GT Fish and Oyster (Chicago) – Guest Post

20 Mar

Two of my good friends went to dinner this week with clients in Chicago at GT Fish and Oyster. They both told me it was a huge crowd pleaser so I thought I’d add another Chicago post.

They said it features an ever-changing menu of small plates that were exceptional. Some of the favorites were the octopus with beer mustard, wasabi, purple potatoes, hearts of palm and maitake mushrooms, the sage gnocchi with crab, butternut squash, burrata and spicy pepitas, the fish tacos in a garlic marinade with chipotle aioli, the lobster roll with fried onions and the GT mac and cheese. And, of course, the oysters were excellent as well.

And on top of that both said the service was absolutely superb.

It all sounds fabulous to me and I look forward to checking it out on my own as soon as I can.

Jow Nai Fouquet

20 Mar

Jow Nai Fouquet is a new-ish Thai restaurant on the corner of Farwell and Lafayette. It is the old Abu’s space and what a phenomenal improvement that is! They gutted the interior so now it has a nice bar area and the space is modern, fresh and clean.

Fresh and clean. Just like the food. Everything we had was so flavorful and fresh that one person we were with said it is “bordering on Vietnamese”. The menu features pictures of each dish which can be a pro and a con. Sure, you can see what the dish looks like, but the actual photography detracts from how good it tastes in reality. I also like the fact they have a star-rating for the heat level, since I do not like much heat and C. likes it turned up on high.

This is definitely a keeper in the restaurant rotation, especially for take-out, if you don’t want to risk not getting a table since the place is pretty small. And while we thought everything we had was quite tasty, including my most favorite dish, and one I am quite particular about, the crab rangoon, the shrimp tempura is something I’d go back for all on its own. Never had anything like it before, it had a latticework detail on the batter which made it incredibly light. Scrumptious!

Odd Duck

27 Feb

I am remiss in not doing a write-up on this new-ish addition to our Milwaukee dining scene. Not exactly “new” anymore, but it did make the top 5 best new dining list in 2012 by onmilwaukee.com. Sometimes I do not agree with how voters vote in this town for “top” lists, but in this instance I completely agree.

Their website bills it as featuring “an ever-changing menu of shareable small plates inspired by local ingredients”. I’d also add, they have a highly eclectic combination of ingredients that when put together are amazing. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical that I was going to like some of the ingredients and combinations, but I was most pleasantly surprised. I will not belabor the specific dishes because the menu changes all the time, but what we did have was fantastic. In fact, I just looked at the menu online to refresh my memory on the specifics of some of our dishes, but none of them are there anymore. While I do like going back for my favorites at certain restaurants, in this instance I am happy they change it up because it makes me want to go back often to sample what is new that week.

So go with an open mind. Go with a few other people so you can sample lots of options. And make a reservation, it is a tough one to get.

Il Mito East

24 Feb

Oh, I love it when a really good new restaurant opens downtown. The new Il Mito East, in the Knickerbocker hotel, opened its doors this week. We went for brunch, but opted for their main menu fare.

C. thinks a good test of an Italian restaurant is their lasagna, and their rendition was amazing. Made with shredded Black Angus beef, fresh Wisconsin cheese, a roasted mushroom bechamel sauce, and their signature tomato sauce, it was one of the best I have ever had. And, they brought us delicious warm bread that was accompanied by creamy, roasted garlic concoction that was to die for. (If you order brunch, then they swap garlic for a cinnamon butter with raspberry drizzle!)

They also had quite a few innovative menu options. First, they had a Bloody Mary bar set up with a huge assortment of add-ons. And while we did not opt for the brunch menu, they had a nice array of options inspired by different countries. A goat cheese soufflé from Paris, an Italian frittata, a Spanish omelette, an Argentinian empanada, a Spanish-style French toast from Madrid, etc…

They have a great selection on their main menu, from interesting salads like their Caesar salad topped with hard-boiled eggs, apple-smoked bacon, crispy onion haystack and homemade, herb-infused croutons, finished with homemade Caesar dressing and Parmesan sprinkle, and pizzas and paninis, to pastas like fettuccine alla Bolognese with a slow cooked ragu of a trio of meats, gnocchi in a tomato sauce reduced with vodka and infused with caramelized garlic and gulf shrimp, homemade ravioli filled seasonal squash and creamy ricotta in a brown butter sage sauce to mains like a slow braised lamb shank, roasted rack of veal, fresh fish, and osso bucco.

