Dining Around The D: The Forest Grill in Birmingham
Your valentine will feel special if you dine out at Forest Grill in Birmingham. And you do want to encourage that, don’t you?
Turns out this place is pretty great for everyone — you, your parents, your kids, your friends, your business associates, too. Award-winning chef/proprietor Brian Polcyn and his executive chef, David Gilbert, both studied under European culinary masters and bring an inventive flair to the bistro’s French, Italian and contemporary American menu. Polcyn’s motto is “Cooking What Nature Provides” and indeed, the cuisine here is fresh and flavorful.
That brings to mind Forest Grill’s bread pudding. It’s just incredible. A cinnamon brioche is baked with bits of dark chocolate, then topped with a scoop of vanilla bean gelato. It’s crusty, comforting and sweet, a perfect melding of warm and cold tastes. Every spoonful is heavenly, and you’ll be done way too soon.
Order the bread pudding a la carte or as a choice on both the Stimulus Lunch Package ($15) or Dinner Package ($30). These prix-fixe meals are a great value, not including tax or gratuity. Diners get to enjoy three courses with a choice of two options — the same list every day.
For starters, at either lunch or dinner, there’s fragrant Tomato Bisque En Croute, a little crock of soup with puff pastry on top. Or, select Baby Heirloom Beet Salad (dinner) or Whole Leaf Caesar Salad (lunch). I went with the Caesar, a pretty plate of hearts of romaine, Hass avocado (it needed more!), garlic croutons, Parmesan chips, Spanish white anchovy and lemon slice on top.
At dinner, the package’s entree (middle) course, is either Spiced Trout Amandine with butter-poached fava beans, almonds and corn pudding; or Veal Cheeks, a tender cut accompanied by Parisian herb-and-Ricotta cheese gnocchi, wilted spinach and tomato.
Forest Grill General Manager Monica Gilbert, married to Chef David, said menus change seasonally but never the Veal Cheeks. “It’s been a perennial favorite since we opened,” she said.
The second course on the Stimulus lunch menu is either Chicken Paillard, topped with wild mushrooms, baby arugula, asparagus, Parmesan, aged balsamic, Parmesan reggiano; or Vegetarian Parisian Gnocchi, served with spring vegetables and wild mushrooms. I appreciated the blended flavors in the simply seasoned grilled chicken dish, though a complete stalk of asparagus would have made it better.
For the third course, the wonderfully silky Chocolate Pot de Creme is the other dessert in either package. All meals served here come with a warm loaf of seeded bread.
The regular Forest Grill menu is no slouch either. It’s highlighted by house-made charcuterie, clay oven-baked pizzas, a raw bar and traditional bistro dishes. Appetizers include black truffle risotto, baked short rib and seared scallop.
For those who enjoy wine and champagne, the Forest Grill’s wine cellar, overseen by Monica Gilbert and Master Sommelier Claudia Tyagi, includes 48 grape varieties from 50 growing regions. Diners may try multiple wine styles in three-ounce portions for the price of a traditional glass of wine.
Forest Grill is located on the ground floor of a modern, brick mixed-use building, 735 Forest, in Birmingham’s so-called triangle neighborhood, east of Woodward and south of Maple. Residents living in the luxury lofts have indoor parking; office suites comprise the second floor. The bistro has a contemporary but plain decor — subdued colors, dark wood floor and tables. Dominating the space are huge windows with shades looking out on Forest and adjacent Elm. Jazz played during my lunchtime visit. Unfortunately, the restroom requires a walk outside the room and down a flight of stairs.
Polcyn, an alumnus of The Lark and the former Golden Mushroom, formerly owned Pike Street Restaurant, Chimayo and Acadia. Since 1995, he’s helmed Five Lakes Grill in Milford. Forest Grill was chosen Detroit Free Press Restaurant of the Year for 2010. Deservedly so.
The Forest Grill
735 Forest Ave.
Birmingham, MI 48009
$$$ out of $$$$
By Esther Allweiss Ingber, Contributing Writer