I’m always up for trying a new restaurant. It’s actually become one of my favorite things to do, and with all the openings in Detroit and the rest of the area, that’s a very good thing.
Pao quietly entered the Detroit dining scene not too long ago. It’s still keeping things a bit on the down low as it hones its food, drink, service, and ambiance.
One thing it’s clear Pao has on lock the moment you walk in is ambiance. This open, two story restaurant is rather breathtaking, perhaps the coolest, most unique in the area. It even has a bar on each of the two levels. Chairs and tables are sleek and comfortable.
Our server was nice, though I wish he knew a bit more about the menu. He was confused on a few of the items and had to check with the kitchen about many others. When the server is confused about the food, it only leads to more confusion. Also odd was the fact that he was the dessert menu. That’s right, nothing had been printed. Options were also limited, but I’m jumping ahead. Always have dessert on my brain 😀
Pao considers itself a champagne house. When self-appointing a spot as such, some more obscure glass pours would be welcome. We had actually had a cocktail at Vertical before heading to Pao and were so impressed by their list of champagne and wine glass pours. I, for example, tried Tattinger Comtes de Champagne, something I would most likely not have had the chance to try otherwise.
By the way, sitting on the patio at Vertical pretty much without a care in the world and a glass of champagne in my hand may have been one of my favorite moments all summer so far. Hey, it’s not over yet!
My and mom’s margaritas were served up instead of on the rocks, relatively unbalanced, and I sucked up a large piece of salt through the straw, so that was a miss, though the Blushing Buddha was enjoyed by one of our friends.
The sashimi was presented beautifully with fresh vegetables, wasabi, and pickled ginger. The toro and salmon were fresh and decadent. I would definitely recommend checking out this section of the menu on a visit to Pao.
The King Crab Truffle Gnocchi was one of the biggest hits of the night. Dad commented it just might be better than the famous crab tagliatelle from Parc. It’s presented beautifully too with an artistic smear of beet puree on the plate.
The carrot ginger soup was another big hit with its clean and pure flavor. However, the raw carrot strings hiding in the bottom were a somewhat unwelcome surprise. Perhaps a salad on top would be more eye appealing.
Perfectly seared and unbelievably tender diver scallops were marred slightly by two sauces, one mint-cilantro-basil, the other sweet chili, that fought each other. Those are some seriously strong flavors that messed with the delicate scallop just a bit too much.
The wild mushroom side was just missing something to give it flavor. Perhaps it was that there wasn’t much that was wild about the button or portobello mushrooms. On the other hand the heirloom carrots were practically a revelation. Tiny, colorful carrots were coated with a delicate honey glaze. I only wish there had been more of them.
It’s become my “thing” to order a tomahawk just about every time I see one on a menu, so when I saw a Wagyu on Pao’s, I couldn’t resist. I’m so glad I didn’t. We all fell in love with the deep, complex flavor and melt in your mouth texture of the perfectly cooked steak, complemented by garlic chips and a sauce. They forgot the shishito peppers, but brought them promptly when I noted this. We all enjoyed those as well.
The filet sliders are another stellar shareable appetizer or solo entrée. Topped with slaw, fried shallots, and sauce, they were devoured quickly.
The 48-hour lamb lollipops were a slight miss, mostly because they were overcooked. Considering the steak was so well cooked, this surprised me.
We opted to skip dessert since we were satisfied, heading to another spot (the Detroit Athletic Club and its killer views!!), and the options weren’t spiking our interest.
I think it’s good Pao is taking things slow to make sure they have it figured out when they push a full opening to the masses. They have some seriously tasty food, but some misses too. There are kinks to work out, but with some effort, I know they can do it, and I hope they do. With that amazing location and the beginnings of some great food, I want to see them on this dining scene for a long time.