The menu inspires me make a return trip soon and try out some new things. But one thing not to miss, if you go for brunch, are the Sicilian donuts, made to order, drizzled with a raspberry sauce and Nutella on the side for dipping. Yum!

Oh and if you’re lucky, you will have Marla as your waitress. She is a dream!

Chopstix Chinese Restaurant

8 Feb

I have discovered a new weight loss plan. It’s called eating at Chopstix Chinese restaurant on Farwell. I will not belabor this review. Let’s just say I love crab rangoon. I have never met a crab rangoon I didn’t like. Until now. Enough said. Ick!

Camp Bar

31 Jan

After hearing so many great things about Camp Bar, I paid it a visit last night. What a great little place. And I say little because it was smaller than I expected, but that is what made the environment so warm and cozy. It’s like an upscale cabin in the north woods. The décor is obviously themed that way, and quite well done. My friend J. described it as Park Avenue meets Prairie du Chien. It’s the little touches, like the raccoons in a canoe above the bar, that make this place special. And, it sure is THE place to go in Shorewood to watch a game. Hard to miss any action since you are surrounded by giant screen TV’s which I might add does NOT detract from the coziness of the place.

They had a nice wine list which also was an unexpected surprise. I always think bars in this state tend to cater only to beer lovers. Not so here. And what a brilliant idea they had in partnering with the Falbo Brothers Pizza place around the corner. You text them your order and they deliver it to the bar in about 15 minutes. Sweet! And the pizza was really good. You can also order from a small selection of pasta, salads, sandwiches and appies. We had the cheese curds and they were delicious. I know it is hard to have a bad cheese curd, but there were truly outstanding.

Truly a little gem! I wished I lived closer to it, because I’d be a regular.

Centro Cafe

21 Jan

It has been well over a year since I have been to Centro Cafe, and that is such a shame. I saw an article that called it “a Riverwest gem” and that is highly accurate. It is a tiny place, although a recent expansion of a bar area in the back makes it a little more spacious. You should expect to wait for a table. But no bother, just grab a spot at the bar, or head over to Stonefly Brewery until they give you a buzz on your cell phone.

You cannot beat the price especially when you factor in how good the food is. And how good the service is – they have THE nicest hosts and waiters! They have a fantastic selection on the menu and if you want to enhance your entree, you can add all sorts of things like vegetables, meats and seafood to your main dish. We had the trio of spreads as a starter, and while I was not a huge fan of the white bean dip, if you put some of the bruschetta topping on the goat cheese it is divine. The waitress told me the cheese tortellini with prosciutto and fontina in a white wine sauce was her favorite and I can see why. Yum. We also had their special which was braised short ribs over a mushroom risotto which was equally good. Save room for the tiramisu, it is superb.

Oh and they take credit cards now (not Amex), instead of cash only which was a pleasant surprise. I did not have to hit the ATM machine they used to have inside! This is one place, if you have not been, or, have not been in a while, you should put on your list to visit soon.

Points East Pub

10 Jan

This little pub slipped under my radar screen! A co-worker told me he thought they had the best wings in town, and he might just be right. In terms of wings, they only have one kind. Hot wings. And they are HOT! From what I can discern they are fried a bit, sauced, then put on the grill which is what makes them so tasty. I am not a hot wing kind of gal, but C. said they were “incredible”. And much to my delight, they not only have great hot wings, but they make a mean cheeseburger too. And on Tuesday nights it will only set you back $2. And it’s not just a good hamburger, it was great, and the bun was superb.

It is located on the corner of Jackson and Lyon across from the Pic N Save. It is not big place, and it is pretty much a dive. You can sit at the bar, or in a row of 4 top tables, or small wooden booths in the back. You order at the bar. The menu is written on chalkboards that you can barely read. The bartender started out a teence surly, but actually was kind of a sweetheart by the time we were done. It is a local place for sure. We walked in and you could just tell they wondered where we came from. This all adds up to why I liked it so much.

