Greektown goes global

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There’s as much for the eyes as for the mouth in Greektown’s newest dining destination, Mosaic, and all of it is drawn from a brave — and hip — new world.

Owned by three sisters — Athina, Maria and Stella Papas — Mosaic is not their father’s Greektown restaurant. Dad Jim Papas, a founding partner in the Greektown Casino, owns Pegasus, the Greektown landmark eatery down the street; and is an owner of the Atheneum Suite Hotel, also in the neighborhood. “We didn’t want to be another Greek restaurant,” Athina says. Mosaic has more in common with the high-end Sweet Georgia Brown, also nearby.

The restaurant carries its theme from the name through the food and decor. The menu was culled from major world cuisines — Asian, Mediterranean, French, South American, Caribbean and more. It’s fusion food, with Mediterranean given the most influence.

The dramatic interior, designed by John Janviriya, sets the tone. Evoking the elements of earth and water, the bar area is blue and busy and seems to sparkle, while the dining room is sedate, with warm colors like brown, rust and orange. Tabletops are polished stone — light-colored in one area, dark in another, as if marking the passage of the sun. A wall of teak, woven like a basket, creates an exciting backdrop. Tables are aligned around a curved half-wall, and generous amounts of empty space contribute to the luxurious feel.

In the bar, the stone tabletops are almost iridescent. Four colors of marble cover the floor, with compass designs inlaid in copper. Over the bar is an exciting sculpture that doubles as a light fixture. Using hand-blown glass squiggles in shades of turquoise and blue, it gives the feeling of being underwater, looking up to the rippling surface. The sculpture was designed by Erik and Israel Norden, owners of the award-winning custom furniture studio, Detroit Design Center.

In such a setting, the food has to be top-quality, and match the surroundings in complexity and richness of the setting. Chef Mark Kelly, the original chef at McCormick & Schmick’s in Troy — a high-end chain fish house — enjoyed creating a menu from scratch. Every dish had to be tested on the three sisters, as well as their friends and family. It was a tough jury; Athina confesses she’s a picky eater who excludes whole categories of food from her diet.

Chef Mark accomplished the task by keeping the flavors crisp and complex. A good example is his roasted tomato and asparagus bisque, the only soup on the menu. Actually two soups, they’re combined at your table — they are fused but not fused, together but separate. A dollop of pesto adds another layer of flavor.

Appetizers are served in generous portions. One evening I dined with my daughter, a born-again vegetarian, who suggested the cheese fondue. It’s a sophisticated blend of creamy and sharp cheeses — Brie, Asiago, Parmesan and provolone — served with a platter of grapes, apples, fingerling potatoes, bread cubes, strawberries and raspberries. Although it was too much for two people, it was much fun to eat.

There are no vegetarian entrées on the menu, and although our server kindly offered that the chef would make whatever she wanted, Nina settled on a salad of heirloom tomatoes layered with fresh mozzarella, served with a big platter of baby greens dressed with balsamic vinegar. Another salad featured a poached pear stuffed with creamed cheese on arugula; the most exciting part of this dish was two tiny black figs marinated in port.

Entrées include the expected salmon and lobster, steaks and skinless, boneless chicken, as well as king crab legs, braised lamb shank, Alaskan halibut and Asiago-encrusted New York strip with basil and garlic. Each entrée is paired with its own sides. The halibut, for example, comes with caramelized mango, heart of palm, arugula and roasted red pepper sauce. Scallops, dusted with porcini mushrooms, are served on top of an Asiago potato pancake on a bed of sautéed spinach, mushrooms, shallots and tomatoes. White truffle oil flecked with fresh dill completes the presentation, though the chef may add another sauce or two, such as tomato coulis. It wasn’t until I ate the leftovers at home that I appreciated how many different flavors and ingredients went into this dish.

Desserts include chocolate fondue — you’ll want to plan ahead on this one to save room. (Now if only they could add fondue as a main dish.) But the hit so far, Athina Papas says, is chocolate lava cake. Baked in a paper wrapper, it’s warm, cakey on the outside, silky within.

One place where the upscale is allowed to slide a bit is in dress. Baseball caps are a no-no, but everything else goes. Open for lunch Monday-Saturday, dinner daily.

Elissa Karg dines for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

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