The Roxbury Group, a real estate development and consulting firm that last year renovated the David Whitney Building in downtown Detroit as part of a venture with Whitney Partners and Trans Inns Management, is working with JVS Culinary Group to open the Grand Cirque Brasserie on the main floor of the 19-story, Daniel Burnham-designed structure.
The brasserie is set to open in the fall with a menu that will feature “French-American cuisine with a global infusion,” says Jacques Van Staden, founder and CEO of JVS Culinary Group in Madison Heights. Open daily Monday through Saturday, with brunch and dinner on Sunday, entrees will include Short Rib Bourguignon, Steak Au Poivre, Lamb Cassoulet, Swordfish Provence as well as classics like Quiche Lorraine, Duck à l’Orange, and Chicken Paillard.
The brasserie will offer a selection of craft cocktails, Michigan draft beers, and a diverse offering of wine and spirits, served tableside or from a U-shaped bar that will greet patrons as they enter from a new entrance off Woodward Avenue.
“We will deliver a destination restaurant that will also service the Aloft Hotel (136 rooms) along with a 200-person ballroom on the second level,” says David Di Rita, principal of The Roxbury Group in Detroit with Stacy Fox. “There will be a main kitchen on the lower level (just below the restaurant).” Currently, The Epicurean Group is providing food service to the hotel.
“There will be a show kitchen in the restaurant, but the heavy lifting will be done in the downstairs main kitchen,” he says. “We’re adding two elevators and a staircase to service the restaurant and the ballrooms. We also will have the ability to close off the ballroom space for more intimate, private dinners. It will be a boutique dining experience with intricate platings.”
The first priority is to get the main kitchen up and running before opening the brasserie, Van Staden says. “We will offer very intricate dishes with up to five or six items on the plate, both for the restaurant and the ballroom. We will have innovative dishes, and we will add our own twist on things. Every dish will be given the time and attention it deserves.”
Crème in New York is designing the brasserie in tandem with the David Whitney Building’s architect of record, Detroit-based Kraemer Design Group. Van Staden says the decor will include classic tile floors, plaster walls, large windows, coffered ceiling treatments, and an array of leather, metal, marble, and fabric.
Van Staden, who opened Bistro Joe’s at Papa Joe’s Gourmet Market in Birmingham, is a native of South Africa who arrived in the U.S. in 1990 (he sold his car to pay for the airfare). After attending L’Academie de Cuisine, he went on to work in such kitchens as Occidental Grill & Seafood, Jean-Louis in the Watergate Hotel, Lespinasse, French Citronelle, and Café Ole, all in the Washington, D.C. area.
He moved to Las Vegas in 2000 and became executive chef of the London Club at the Aladdin, followed by Chef de Cuisine at the Alize at the Top of the Palms. In 2007, he became vice president of culinary operations for Celebrity Cruises, and published a cookbook, Excite the Senses. In 2012, after five years opening 60 restaurants for the cruise line (“The last ship I worked on was called Reflection, and my wife said that it was a good time to slow down.”), he started JVS Culinary Group, which creates and develops new culinary concepts and brands.
“We’ve been consulting with the Andiamo restaurants and the (upcoming) restaurant on top of the Detroit Athletic Club,” Van Staden says. “We are very excited to offer well prepared food and service, which is what’s it’s all about. We also want to create opportunities for young chefs.”
The Roxbury Group will serve as the contractor for the restaurant. In addition to the brasserie and ballroom (which offers east and west city vistas), the development team may add a speakeasy-style room in the lower level, at the southeast corner of the building.
The Aloft Hotel opened late last year, and tenants are now moving into 105 residential apartments in the upper levels of the structure. The brasserie will largely fill the commercial space on the first floor. In recent months, the hotel began operating the WXYZ bar and the Re-Mix Lounge, as well as a small sundries shop.