Grand River runs through it

2Booli Fresh Mediterranean Eats 37610 W. 12 Mile Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-994-0614; $: At 2Booli, they pull together several cultures around the Mediterranean: Bruschetta, polenta, fritto misto, clam linguine, and a meatball sub share the menu with tabbouleh and falafel. Almost everything at 2Booli is made in-house. Both versions of 2Booli's lentil soup are wonderful. Grape leaves are stuffed with ground beef, and beef is much more common on the menu than lamb. Even the traditional lamb strips served over hummus and sprinkled with pine nuts become a beef dish, and the kafta is made from beef. For now diners can get lamb shanks or chops, among the pricier items. The slow-cooked shanks are tender and very large. And the combination platter includes beef and chicken kebabs, kafta, grape leaves, grilled vegetables and lots of rice pilaf. Not only does 2Booli have a full bar, but also a happy hour that lasts all evening long, Monday through Friday. Draughts are $2.50, margaritas and martinis are $4, and featured wines of the week are also about $4, or $12-$15 a bottle.

Ajishin Sushi & Noodle 42270 Grand River Ave., Novi; 248-380-9850; $$: Tucked away off of Grand River in one of Novi's countless unremarkable strip malls, Ajishin literally packs them in to their small but comfortable seating area consisting of about a dozen tabletops and an L-shaped bar behind which chefs cut and roll and pat rice into small, football-shaped bites. There are bamboo screens on the windows. The walls are painted a textured gray with flecks of pink. Weathered-looking wood divides some of the main seating, and a narrow column of fieldstones support the middle of the room. There are a couple $15 and $20 assorted sushi plate deals on the menu, but soup lovers have special reason to rejoice: Ajishin's udon soup is extraordinary, and there are all sorts of add-ons. There are also a few cold noodle dishes where the flavor of soba comes through better. Arashi combines soba, grated yam, seaweed and green onion in a tangy dressing for a deep, almost smoky noodle salad. Open 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Monday; closed Tuesdays.

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  choice. If you're worried about curry turning into an atomic bomb in your stomach, have no fear: The café offers seven different levels of zest, from no spices to extra hot. 

BD's Mongolian Barbeque  43155 Main St., Suite 200, Novi; 248-735-1900; $: Choices include a variety of meats, poultry, and seafood; many different vegetables, oils, and sauces; and lots of spices. Watch as the chefs prepare your order. You pick it, they wok it, you eat it. It's a winning formula that works 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. Chicken hyderabadi is a southern specialty cooked in cashew, cream and poppy seed gravy. 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, crêpes); 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 37652 Twelve Mile Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-489-9126; $: 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. Flatbread pizzas are divided into "red pies" and "white pies," the latter without tomato sauce. 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 26503 Town Center Dr., Novi; 248-380-8460; $$: Named after the railroad tycoon, Diamond Jim Brady's Bistro started as a bar and hamburger joint. Now, 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, squash ravioli, 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.

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

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup  32407 Northwestern Hwy., Farmington Hills; 248-626-6767; $: Winner of our critic's pick for "Best New Idea or Best New Comfort Food," chef-owner Jeffrey McArthur delivers good food, though not the style served at Tribute, one of the restaurants where he got his chops. The most expensive item on the menu is a $9 soft-shell crab salad. Ten soups change daily — naturally the tomato bisque is tops. There are — nine grilled cheese sandwiches and six baguette sandwiches. "Comfy Stuff" includes mac and cheese, pot roast, meatloaf, chicken pie and beef stew, each priced at $7. There are salads — Maurice, Caesar, Tuna Nicoise, Cobb among them. This place is packed at lunchtime, as it should be.

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 Americanized Japanese and Korean fare, 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.

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. Lake Superior Whitefish is flash fried in Japanese bread crumbs and served over a lemon butter sauce. Other treats include swordfish with pineapple salsa, parmesan encrusted halibut, yellow fin tuna with red pepper sauce and 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, plus some tomato-based stews. And their daily specials are Iraqi favorites: burgul (bulgur wheat) on Tuesdays; biryani (like Indian biryani but less spicy, with rice, chicken, beef and potatoes) on Wednesdays; pacha on weekends. As in many Middle Eastern restaurants, portions are large. Leftovers are unavoidable. A dinner for two can serve a total of five. A small hummus starter is more than enough to derail three people's dinners. Soups are admirable: a nutty lentil and a very lemony chicken lemon rice, thick and neon yellow. Falafel are a pretty pale green inside and properly crunchy without. The baba ghanoush and hummus are served with a lovely golden pool of olive oil in the center, a clever addition and perfect for dipping with the hot, puffed-up pitas. The baba is especially smoky and rich. Grape leaves, fattoush, kibbeh and tabbouleh are available — as well as cheese sticks, fried mushrooms and wings. The original location is 23133 Coolidge, Oak Park, 248-399-7744, and a third is at 3625 E. 15 Mile, Sterling Heights, 586-264-0400.

No. VI Chop House & Lobster Bar 27000 Sheraton., 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.

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 paneer and chicken tikka masala are both popular. Owner Ravi Mandava recommends the masala dosa and tandoori chicken. Vegetarian dishes, such as vegetable masala and navaratan 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-path location, or maybe because the price structure has been higher than most other comparable restaurants, this place has never gotten much notice beyond its hardcore 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 features a bevy of high quality Japanese choices from the dinner menu in addition to a sushi bar. This is an ambitious restaurant, still striving for inner harmony.

Steve & Rocky's 43150 Grand River Ave., Novi; 248-374-0688; $$: This upscale yet casual fish place offers every type of catch you can think of, including its special stuffed lemon sole. 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). The parlor offers 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.

Special thanks to editorial intern David Uberti for his assistance compiling these listings. If you see any errors or inaccuracies, let us know! Send e-mails to [email protected].

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