Grand River runs through it

Dec 30, 2009 at 12:00 am

Andiamo Novi 42705 Grand River Ave., Novi; 248-348-3838; $$$$: Not only does this spot offer the award-winning cuisine that has propelled the Andiamo mini-chain to its current success, it offers dinner theater as well. Call for upcoming shows.

Bangkok Sala Cafe 27903 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-553-4220; $: Bangkok Sala Cafe is quite an attractive place, and does a good job with its entrées — gingery pad king is a great choice. However, it does less well on the side dishes, except for such desserts as the creamy, dreamy house-made coconut ice cream.

B.D.'s Mongolian Barbeque 43155 Main St., Suite 200, Novi; 248-735-1900; $: You pick it, they wok it, you eat it. It's a winning formula that's fun for everyone.

Bombay Grille 29200 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-626-2982; $$: Bombay distinguishes itself with the word "grille." You can watch the process through a window in the dining room. Grilled items are prepared in tandoors, deep clay ovens heated by charcoal fires. Most Indian restaurants use gas, which is cheaper, but can't produce the flavor of a charcoal fire. Seekh kabob — minced lamb cooked on a skewer — tastes nothing like the Middle Eastern variation called shish kafta, because of its rich spice blend. Chicken malai is marinated in yogurt and spices, then grilled. There are three vegetarian kebabs, some with paneer, a mild homemade farmer's cheese. This is a great place for carnivores and vegetarians to commingle; the entrée menu is about evenly split between the two. Wine, beer and liquor are offered. 

The Breakfast Club 38467 W. 10 Mile Rd., Farmington; 248-473-0714; $: You can get a good meal there in all the traditional breakfast categories: eggs (omelets and quiche); carbs (pancakes, waffles, French toast, crepes); potatoes (jacket-stuffed, hash brown and potato pancakes with sour cream); meats (sausage, bacon, corned beef hash); fruit (fresh-squeezed orange juice and fruit salad); even "Scottish porridge."

Cherry Blossom 43588 W. Oaks Dr., Novi; 248-380-9160; $$: An element of beauty is part of everything, from the marble-topped sushi and yakitori bars to the tatami rooms and conventional tables with settings in shades of blue, green and brown. The full range of Japanese fare offers diners extensive choices, and service by the courteous, well-dressed staff adds to the stylish feeling of the place. Even beef teriyaki, so often a routine dish, is superb here. This is much more than a typical strip mall eatery.

Cosí 30995 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-538-9700; $: Cosí has good food and an atmosphere the company calls "eclectic," serving good, filling sandwiches on crisp flat bread, including smoked turkey and brie, smoked salmon and goat cheese, grilled chicken with tomato, basil and mozzarella, and roast beef and caramelized onions. Pizzas are divided into "red pies" and "white pies," the latter without tomato sauce. The pizzas are also baked on the flat bread. You can get a salad pizza, though, which has chopped lettuce, etc., on top. Cosí makes a good caramel hazelnut steamer served in a huge white cup. The usual doctored coffees are available from 7 a.m. on.

Culinary Studies Institute at Oakland Community College 27055 Orchard Lake Rd., at I-696, Building J, Farmington Hills; 248-522-3700; $: The Culinary Studies Institute at Oakland Community College is turning out aspiring chefs while offering the lunch-loving public bargain meals that will effectively derail productivity for the rest of the afternoon. If you can adapt your schedule to the Institute's limited hours of operation and tolerate its plasticware, you can sample both contemporary dishes and some old favorites dressed up for extra credit. 

Diamond Jim Brady's Bistro 26053 Town Center, Novi; 248-380-8460; $$: Named after the railroad tycoon, Diamond Jim Brady's Bistro started as a bar and hamburger joint; it's celebrating its 47th year in business, and its 10th year in the Novi Town Center. The menu begins with bar food ("I still say we have the best burger around," says executive chef Mary Brady) but it goes on in all kinds of interesting directions, such as sweet potato burritos, shepherd's pie, and fresh fish. A full bar and a reasonably priced wine list, plus imported beers, homemade soups and classic dessert selections round out the menu.

Don's of Traverse City 48730 Grand River Ave., Novi; 248-380-0333; $: A spin-off of the original Don's in Traverse City, this wannabe '50s diner manages to pull off its vintage look. Hand-patted burgers, shakes and malts are accompanied by Elvis on the jukebox.

