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New Fountain Bistro offers French flair

This article appeared in The Detroit News
Molly Abraham -- Aug 11, 2011

When the Fountain Bistro opened in Campus Martius Park last summer, it took a few steps up in ambition from the bakery/café, Au Bon Pain, which had been in the space in the center of downtown Detroit since 2004.

Now it has ascended to yet another level. The restaurant that reopened on the last day of June after a three-month hiatus offers more amenities, including a spruced-up setting and a granite-topped, L-shaped bar, a more sophisticated menu with a slight French accent (note the shallot mignonette served with fresh oysters) and greatly expanded hours.

Also in the equation are the fresh faces of a new staff, dressed in the requisite black, and an executive chef, Tyler Herron, who also prefers black to chef's whites, in the new kitchen — not to mention what might be the longest happy hour around, 2-7 p.m.

Fountain Bistro seats 80 indoors and another 80 at small French café-style tables and chairs on the patio that stretches the length of the building under big green market umbrellas and overlooks the 100-jet granite fountain for which it is named.

While it might seem that the patio is pretty much for the warmer months, co-proprietor Jay Lambrecht (whose partners are Matthew and Kevin Morin) says when the ice rink replaces the grass and flowers, they'll welcome skaters with a fire pit and warm drinks.

The upgrade is most notable where it should be — in the quality and creativity of the fare, typified by a salad made with romaine, a croquette of goat cheese, thinly sliced pears and a scattering of walnuts in thyme and lemon-scented vinaigrette, and a croissant sandwich that adds avocado to the classic bacon, lettuce and tomato combination.

Both are among 30 selections available on an all-day menu that is in the process of being divided into separate lunch and dinner menus. For now, there are just four dinner entrees: pan-fried fillet of Michigan lake trout with a hazelnut- brown butter glaze and green beans; seared salmon in sorrel sauce; a New York steak with hand-cut pomme frites; and pan-roasted chicken.

The excellent frites are also on the appetizer list that ranges from steamed Prince Edward Island mussels, crab cakes and lamb sliders to marinated olives.

A popular item is the plump, 8-ounce Angus beef burger served on a brioche bun with a choice of cheeses along with the standard lettuce/tomato/onion accompaniments.

Chef Herron's soup du jour on one occasion was mushroom, served in a decorative white bowl including a few thinly sliced raw mushrooms in a rich puree with a definite heft. He has a nice hand with mushrooms, also offering a wild mushroom sandwich with goat cheese, Brie and frisee on grilled sourdough bread.

Overall, it's a menu the downtown crowd is welcoming in the early going. Given the spurt of activity in downtown Detroit, the revival of the Fountain Bistro is particularly well-timed.

Fountain Bistro
800 Woodward Ave., Detroit
Call: (313) 237-7778
Web: www.fountainbistro.com
Rating: 3 stars
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat., Sun. brunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers $4-$12, soups and salads $5-$12, sandwiches $8-$12, entrees $12-$18, Sunday brunch dishes $6-$14
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Parking: Street, structures or underground
Wheelchair access: No barriers
(313) 222-1475

All images and content courtesy The Detroit News.