Omar Mitchell is going for the “wow” factor with his newest fine-dining restaurant, Imaginate, which opens next week in Royal Oak.
Sure, he impressed enough Detroiters to stay booked from the time he opened Table No. 2, a white-tablecloth fine dining restaurant on Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion. But when a friend offered him a space below a nightclub in Royal Oak for his new restaurant home, Mitchell decided that establishment should match that neighborhood. Imaginate, a “fun” but sleek, cutting-edge restaurant, is opening its doors in the former home of Bistro 82, which closed in January 2020.
The space is “beautiful and breathtaking,” Mitchell says, but one of the things that sets Imaginate apart is the theatrical 3-D projection mapping at the 14-seat chef’s table. The result: Diners will see a thumb-size chef rustle up virtual steaks right on their plates. Traditionally, visual mappings are seen as large video projections onto buildings, and at events with large crowds. The concept, created by Belgian-based company Skullmapping, is now installed at restaurants in 50 cities worldwide, including Paris, Shanghai, Hong Kong, London, Berlin, and Brussels. The installation at Imaginate is the first in the United States.
Seating will be available at the chef’s table show three times a night, with a five-course menu going for $150 and a seven-course meal offered at $175 per person.
The creativity doesn’t stop at the chef’s table. Food in the main dining area comes out with props: A ribeye steak is served on a butcher’s block with a protruding knife or fork; a plate of grouper or branzino is accompanied by a canoe; and small shrimp are served in an old-school popcorn machine. The decor is white: the tablecloths in the 130-seat space, the LED lights, chandeliers, marble fixtures, and linen drapes that close to allow for privacy in the lounge areas.
The menu, however, is “unique yet identifiable,” Mitchell says, Appetizers and entrees include steaks, filet mignon, lobster, wagyu beef steak, and shaved truffles with prices from $17 to $55. Because it’s a Miami-influenced restaurant, there’s also fish, served as jazz and Latin music play in the background.
“I’m trying to become a Michelin-quality restaurant and to be booked solid 60 to 90 days out,” says Mitchell. “In order to do that, the service must be impeccable, and the atmosphere stellar.”
It’s an ambitious goal but Mitchell’s 70-seat Table No. 2 was packed as soon as it opened in 2019. Then, a city construction project designed to improve the walkability of the business district and add bike lanes immediately hurt business. Then, the coronavirus hit, adding another strain on the business.
The landlord decided to sell the building housing Table No. 2 amid the pandemic, forcing Mitchell to close in May 2020. He says he was flattered to be flooded with phone calls from others offering him space for a restaurant. After reviewing three-dozen or so properties, he decided on a friend’s space for Imaginate but still has plans to reopen Table No. 2. He’s been in lengthy negotiations, he says, for a downtown Detroit space.
For now, Mitchell, who’s been cooking since he was a student at Golightly Education Center, is mostly just looking forward to being back inside a restaurant. “I missed interacting with the guests, and am excited about getting people back to work and seeing guests get back to work.”