Rx: Eat at Puck's

There's probably no better place to warm your buns in Detroit right now than the mod fireplace built into the wall at the bar at the new Wolfgang Puck Grille at the revamped MGM Grand. It's not just decorative — that sucker gets really hot. Add one of their killer cocktails and you'll be toasty and toasted before your meal hits the table.

The celebrity chef's spankin' new hotspot gets my vote right now for the place to eat away your winter malaise.

Puck's Detroit outpost boasts a mix of modern and woodland decor — like Mies van der Rohe meets Grizzly Adams. It sounds odd, but it works. On one had there are antlers (or antler-like replicas) dangling from the ceiling, and yet it's as lively and posh as you'd expect from a star chef's restaurant.

Take or leave the gambling, forget Puck's notoriety, and the WP Grille would still stand out as one of the more exciting food experiences on the downtown scene right now.

If you can't drop the cheddar required for a full dinner there (it is a tad on the expensive side), just go for pizza and appetizers. And many many cocktails.

For the apps, don't overlook the crab cake platter. More crab than cake -- the bite-sized patties have lots of tender chunks of meat, and with a basil and tomato topping that adds bright but not overpowering flavor.

Of the pizzas, I favored the Smoked Salmon Pizza with Crème Fraiche, Fresh Dill and Black Caviar. The crust was crunchy but still chewy -- pizza nirvana. And the fish is smoked in house. Again -- cozy food with an elegant touch. Gotta love it.

Everything we tried was fresh, impeccably prepared and plated with an exquisite eye for detail, which is what I'd expect from Puck.

Also memorable were:
• yellowfin tuna tartare (although I felt it could have used a touch more heat)
• the beef tartare with quail egg and crostini (really cool to order if you have vegetarian friends or have never seen a quail egg)
• tuna sashimi salad (generous amounts of perfectly cut fish, with a crisp and tasty veggie accompaniment)
• and the "Potato and Pecorino Agnolotti with Shaved Parmesan and Truffle Oil." Tiny envelopes of pasta heaven, with fried herbs sprinkled on top, rich but not overly so. Mmmmmmm ... still dreaming about those.

Here's a link to the menu: http://www.mgmgranddetroit.com/restau..

The best cocktail we sampled, and we sampled many, was a passionfruit concoction that was fruity but not too sweet. Also, they mix a superb espresso martini, which proved a nice way to top off the meal.

The Wolfgang Puck Grille certainly didn't inspire me to take a chance on the gambling floor. If I want to kiss my hard-earned pay goodbye I'd just order more tuna tartare and dessert next time.

It did, however, rekindle my affection for dining in the city. Puck's Place is one of the cool new kids on the block, but there are plenty of Detroit favorites that, shamefully, I've somehow missed. How could I have never had dinner at the Roma Cafe? That's just so wrong — it's like that classic piece of literature you skipped somehow in high school, and then again in college, but now sits on your bookshelf in limbo. Sure it's proven to be good, but who hast time?

Well, baby it's cold outside; we've got nothing better to do. Try the Wolfgang Puck Grille, but then try some other Detroit favorites, too. As Mr. Puck would rightly advise: "Live, Love, Eat." And, apparently, get those buns nice and toasty at the same time.

Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey is editor of Model D, and, yes, she sometimes dreams about pasta. Is that so wrong?


Antlers on the Ceiling at Wolfgang's Puck at the MGM Casino

Chef Marc Djozlija with Lamb Chops

Desserts by Pastry Chef Kim Yelland

All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger

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