Gourmet Garden 27626 Middlebelt Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-474-8183; $$: Start with a steamed vegetable dumpling, move on to the cold smoked duck appetizer, then try the soft-shell crab with garlic sauce or the Chinese eggplant stuffed with minced shrimp. This food isn't overly Americanized, and adventurous (and stubbornly persistent) American customers can demand a taste of genuine Chinese fare.

Greene's Restaurant 24155 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington; 248-474-7980; $: The menu tops out at $1.61 for a double cheeseburger. The hamburgers are small and kinda greasy, but flavorful. Are they better than burgers at Big Boy or Wendy's a couple doors down? No.

Hong Hua Fine Chinese Dining 27925 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-489-2280; $$: At Hong Hua, widely regarded as the best in the area, diners will enjoy the fare without being knocked off their feet. The restaurant's decor has more of a fine-dining than a Chinese feel. It's elegant to look at, with its curving lines of cherry wood and tasteful paintings of flowers. The shredded duck and mushroom soup comes highly recommended. The Szechuan hot and sour soup is another winner, more complex and flavorful than hot, it actually seems a bit sweet. An excellent entrée is eggplant in chili sauce. The mu-shu pork is tasty if not overly interesting, slightly sweet and crisped-up by the shredded cabbage that's used. Dessert can be peppermint or ginger ice cream, or translucent lychees served on ice. Offers a full complement of fried rices, chow meins and lo meins, along with all the dishes found at corner Chinese restaurants throughout America.

House of India 28841 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-553-7391; $: Imagine a restaurant where you can enjoy a four course meal and spend only $10.70. Dishes are mild or spicy, mouth-watering, fresh and flavorful. For mild, try lamb sagwala (with spinach); for hot, stuffed bhindi (okra and onions). Best bet: mango lassi (with buttermilk).

Kabuki 28972 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-538-0664; $$: Kabuki serves a variety of Japanese and Korean specialties, including shabu-shabu (a classic Japanese fondue-type dish with meat and vegetables self-cooked in boiling water, served with dipping sauces) and bibimbap (a Korean dish served in a stone bowl, with rice, meat, vegetables and egg). A wide assortment of sushi and sashimi is also offered - many of the sushi rolls are the inventions of chef and owner K.J. Lee.

Mezza Mediterranean Grille 42050 Grand River Ave., Novi, 248-349-7770; $$: A new entry into the Middle Eastern mini-chain category, Mezza has all the usual classics at bargain prices, and with larger than usual servings. Looks like you can throw a rock and hit the nearest location too.

Moe's on Ten Seafood Grill 39455 W. 10 Mile Rd., Novi; 248-478-9742; $$: Chef Gary Tottis says he prepares the freshest possible fish in a simple way, then complements it with a light salsa that doesn't mask the flavor of the fish. A couple appetizers have an Asian edge: tuna sashimi and lobster-shrimp spring rolls. Lemon sole is lightly breaded and served with a lemony sauce flavored with dill and scattered with capers. Other treats include Chilean sea bass with green tomato salsa, halibut with mango chutney, salmon with hearts of palm salsa, mahi mahi with pineapple salsa, crab cakes with pico de gallo.

New Sahara 29222 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-851-1122; $$: How is a Chaldean restaurant different from the more familiar Lebanese? Many dishes are the same, but owners Saad and Zeana Attisha add, for example, pickled cabbage, purshee, that's served to everyone as a starter, plus some tomato-based stews. And their daily specials are Iraqi favorites: burgul (bulgur wheat) on Tuesdays; biryani on Wednesdays (like Indian biryani but less spicy, with rice, chicken, beef and potatoes); pacha on weekends. New Sahara does better on the traditional side dishes than on the meat and poultry entrées. Grape leaves, fattoush, kibbeh and tabbouleh are available - as well as cheese sticks, fried mushrooms and wings.

No. VI Chop House & Lobster Bar 27790 Novi Rd., Novi; 248-305-5210; $$$: As plush a steak and seafood house as can be found in the area, this one offers top-of-the-line fare in a darkly sophisticated setting. All of the meats are prime, from the filet mignon to the veal chop. The seafood bar in the separate, adjoining cocktail lounge offers an alternative with its oysters on the half-shell and impressive lobsters.