And let’s not forget the bar part. I have not seen a selection of liquor options that extensive in a while, and certainly not in a neighborhood bar. I mean who has Crown Royal Black and Crown Royal Maple on the list? Although, much to the chagrin of the people at Crown Royal, the customer who asked for it, had it mixed with Diet Coke.

There is also an extensive list of bottled beer on a huge menu, which I also could not read. And, for me, a very pleasant surprise – they had wine. It came in a small bottle, a little bigger than you get on an airplane. It was good! And I give them credit for handling their wine selection that way since I am sure they do not get a lot of folks asking for it in there so it stays fresh.

We will most definitely be back! Probably on a fairly regular basis. Although we may avoid Thursday and Friday nights because the bartender says it gets just packed.

Places to go in Islamorada

1 Jan

This is a deviation from a Milwaukee restaurant review, but if you find yourself in Islamorada here are a few suggestions.

1. Chef Michael’s

They’re known for their hogfish and I can see why. It was fantastic. Try the hogfish “ambassador” – with shitake mushrooms, crabmeat, capers and key lime butter or the “Ponchartrain” style with a Cajun cream sauce. If they have it, get the avocado salad with french fried onion rings and bacon. Yum! And save room for the 6 layer carrot cake.

Updated May 2013: We went back again 3 out of the 4 days we were there on vacation. It is THAT good. The “Adriatic” preparation is another dish to put on the list!

2. Islamorada Fish Company

Go for the stone crabs and their key lime pie. Best around, made in a giant coffee cup with a cashew and graham cracker crust.

3. Morada Bay

Nice atmosphere and, if you get lucky, you can sit at a table on the beach.

4. Hungry Tarpon

Down the road a tad, but worth the drive. Really laid back. You will wonder if you should eat there. You should! Be sure to have the tuna nachos. Ahi tuna chuncks dipped in panko bread crumbs then flash fried over a seaweed salad with an amazing wasabi cream sauce.

5. Kaiyo Grill

I have not eaten here, but it has a good reputation. We ran out of time to try it. We made the mistake of choosing Pierre’s over this.

Updated May 2013: We ate there the 1st night. It was average at best, which is why we were so excited that Chef Michael’s was so amazing. I would not bother with this place again when you can eat right next door and have spectacular food.

6. Breakfast – Islamorada Restaurant and Bakery. Or, Mangrove Mike’s, but we were not enthralled with our breakfast this time around, but it is quite popular.

7. Cocktail – Zane Grey Lounge, second story of the WorldWide Sportsman. Lovely view and very upscale, comparatively speaking, since not much in the Keys is very fancy.

8. Pierre’s

You know the expression “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”. Well shame on me! Mediocre food , at best, and poor service. Pretentious beyond belief. It is rare I actually get angry eating at a restaurant. Well, it happened twice. Never again. There are WAY too many other great places to eat in Islamorada to waste your time here.

Circa 1880 (2nd review)

23 Dec

Since I first wrote about Circa 1880 I have been back several times, but this latest meal was so fantastic I felt it was worth a second write up. In my book, it has taken the #1 spot in Milwaukee. And it’s not just the food, the staff is so incredibly nice it makes the entire experience a joy.

I think what makes the menu so amazing is the incredible combination of flavors. For example,  veal strip loin with garlic and thyme purée in which the garlic had been baked 7 times. And on the side, shaved brussel sprouts with blue bacon and bacon. Venison with a cardamom and coffee crust. Foie gras terrine with cranberry sorbet and pepper honey. Cold crab and cauliflower salad with caviar on a cauliflower purée with little pickled things that were so good it is hard to describe. You get the idea! 

And just like the last time, I still recommend just saying no to the roll, but save room for dessert. I mean who can turn down brown butter ice cream and lemon curd with olive oil cake bites, blackberries and lemon sorbet and lemon meringue. To die for!

I am sure there are dishes on the menu that will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the quality, and imagination, of the food they prepare cannot be underestimated.