The newly-opened Zao Jun in Bloomfield Hills is a casual Asian spot headed by Executive Chef Lloyd Roberts.
Open to the public since May 6, Zao Jun, replacing a Bagger Dave’s in Bloomfield Plaza, is already shaping up to be a hit. I like the Asian restaurant’s whimsical decor, affordable prices and late dining hours. Staying open until 11 on Friday and Saturday nights is convenient for anyone hungry or thirsty after watching a film at the Maple Theater around the corner.
Most of all, I’m very pleased with Zao Jun’s food, always the make-it-or-break-it element for new eateries. Executive Chef Lloyd Roberts, born in Jamaica and raised in New York, has traveled widely and worked at many prestigious restaurants, including Nobu Budapest. He created Zao Jun’s menu of mostly shareable Pan-Asian cuisine, featuring the tastes of Thailand, China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan.
Roberts and general manager David Kraus, a Detroit native, started together last year at Adachi, a fine-dining Japanese restaurant housed in a historic Birmingham mansion. Chef Michael Schlow and his Boston-based Schlow Restaurant Group sold both properties, including the future Zao Jun, to Adachi’s local developers Clint Mansour and Kenny Koza, and the latter’s brothers, Carlo and Derek Koza. Roberts and Kraus split their time between Adachi and Zao Jun.
Entering Zao Jun, my eyes were drawn to framed photographs of “cool people,” a lemongrass-colored wall behind the display. Some seating is also the fresh lemongrass color. Light fixtures are metal in geometric shapes. Five slanting towers of open-frame, wood “boxes” separate the bar and dining room. Another dining space features high-top tables and down the hall is an enclosed, private room. The atmosphere here is casual and family-friendly.
To accompany my first meal, I ordered the Thai Iced Tea I saw other guests drinking. The orange-brown beverage is a blend of black tea, sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, cardamom and other spices. The taste is creamy and not overly sweet.
Organic edamame on the menu’s “Commence” list are another treat. Steamed and topped with sea salt is good, but I preferred the pleasantly spicy edamame stir-fried with chili garlic, ginger and a not-noticeable oyster sauce.
Under the “Dim Sum” heading, my friend Debbie and I happily shared Crispy Money Bags — minced chicken with cilantro and green onion in an edible pouch tied with seaweed. A sweet chili dipping sauce accompanies.
“Hot” choices include Crispy Rock Shrimp. I’ve ordered this dish twice, and it’s almost addictive. Meat lovers should enjoy flavorful Gochujang Marinated Lamb Chops. It’s one of eight “Asian Grill” choices.
Stir-fried Red Snapper is among the “Main Flavors.” Other menu categories include “Noodles & Rice,” “New Asian Creations,” “Today’s Fresh Fish,” “New Style Sashimi,” “Vegetarian Sushi” and “Hand and Cut Rolls.”
Creamy Burrata & Crispy Eggplant Salad with Yuzu Truffle dressing is another dish I want to try.
Lunch service starts at 11 a.m. weekdays at Zao Jun (Chinese for “kitchen god”). Specialty cocktails and international beer, wine and saki selections are available.
6608 Telegraph Road
$$ out of $$$$