where they're served a five-course meal and get to interact with Grosz while he's at work (beer or wine pairings are extra). What's more, there's space set aside for private parties. As for service, the staff is personable, not pretentious, and seems to have personally sampled most of the menu items, a plus in our book, as it lends credibility.

In all, the Stand holds up in the increasingly competitive dining scene in Birmingham. If you're looking for top-shelf cuisine and drink, without the stuffiness, this might be just the place for you.

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