Less than three months after opening his new Morels Restaurant on Northwestern Highway in Farmington Hills, veteran restaurateur Matt Prentice has begun renovating the building next door -- a casual tavern called RJ's American Grille -- for his upcoming value-driven Detroit Prime steakhouse.
And in the first newsletter for his new company -- Matt Prentice, A Culinary Experience -- he announced plans last week for a third restaurant, Ahi -- a "beautiful but casually upscale" seafood restaurant in a so-far undisclosed location.
Renovations for the steakhouse, at 32769 Northwestern Hwy., are being done without closing RJ's.
To renovate the entire restaurant while still serving customers, Prentice had one-third of the dining area walled off for the initial phase of construction. When that work is done -- probably within a week or so -- he'll shift seating into that area and begin renovations on the remaining two-thirds of the space. He hopes to open Aug. 31.
The new steakhouse's interior by designer Karen Ogden was inspired by the Detroit Historical Museum -- one of Prentice's favorite places for catering parties -- and will include vignettes that pay homage to Detroit landmarks as they were in the 1940s and '50s.
The menu by corporate chef Travis Waynick will use USDA Prime value cuts -- lesser-known cuts such as skirt steak, hanger steak, culottes, brisket and others -- that Prentice says can be wonderful with the right preparations. Waynick has been developing recipes using rubs, marinades, smoking, braising, roasting and other techniques, Prentice says.
"What I'm going to do has never been done," Prentice said this week. "If I can get people to try these things with an open mind, I think they'll like them."
The reason for using the lesser-known cuts is to keep prices lower for customers, Prentice says. Beef prices are already out of sight, but will get even worse because of this summer's drought, he predicted.
Prentice resigned in March as president of the Matt Prentice Restaurant Group after disagreeing with company owner Stanley B. Dickson Jr. about how to proceed on opening Morels. Dickson immediately renamed the company the Epicurean Group, and Prentice went ahead on Morels without him, opening the restaurant on May 7.
The casually upscale venue features a modern American menu based on seasonal, local and regional ingredients. Dinner entrées range from Bistro Steak and boursin-stuffed veal tenderloin to Lake Superior whitefish, griddled duck confit and Crispy Eggplant Tower. The lunch menu includes sandwiches, salads, flatbreads and an abbreviated entrée list. Open for lunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Open for dinner 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 5-9 p.m. Sunday. (32729 Northwestern; 248-254-3840 and www.mattprenticeculinaryexperience).