Saturday, June 4, 2011

Downtown Dining Dish

It's one of my favorite weeks in Milwaukee: Downtown Dining Week. Every year at this time, a number of downtown restaurants participate, offering three-course meals for $10 at lunch and $20 or $30 at dinner. It's an awesome way to try new places, and it's given me an opportunity to eat at a lot of restaurants I probably wouldn't have thought of before. In the past few years I've been to Umami Moto, Swig, the Cafe at the Pfister, Charro, Libiamo and almost a dozen other places for Downtown Dining. And I've been back to almost all of them since!

This year, Bill and I decided to try Kilawat (I had been for lunch, but never for dinner) on Thursday. Then Tiff, Steph and I chose Zarletti for dinner last night (Bill came, too, but didn't participate in the restaurant-selection process). Both had bright spots, and I'm glad we got to try them.

I had a hard time making up my mind at Kil@wat because there were several delicious-sounding things on the menu. I debated between bacon-wrapped dates or soup, and was tempted by both the braised short rib and polenta cakes. Luckily, Bill made it easy ... I got bacon-wrapped dates and he got soup, and I got the braised short rib and he got polenta cakes.

I think it's pretty well-known that I love anything involving bacon. And these bacon-wrapped dates were no exception. They were the perfect combination of salty and sweet, crispy and chewy. And if Bill liked dates, I would totally be trying them at home! Bill's roasted red pepper soup was tasty, and he claimed it was the best soup he'd ever had, but I think that was the beer talking. I'm completely confident that I could make a roasted red pepper soup just as delicious (and in fact, I just might try it). So course number one was a winner.

Course number two didn't rank quite as high. Both of our entrees were perfectly good, but they lacked the wow factor. My short rib was tender, but not super flavorful. The mashed potatoes were good, but not delectable. And it turns out I don't like collard greens. Bill's polenta cakes were good (and I loved the fig and mushroom salad), but they went WAY overboard on the rosemary. When they called it a Rosemary Polenta Cake, I was expecting the rosemary to be much more mild. Instead it was overpowering.

For dessert, we both had the ice cream sandwich. And I wish I had taken a picture to remember it by. OMG, was it delicious. Vanilla gelato sandwiched between two chocolate chunk cookies with a side of hot fudge (the menu claimed it was chocolate-caramel, but I didn't taste any caramel ... it was just delicious, warm, gooey fudge). By far, the best course of the three.

We had a pretty amazing meal at Zarletti last night with Stephanie and Tiff. None of us had ever been there, but had wanted to try it. I actually attempted to go there for lunch during Downtown Dining a couple years ago, but it was packed and we couldn't get in. After that experience, I was sure to make reservations for last night. Turns out that wasn't necessary (downtown has been almost eerily quiet the last couple times I've ventured down there). It wasn't quite as difficult to choose from the menu, mostly because I love osso bucco and it's on my recipe wishlist (I swear, someday I really will make it). Bill decided not to order from the Downtown Dining menu because he wanted halibut (which was actually quite good ... and I'm not a big fish eater). Stephanie, Tiff and I stuck to the Downtown Dining menu.

The appetizers weren't anything to write home about (really, what's there to say about soup and salad?), but we all had a different delicious entree: Steph chose swordfish, Tiff had the ragu di funghi, and I chose osso bucco. We all agreed that our entrees were awesome. In fact, my osso bucco was better than the osso bucco I had at Mario Batali's Carnevino in Vegas. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so surprised by that, but I actually am shocked. It was super tender and flavorful, the sauce was rich and tangy, and the risotto was a nice, creamy complement. (But while the risotto was good, I think I make it better. Mine is less sticky and dense than this was.)

For dessert, all three of us picked the torta al limone. (Bill had a banana semifreddo, which was good, but super duper banana-y.) It was delicious, but WAY tart. I think we all preferred the lime curd I made for my Super Bowl cupcakes, which was a bit sweeter than this.

So overall, this year's Downtown Dining Week was a big success. I'd go back to both Kil@wat and Zarletti ... Kil@wat for the dates and dessert, and Zarletti for an amazing entree. I can't wait to see what we get to try next year!


  1. I'm pretty sure San Francisco does the same thing, but I'm never in the city any more. There are tons of Italian and breakfast places I want to try! Not just in the city, in the East Bay too.

    Those dates sound DIVINE. And ice cream sandwiches!

  2. I agree with Jen that her lime curd was tastier than the lemon torte, but the ragu was wonderful!