French Restaurants Detroit

Marais' chef/owner David Gilbert has brought world-class, top-end dining to Detroit.

By Christopher Cook

frequent lament heard among serious food enthusiasts is that there are no restaurants in Detroit that reach the hyper-perfection of Per Se or Daniel in New York, Alinea in Chicago, or the French Laundry in the Napa Valley.

We have some reasonably good grills, brasseries, steakhouses, bistros, and seafood and ethnic restaurants, but when it comes to top-end fine dining, there is almost nothing.

Well, the wringing of hands can now stop.

Barely six months old, Marais, the elegant and sensational new Grosse Pointe restaurant, at last reaches the level of fine dining of other cities.

It is also the return of a kind of dining missing here for many years. Marais has quickly and comfortably slipped into the robe of being one of the best — possibly even the best — in the area.

Marais has that rare combination of precision, skill, care, confidence, execution, and vision. Its menu is contemporary French-based, modern haute cuisine. The food is sublime.

The restaurant, owned by Executive Chef David Gilbert and his wife and General Manager Monica Gilbert, is gorgeous with soft warm gray walls, one of which displays large framed photographs of old European kitchens. Blond-grayish light hickory flooring and a combination of baroque chandeliers, wall lamps, and soft modern crystal lighting lend Marais a welcoming plushness.

From some seats in the dining room, there's a glimpse into the open kitchen, which, with its bright industrial lighting, becomes a kind of staged theater. For a closer look at the action, there's a plate-glass window to one side of the kitchen near a little shop. The shop sells some of the hard-to-find ingredients used in various dishes, plus wine and house-made French macaroons.

The last time anything this exciting opened in the Detroit area was in the 1980s, when Jimmy Schmidt, then a boy-wonder chef barely out of his teens, launched the Rattlesnake Club in the midst of the national intrigue with new American brasserie style of dining.

Certainly, Detroit has had — and still has — white-linen, fine dining restaurants, but as a breed, the genre has been waddling toward extinction for many years.

The survivors include The Lark in West Bloomfield Township, the last to set a higher bar for fine dining in the 1980s, along with Rugby Grille in Birmingham and The Hill in Grosse Pointe Farms. But the others died, one by one: Golden Mushroom, Moveable Feast, Emily's, Chez Raphael, Vineyard, Il Posto, and Excalibur, to name a few.

Until now, there have been a few radar blips, such as Clawson's delightful Due Venti, but nothing that approaches Marais' level of dining.

THE YOUNG TURKS

Marais is one of a handful of restaurants only recently opened by a small group of Young Turk chefs.

Determined to reconfigure and advance all forms, not just fine dining, they loosely represent the start of what may be a movement.

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Q&A

avatar
Are there any good french restaurants in metro detroit?

I only want 3 star or better

Tribute in Farmington Hills is French/ Continental, but it is an exquisite restaurant. Amazing service, wonderful food, and desserts to die for.
Opus One in Detroit is French and is almost as wonderful.
Jeremy in Keego Harbor is not exactly French, but it has a lot French dishes on the menu. The restaurant isn't quite as beautiful as the other two, but the prices aren't as high either. The chef is a former Tribute chef. One of my favorite places to go for a really nice, but not break the bank dinner.