PAO Detroit offers Asian fusion cuisine alongside elegant decor that preserves Detroit architectural history.

Photos courtesy of PAO Facebook

An elegant décor that preserves Detroit architectural history awaits visitors to PAO Detroit. Open in July after three years of construction-remodeling, the restaurant- lounge overlooks the north side of Downtown’s Grand Circus Park.

The restaurant group Prime Concepts Detroit created PAO, offering Asian fusion cuisine in the adjoining lobby of the former Oriental Theater. The fabulous movie palace that seated more than 2,600 opened in 1926, giving way to a parking lot by the early 1950s.

The Think Shop Architects in Detroit gave PAO a contemporary look with retro charm. The deep, narrow room features tiny white tiles covering columns and the bottom of a new mezzanine. The upper deck is available for private parties and daily dining. Preserved elements include a 30-foot-high green ceiling with rough plaster designs and tall mirrors on distressed, unfinished walls. Green ornamentation above the mirrors and long white curtains at either side lend theatrical flair. Oversized bottles of champagne sit on window ledges. At the front of the house, a black-tiled bar stands where movie tickets were sold.

With PAO, the company sought to create an “environment that makes people feel happy and want to come back,” said co-owner Stolion Liti.

The service is excellent and water glasses are kept filled. We were pleased to accept complimentary flutes of the Italian white wine, Prosecco. That’s because of the gracious PAO courtesy of “greeting every guest with a toast of sparkling wine,” Liti said.

“We focus on bubbles — sparkling wine from Spain and Italy, and champagne from France and Japanese whiskey,” he said. Handcrafted cocktails are also popular.

Working with Liti, Executive Chef Alex Farhat created a menu of artistically presented, upscale food. PAO offers guests the shared plates-style of dining. As Liti explained, “They can enjoy different types of flavors in different dishes, without having to order too little or too much.”

Vegetables, Sashimi, Sea and Land are the menu categories. My friend Roberta and I both liked our Carrot & Ginger Soup, listed under Vegetables. Garnished with microgreens, the pureed soup’s delicate flavor was punched up nicely by ginger.

We shared Cauliflower Lettuce Wraps, glad to forgo carbs. They contained cauliflower rice, peanut sauce, lime and cilantro. Chicken may be requested. Three wraps come per order, so we ordered an extra. Best was the large Asian Crab Cake we split. Including crab, shrimp, Japanese Cabbage Pancake and Sriracha Aioli, this crab cake offered a unique taste.

Liti said the most popular PAO entrees are creamy and garlicky King Crab Gnocchi, 48-Hour Lamb Lollipops in Mongolian Marinade, Miso Chilean Sea Bass in parchment and Tuna Tacos, served with Pica de Gallo and Sambal Aioli.

In addition to PAO Detroit, the seven-year-old Prime Concepts Detroit operates Prime29 Steakhouse and NARA in West Bloomfield and W Dine inside Wabeek Country Club in Bloomfield Hills.

PAO opens at 4 p.m. daily, except 3 on Sunday.

PAO Detroit
114 W. Adams, Detroit
(313) 816-0000
paodetroit.com
$$$ out of $$$$

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