Joe Muer Seafood is reborn in Detroit

Expect old classics and up-to-date plates in a showy space

Joe Muer Seafood

400 Renaissance Center, Suite 1404, Detroit


Handicap accessible

Prices: $30-$50

Joe Muer opens for lunch at 11 a.m. and starts serving dinner at 3 p.m. Monday-Friday, closing at 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday and midnight Friday. 

Dinner is served 

4 p.m.-midnight Saturday 

and 3-9 p.m. Sunday.


Joe Muer opens for lunch at 11 a.m. and starts serving dinner at 3 p.m. Monday-Friday, closing at 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday and midnight Friday. 

Dinner is served 

4 p.m.-midnight Saturday 

and 3-9 p.m. Sunday.


Everything about the new Joe Muer Seafood is big. Obviously, it's a big name: While this restaurant is new, the Muer brand, which goes back to 1929, is well-known throughout southeast Michigan. But the relaunched institution also has a big staff, big menu and big dessert cart.

And it has a really big dining room.

Muer's easily seats a few hundred guests. Cleverly divided into several discrete areas, it doesn't initially feel overwhelming, and the significant square footage includes equally significant views of the Detroit River.

The decor likewise looms large. The entrance is checkered in black and white marble, there are glass and mirrored panels throughout, and the lighting is a divergent mix of contemporary blue accents and retro-styled chandeliers. There are big, cushioned seats at the sushi and raw bars, a series of chef's tables, and a small bar surrounding the grand piano in the main dining area.

Some will undoubtedly find this eclectic, vast space opulent and beautiful, the blend of old and new a metaphor for the resurrected restaurant itself. But it's arguably overdone, too busy and kitschy to provide the elegance many may prefer at a white-linen operation.

Of course, most folks don't dine out just to gaze at chandeliers. They go to eat, and Muer's lengthy menu provides plenty to choose from.

There are a number of offerings from a fairly classic raw bar selection, including oysters ($15-$21 per half-dozen), a poached shrimp cocktail, Mediterranean-inspired steamed mussels, or a comprehensive platter for $24 per person.

Muer also prepares several designer sushi rolls, each very attractively plated. Even the simplest, the Joe Muer Roll ($14) is beautiful: Several types of fish, cucumber, and avocado are rolled and topped with tuna, spicy mayo and crunchy bits of fried tempura batter, then staggered with pretty lime, cucumber and ginger garnishes on a long, narrow plate. For all the effort put into their specialty rolls, the basics don't suffer: The rice has great, subtle flavor and perfect, delicate stickiness.

Not into the raw stuff? Not a problem. There are more than a dozen soups, salads and appetizers to start one's meal. Both classic Muer recipes from the previous incarnation of the brand and more contemporary dishes are available.

Among those original Muer dishes are the Shrimp Ilene ($14), three gigantic baked shrimp in butter sauce that belie their diminutive name, and the deviled crab balls ($14), which came recommended by the server but were dense and overdone.

The "modern" appetizer menu includes asparagus tempura ($9) with a miso dipping sauce, seared tuna with cilantro, and a salad featuring a trio of prosciutto-wrapped shrimp ($16), the last of which was unpleasantly tough.

Should you start with a soup or salad instead, consider the lobster bisque ($8), a universal favorite in our dinner party on a recent visit. While we didn't try it, one of the favorites around the dining room appeared to be the classic wedge of iceberg lettuce served with a Roquefort cheese dressing ($7).

The restaurant offers a couple of steaks, chicken and rack of lamb, but the bulk of the entrée selection is, naturally, seafood.

An updated surf-and-turf ($35) puts scallops together with braised short ribs alongside whipped potatoes and sautéed greens. On our visit, the scallops were perfectly cooked, the greens well-seasoned and tender, and the short rib sweet and flavorful. Ahi tuna ($36) gets a perfect sear and a tart, punchy tomato-caper relish. More regionally relevant fish get their due on the current menu in the form of both whitefish and perch.

Portions aren't quite as big as the prices, but they're certainly hearty enough to satisfy a voracious appetite. And those interested in lunch will see a similar menu with the inclusion of several sandwiches, including an on-theme salmon burger.

The wine list is long, divided into "classic" and "contemporary" halves, with the term contemporary ostensibly synonymous with big, juicy wines concocted primarily in California. The classic list has a number of venerable Old World brands, though it leans a bit toward the expensive side. Still, there is a nice selection of dry whites and lighter, seafood-friendly reds.

Far more disappointing are the cocktails, which are universally far too sweet: Our Pimm's Cup tasted like soda, and an original drink with citrus and Serrano pepper was cloying rather than refreshing.

Desserts are showcased on a tiered cart. Each of those we tried looked far better than it tasted, perfectly fine but uninteresting in the way wedding cake can be. Diners won't lack for choices, however: From coconut cake to cheesecake, gelato to flourless tortes, options are plentiful.

Service was a highpoint: While white tuxedo jackets feel passé and forced, they underscore the thoughtfulness clearly put into the training program. The staff, regardless of experience level, knows the menu and is remarkably attentive without becoming an annoyance.

It's hard to imagine that anyone could have predicted this type of grand re-emergence when the original Muer's closed in 1998. If you're looking for a big night out with good service and solid seafood, grab a window seat at Joe Muer Seafood and see what the fuss is about.


Spice crust ahi tuna with braised greens, tomato-caper relish and wasabi créme from Joe Muer Seafood in Detroit.

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