Advertisement Close

Palm Palace to Take Over La Shish Restaurants Sites

posted on: Jul 10, 2008

The vacant La Shish restaurants around metro Detroit will have a new tenant this summer.

Palm Palace will open first at the extravagant former flagship Middle Eastern restaurant on Hall Road in Clinton Township. Later, the Auburn Hills location on North Squirrel Road near University Drive will get the new moniker.

In total, there will be as many as eight Palm Palaces in southeastern Michigan, including a possible location in Dearborn, according to the company.

The new restaurants intend to cater to cravings for the former chain’s Middle Eastern cuisine with the hiring of Jamil Eid, an executive chef who whipped up dishes for La Shish.

La Shish closed all 11 restaurants, a food processing plant and headquarters in Dearborn in March amid financial woes.

Owner Talal Chahine has been labeled by the U.S. government as a Hizballah supporter. He fled to Lebanon in 2005 to avoid tax evasion charges, authorities say, and remains a fugitive.

Besides its location and chef, another commonality in the venture is Rabih Fakih, the former director of corporate facilities for La Shish. Clinton Township officials say he is the point person for the project in their community. He’s the same man La Shish managers told the Free Press who collected cash from the restaurants the night before the chain closed. The usual protocol was for a security truck to pick it up. Fakih could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Palm Palace spokesman Ron Hingst said despite any likenesses, this undertaking is separate and unrelated to La Shish.

“This is a totally different operation,” Hingst said Wednesday.

It’s the brainchild of Clint Hamet, a Trenton native who has invested in several restaurant chains such as A&W and Long John Silver’s, along with several other unidentified investors.

Hingst said Fakih’s role in Palm Palace is as construction contractor, and he doesn’t believe he holds a stake in the company. He said none of the investors were a part of La Shish.

Fakih, whose online profile lists him as business manager for a company founded in Lebanon that manufactures and markets construction chemical products in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, was quoted by the Associated Press in a 2007 article as saying federal charges against Chahine were a “cloud that is going to pass” and terrorism allegations would be proved false.

Apart from reputation, one thing Palm Palace does hope to share with the defunct chain is its ability to please palates.

“I always thought that the food was pretty good at La Shish,” Hingst said.

Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon agrees.

“First of all, I like that type of food. And second of all, they have a vacant building” that will now be filled, which is good for the community, Cannon said. Without commenting specifically on the challenges Palm Palace might face if the public associates it with La Shish, the Michigan Restaurant Association said that generally the company could thrive.”If the food is good and the atmosphere is right and they’re meeting their customers’ demand, really any restaurant could succeed, ” said Matt Groen , manager of legislative affairs for the association.

Christy Oyama-Arboscello
Detroit Free Press