Pallas Restaurant and Lounge 27909 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-553-9013; $$: Pallas' take on Chinese dining is Americanized (the menu calls squid "calamari" and you'll have to ask for chopsticks), but the flavors are Asian and the accomodations luxurious. Traditionally labor-intensive peking duck gets a streamlined but delicious treatment: it's roasted, cut into 120 slices, dipped into a sauce (plum or hoisin), then set on a thin pancake and garnished with cucumber and scallions. Other winning dishes include an eggplant hot pot, served bubbling hot in a covered earthenware bowl with strips of eggplant and in a gingery sauce. Don't ignore Pallas' classic appetizers, either: spring rolls, creamy crab Rangoon and barbecue ribs are all crowd pleasers.

Priya 36600 Grand River Ave., Farmington Hills; 248-615-7700; $$: Walking into Farmington Hills' Priya Restaurant & Bar, a sister restaurant to Priya in Troy, the Indian-style decoration and art make guests feel as though they actually are in India. Chef Sukhdev Singh specializes in various kinds of Indian dishes, but is especially talented with northern Indian dishes. His special palak daneer and chicken tikka masala are both popular. Owner Ravi Mandava recommends the chicken Shangri-La, masala dosa and tandoori chicken. Vegetarian dishes, such as vegetable masala and navratan koorma, are also good choices. A daily lunch buffet, featuring more than 13 items, is served between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Bar, banquet rooms and dance floor are available.

Ristorante Cafe Cortina 30715 W. 10 Mile Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-474-3033; $$$$: Perhaps because of its somewhat off-the-beaten-track location, or maybe because the price structure has been higher than most other comparable restaurants, this place has never gotten much notice beyond its hard-core fans. The fresh pastas and veals, however, are the real thing and the setting - which aims for elegance - does help.

Rojo Mexican Bistro 44375 12 Mile Rd., Suite G-147, Novi; 248-374-4600; $$: Though it's fairly simple to locate a Mexican restaurant in metro Detroit, it's not necessarily as easy to get good Mexican food. After you get past the complicated question of authenticity there lie plates and plates of bland and forgettable fare with a side of beans and rice. But at Rojo Mexican Bistro in Novi they're skillfully mixing contemporary and classic Mexican dishes with an eye toward freshness and flavor. 

Shiro 43180 W. Nine Mile Rd., Novi; 248-348-1212; $$: Shiro attempts to balance the opposing cuisines of Japan and France — Japan with its stark simplicity, France with its rich excess. This is an ambitious restaurant, still striving for inner harmony.

Steve & Rocky's 43150 Grand River Ave., Novi; 248-374-0688; $$: Desserts, especially the peach cobbler, are some of the best features of this upscale yet casual fish place. Try the warm chocolate cake with ganache if you've got time to wait — it takes 17 minutes to prepare. Other excellent dishes include the salads, bouillabaisse and roast pork loin. A lower-priced lunch menu makes it an affordable treat.

Tomatoes Apizza 24369 Halsted Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-888-4888; $: If you're looking for a thin-crust, fresh-tasting, garlicky, made-with-high-art pizza, Apizza's ranks with the best in the area. The pies emerge from their brief sojourn in the brick oven irregularly shaped and unequally sliced. Avoiding a mass-produced look is always good, and a variety of big and small slices means that you can match your grab to your satiety level. Yes, there's pepperoni, as well as salami, sausage, ham, crab, anchovies and bacon; add-ons are $1 each on a small pie. Two-thirds of the two Apizzas' business is carry-out. But be warned: this is not pizza for eating in the car on the way home. The olive oil-infused slices can be drippy (which is no criticism). On the other hand, the barn-like Halstead store is not particularly inviting for dining in. The location on 14 Mile Road, I'm told, has booths. Both parlors offer an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., on weekdays that are not holidays. The delivery area is a three- or four-mile radius for $4, and $1/mile beyond that.

Udipi 29210 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-626-6021; $$: Located along a stretch of Orchard Lake Road that is home to several Indian restaurants, Udipi is the only vegetarian one. Unusual and delicious dishes, including vada, a savory donut made of lentil flour and dotted with bright green cilantro, and dosa, a crêpe made of rice flour, filled to overflowing with tomatoes, potatoes and onions. House-made naan too.

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