Detroit Free Press
Parc restaurant debuts in Campus Martius on Monday
By Detroit standards, it happened quickly: Parc is set to debut Monday in Campus Martius Park, just nine months after Zaid Elia and Matthew Shiffman purchased the former Fountain Bistro.
The new fine-dining restaurant in the heart of the city has an accomplished leadership team in place and bold ambitions to "set the standard for dining in Detroit."
At the same time, the partners aren't overthinking their approach.
"We're just two guys who love food and want to create something for the city of Detroit that's vibrant," Shiffman, 32, said during an exclusive Free Press preview of the restaurant Wednesday.
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That's downplaying it a bit, considering the wide net the two real estate developers cast when searching for a chef to head up the kitchen. A national recruiter led them to Adrian native and Las Vegas veteran Jordan Hoffman.
"We interviewed over 25 chefs," said Elia, 38, who is also co-owner of 220 Merrill in Birmingham. "But he had a complete understanding of both the culinary and the business side."
Hoffman, a Schoolcraft College grad who went on to work for Joel Robuchon, was looking for a chance to get back home to Michigan where he could cook food inspired by the meals he grew up on.
And that's exactly what he's set out to do at Parc.
"It's definitely rooted in the Midwest," Hoffman, 35, said of the restaurant's nearly 30-dish dinner menu. "My food memories all come from here. It's flavors layered through time, attention, love and detail."
Those Midwestern roots are underpinned with French and Italian techniques that show up in dishes like the steak and eggs appetizer ($12) — three cubes of braised short rib hugging a runny 60-degree sous vide egg that oozes together with parsley puree underneath, all shrouded in a cloud of porcini foam.
Other starters include pitch perfect yellowtail crudo with grapefruit, tarragon oil, puffed grains and salmon roe ($13) and wood-roasted oysters with seaweed butter, bacon, crispy kale and pickled shallots ($16).
Main dishes — entrees, no small plates here — include a selection of pastas, fish and wood-grilled meats. Meats also boast a sub-section of "reserve steaks" that are dry-aged and specially selected for Parc by Fairway Packing in Eastern Market. These might include a 16-ounce Imperial Wagyu bone-in New York strip or a 40-ounce Creekstone Prime tomahawk ribeye, as well as lesser-known cuts from Michigan purveyors.
For a 400-square-foot kitchen, the menu is both ambitious and ample.
"We've got a menu that checks a lot of boxes," Hoffman said. "It's approachable to anyone who walks in the door. We're not reinventing any wheels. It's food that's familiar but with little surprises."
There's also a dedicated pastry chef, Tori Parnell, who creates the desserts and specialty breads daily.
For food of this caliber, prices are relatively gentle thanks to the fact that Elia and Shiffman are the official food and beverage partners of Campus Martius Park. (They run the seasonal Fountain Detroit restaurant and the concessions at the ice-skating rink during the winter. Both help to subsidize Parc's food costs.)
The new restaurant also aims to up the ante on the beverage side.
"One of the things we want to be a leader in is wine," said manager Theo Oresky.
To that end, Parc recruited Dennis Payne, another Michigan native with a hospitality pedigree who moved back to his native state to open the new restaurant. Payne is an advanced sommelier and wine industry veteran who spent most of his career in Arizona.
His wine list spans the globe and will include both approachable pours by the glass (about 30 varieties), as well as boutique-y collectors' bottles, like the high-scoring 2013 Joseph Phelps Insignia or multiple varieties of Kosta Browne.
Two Cruvinet systems flank the main dining room, each holding 240 bottles, and there's also a Vinotemp cooler for 82 to 86 white varieties. That doesn't include the basement wine vault, either.
There'll be a focus on service and engagement, Oresky said, whether it's through special wine dinners or through technology.
Parc aims to build a database on individual customer preferences, keeping track of likes and dislikes so that the experience can be tailored for future visits.
"If you like branzino, we'll know you like branzino," explained Oresky. "It'll feel natural and non-intrusive."
At least two New York restaurants have influenced Parc: the legendary Tavern on the Green with its Central Park location and floor-to-ceiling windows and the Wayfarer a few blocks away. A number of design cues came from Wayfarer, including marquee lights, the silvery color palette and the same hexagonal lattice that separates a private dining room.
Elia and Shiffman also point to St. Cecilia in Atlanta as inspiration for Parc's openness, round booths and long bar, which seats about 14 out of a total of 134 seats inside.
In addition to a complete redesign of the former Fountain Bistro by Detroit-based Neumann/Smith Architecture and Chicago's Knauer Incorporated, the partners also added an additional 1,400 square feet onto the front of the old facade and encased the whole thing in NanaWall windows that offer 270-degree views of downtown Detroit. They'll open in the summer to the park and the warm breeze.
For the first few weeks, Parc will open at 3 p.m. for happy hour ($5 beers, $6 wines, $7 cocktails, $7 bites), with dinner service beginning at 5 p.m. Lunch and brunch will be added in mid-December.
Oh, and about that odd spelling?
The partners say it's an homage to Detroit's French roots.
Parc, 800 Woodward Ave. inside Campus Martius Park. 313-922-7272; parcdetroit.com.
Contact Mark Kurlyandchik: 313-222-5026 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mkurlyandchik and Instagram: mkurlyandchik.