Food Stuff

Nov 10, 1999 at 12:00 am


When three casinos are in full swing in downtown Detroit, how will you decide where to blow your money? The Motor City Casino, located in the old Wonder Bread building on Grand River, is betting that fine food will tip the scales. To hedge their bets, they’ve hired Chef Michael Russell as their executive master chef. Russell is a certified master chef, the highest level attainable, and his title is shared by only 58 chefs nationally. Russell was lured away from the Bloomfield Open Hunt Club, and has assembled an impressive team of 11 sous chefs and 200 cooks to help him.

Russell recently invited the press to taste some of the dishes planned for its top-end restaurant, Iridescence. He kept saying, "It’s really very easy" as he fussed over the final assembly of the food.

It was a solemn occasion. When all the dishes were prepared and ready, the chefs broke into applause.

"It’s not that complicated," Russell said as he lifted a mold from a medley of three crabmeats laced with roasted-garlic cream. A ring of zucchini slices encircled the crab. Russell explained that the zucchini stays in place because it is dipped in butter.

"You see, it really comes together very fast."

Then he prepared a soup that included a mold of jasmine rice studded with a fine brunoise ("dice") of aromatic vegetables. The rice was topped with lobster, garnished with truffles and placed in a shallow bowl. When Russell poured hot corn chowder into the bowl, the rice became an island in the soup.

"The chowder will be poured at the table from a copper pot," he explained.

Iridescence’s menu will change monthly. The inaugural (and pricey) menu includes specialties such as rack of wild boar with cider-pepper glaze ($39), golden-crusted prime soft-shelled crabs ($55), and McFarland pheasant filled with chervil mousse ($49).

"The prices are not cheap," Russell acknowledged. "People have to feel that they’ve gotten their money’s worth."

Pastry Chef Tariq Hanna presented three desserts. "That is the only one I’m happy with," he confided when I tasted a key lime mousse accompanied by florentines.

Three other full-scale restaurants will also be under Chef Russell’s supervision, including a Middle Eastern restaurant operated by La Shish and a delicatessen from Matt Prentice’s Unique Restaurant Group. The restaurants will be located in an adjoining building with the casino accessible via skywalks.

And what would a casino be without a buffet? Russell scoffs at the traditional Las Vegas-style buffet. He wants his buffet to include authentic international food with a menu that changes daily. "I’ve told the chefs to make what they would eat in their own countries," he says. "I don’t want any American Chinese food." Dinner at the buffet will be $20.

"I’ve been challenged to have the best restaurant in the state," Russell says. One thing’s for sure: It’s the safest bet in the house. -Elissa Karg


The Rochester Mills Beer Company is debuting a new menu this month. Visit and check out Executive Chef Jim Monroe’s new culinary tricks. ... The Food Bank of Oakland County has distributed record amounts of food this year, which means it needs record amounts of help and food donations. Call 248-332-1473 to volunteer.