On Trend

February 3, 2016

Local restaurants sharewhat’s hot for dinner in 2016.

By Susan Peck

Over the last decade, restaurant diners have become savvier, with urbane tastes for ingredients that used to throw them for a loop like bone marrow, pork belly, sunchokes, orange wine and the ever-present kale.

“True culinary trends evolve over time,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association. The NRA explored top menu trends to find which foods, beverages and culinary themes will be hot on restaurant menus in 2016, and our local top chefs are following — and starting some of their own.

Our city’s top restaurateurs agreed it’s all about local sourcing or getting produce and other menu items from farmers in our area. That and going with a healthier or “cleaner” menu, free of preservatives, hormones and additives, and more accent on “root to stem” — or whole vegetables — are what’s driving current menu choices.

Veg-centric Cuisine Trends

Say hello to “Vegetable Forward” menus. Increasingly, local chefs are doing a role reversal — using meat or fish as the side, not as the main act on the plate. Proprietor Bill Roberts of the Roberts Restaurant Group that includes Metro Detroit’s Streetside Seafood, Beverly Hills Grill, Town Tavern, Roadside B&G, Bill’s and Cafe ML believes we’ve reached a tipping point for vegetables.

“At a few of the restaurants, we’re experimenting with menu options that are pushing animal protein to the side of the plate and highlighting fresh, seasonal vegetables as the main dish,” Roberts said. “And it’s been very well received.”

RRG executive Chef Patrick Roettele is concentrating on creating the healthier balance guests want, using seasonal produce and coupling it with local boutique ingredients like a bourbon-and-maple-infused sauce or other artisan delicacies with a unique story.

“We don’t use any hocus pocus or try to turn our kitchen into a science lab by using molecular techniques and other high-tech methods, but rather just use the highest-quality organic foods prepared with the utmost care and consistency,” Roettele said. “That’s what creates a fine dining experience.”

Another eco-friendly trend picking up speed is the “zero waste” approach, offering menu options using lesser-utilized vegetable parts, such as broccoli leaf, kale stems and romaine hearts.

“We can create a fabulous salad that’s a full meal with fresh ingredients like ancient grains, natural vegetables and hybrids like broccolini, kalettes [Brussell sprouts and kale] and rainbow carrots,” Roettele said.

Under The Sea

Another trend, environmentally sustainable catches — or using everything in a catch — has opened the door for local chefs to be creative while helping the ecosystem. Roettele said he introduces underutilized fish varieties like opah, ono, wahoo, skate and amberjack to their menus, particularly at Streetside Seafood. But he has one cautionary note. “I have to couple them with other familiar ingredients or put them in something like a fish taco with guacamole, grilled vegetable salsa and pineapple mojo, then our guests will feel comfortable ordering them,” he said. “If we ease them into something new, they end up really enjoying it.”

Crave restaurant in Ferndale uses exotic seafood for its eclectic menu, another trend for 2016. How about hamachi, conch, salmon or octopus carpaccio instead of beef? Or urchin shooters topped with avocado sorbet, mango and citrus sesame that Crave chef Jian Li Hass said, “You have to eat at least three times before you acquire the taste, and then you crave it.”

The Ferndale and Dearborn Crave restaurants are also known for their array of fabulous sushi, including a different spin with their Makimono Mediterranean-infused favorites like grilled vegetable, tuna crunch and rock ’n’ roll.

“Couple the seafood with one of our standout salads like our hot yellow and red beet and goat cheese salad or the Brussel sprouts with lime citrus and parmesan cheese and you have something that’s healthy and beyond delicious, a trend that never goes out,” Hass said.

Amazing Authentic Ethnic Fare   

You don’t have to get your passport stamped to taste amazing international cuisine — a mainstay trend for 2016. Some of the best authentic ethnic eats can be found in Metro Detroit, including popular and healthy Middle-Eastern restaurants like the Lebanese Mezza restaurant in Bloomfield Hills.

According to proprietor Louann Saleh, the seven Mezza restaurants serve only authentic Lebanese food with a creative take on some of the traditional favorites. “One of our signature dishes is the tomato kibbeh, an alternative to the traditional ground beef or lamb recipe,” Saleh said. “It’s perfect for vegetarians and those wanting a healthier choice.”

Other creative and health-conscious selections are their Romaine Almond Rice Salad and the Spinach Shrimp Saute, both using authentic Lebanese spices and olive oil.

Trendy Craft Cocktails, Burgers

Along with craft beers, specialty craft cocktails are all the rage with mixologists who use the freshest ingredients, homemade mixers and premium liquors as well as proper ice — yes, this can really make a difference. These drinks may be more work, but the end result is a fresh and flavorful mixture that’s worth all the effort.

Crispelli’s in West Bloomfield has a full craft bar mixing up sought-after cocktails like the popular Moscow Mule — a blend of vodka, spicy ginger beer and fresh lime served in a copper mug that may be as popular for the flavor as the cool mug it’s served in. When someone orders a Moscow Mule, curiosity spreads like wildfire and soon the whole room is sprinkled with the penny-colored mugs.

“We also have an amazing craft Italian Margarita made with amaretto almond liquor, tequila, sweet and sour mix served over ice, and specialty martinis and Cosmos that change weekly,” Morelli said.

Aside from craft cocktails, Crispelli’s has craft burgers with specialty ingredients — seen on a growing number of elite menus today. Morelli said two favorites are the burger with crispy fried onions, remoulade sauce and white cheddar, and the truffle mayonnaise burger with melted Swiss cheese.

Clubhouse BFD (Beer, Food, Drink) in Rochester Hills is known for its craft beer, but you won’t want to miss the craft burgers. Try the “Italian Stallion” (Genoa salami, ham, chorizo, provolone, lettuce, tomato and Italian vinaigrette on a baguette) or, if you can handle heat, “The Remedy,” which is topped with a fried egg, cheddar cheese, guacamole, bacon and Cholula hot sauce on sourdough. You can also create your own burger if none of the combinations on the menu suit your fancy.

The craft burger everyone raves about at Roast in the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit is the Symon burger, which includes fried bologna, pickles, onion, cheddar cheese and special sauce. If that’s not to your taste, try the Roast burger (bacon, cheddar, fried egg, pickled onion) instead. NS

If You Go

Streetside Seafood: 273 Pierce St., Birmingham, (248) 645-9123. www.streetsideseafood.com

Bill’s: 39556 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills, (248) 646-9000, www.billsbloomfieldhills.com

Cafe ML: 3607 W. Maple Road , Bloomfield Township, (248) 642-4000, www.cafeml.com

Beverly Hills Grill: 31471 Southfield Road, Beverly Hills, (248) 642-2355, www.beverlyhillsgrill.com

Town Tavern: 116 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak, (248) 544-7300, www.towntavernroyaloak.com

Roadside B&G: 1727 S. Telegraph Road. Bloomfield Township, (248) 858-7270 , www.roadsidebandg.com

Roast: 1128 Washington Blvd., Detroit, (313) 961-2500, www.roastdetroit.com

Clubhouse BFD: 2265 Crooks Road, Rochester Hills, (248) 289-6093 , www.chbfd.com

Crispelli’s: 6690 Orchard Lake Road, West Bloomfield Township, (248) 254-4760, crispellis.com

Mezza Mediterranean Grille: Various Locations, www.mezzagrille.com

Ferndale Crave: 22726 Woodward Ave., (248) 398-4070, cravelounge.com

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