Maybe the third time's the charm for the restaurant space at Orchard Lake and Maple roads where Prime29 opened in late July. Two other concepts there -- Bar 7 Grill, and the 7 Ultra Lounge & Restaurant -- didn't make it.
But Prime29 is a sharp departure from those, and its steakhouse menu, attentive service and rich décor will appeal to a different clientele.
"We want to be casual fine dining," says sommelier and spokesman Michael Derylo. "We want all the aspects of fine dining -- the perfect service, the best products and all that," but it doesn't want to be just for special occasions, he says.
"Not everything is super high-end expensive. ... You don't have to have a coat and tie. People can come in with families," he says.
The bar and dining areas are contemporary but warm, done in a neutral palette of ivory, cream, pale butterscotch and darkest brown. Clean-lined dark woods, refined fabrics, soft leathers, touches of chrome and glass, and glowing marble onyx create a rich, sophisticated setting. Outside, a covered sidewalk dining area has seating for 50 and a large see-through fireplace.
The restaurant's name refers to its USDA Prime steaks, aged at least 29 days, Derylo says. Prices are typical for quality steakhouses: The 8-ounce filet is $32; the 14-ounce New York strip and 16-ounce rib eye are $39.
The New York strip I ordered last week was excellent -- juicy, rich and deeply seared outside but a perfect medium rare inside. And it was noticeably more tender than strips usually are, probably because of its longer aging. A rib eye I had a few weeks ago also was cooked expertly, as was an order of double-cut lamb chops ($29). Kudos to the grill cooks.
And for just $23, I loved the beef short ribs braised in red wine and served with creamed polenta, blistered tomatoes, cippolini onion and red wine demi sauce.
Less successful was the seared tuna appetizer ($15) with soy-ginger sauce and wasabi -- served with a mound of guacamole. The soft textures of the tuna and guacamole didn't complement each other; the Asian flavors fought with the guacamole ingredients, and the only crispness on the plate was a single chip impaled on top. As a dish, it seemed ill-conceived.
And while I enjoy playful concepts, so-called signature desserts at restaurants of this kind should be more ambitious than battered, deep-fried Oreos. The garnishes of chocolate sauce, berries, nuts and ice cream make a pretty plate, but fried cookies belong at state fairs or chain restaurants.
Service, though, is a pleasant surprise for a place so new -- attentive, organized, well-paced and mostly well-informed.
Prime29 chose to open quietly, work out its kinks and -- it hoped -- get off on the right foot with diners. So far so good, it seems.
Dinner is 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Happy hours are 4-6 p.m. daily with the bar open one hour past dinner. (6545 Orchard Lake Road; 248-737-7463 and www.prime29steakhouse.com)