THERE ARE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF FOOD BLOGS, BUT ONLY ONE CULINARY NO-NO!
This week’s blog is about Bacchus, one the most superb restaurants in not only the Milwaukee area, but the state. Bacchus just re-opened after a recent renovation.
I love Bacchus. Always, always, always an impeccable experience.
Uh, Kev. Excuse me. If that’s the case, how can Bacchus possibly be your selection this week?
Good question. Stay with me and follow along. First, the backstory.
That’s the original Boulevard Inn that opened in 1946 at Sherman Boulevard and Lisbon on Milwaukee’s north side just across from Washington Park.
That bronze statue is Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, the Prussian hero of the American Revolutionary War.
Albert and Marie Gaulke gutted what was already a restaurant and transformed it into an elegant place with white linen tablecloths and a pianist who performed regularly. The menu: sauerbraten, wienerschnitzel, rouladen, goulash, roast duckling and steaks and lobster, chopped chicken liver pate, and shrimp cocktail.
Then in 1992…
An arsonist destroyed the building. So Gaulke family members moved to Cudahy Tower at the very east end of Wells Street near downtown Milwaukee.
The new Boulevard Inn closed in 2003. The Bartolotta Restuarnat Group took it and re-named the place after the god of agriculture and wine and the son of Zeus.
Bacchus has great food, always elegantly presented. Some examples.
Wild Mushroom Soup served over a bed of porcini mushrooms, a smoked Gouda beignet and a truffle vinaigrette.
Soft shell crabs served with Napa cabbage slaw, honey mustard chili glaze.
Roasted Duck Breast. Duck fat potato pavé, sautéed morels, blueberry-infused duck sauce.
Asian Sea Bass with crispy jasmine rice, a vegetable stir-fry and green curry coconut broth.
Lobster Risotto with saffron, fennel and fines herb.
Strauss Veal Ravioli, spinach, pine nuts, beurre fondue and veal jus.
Strauss veal medallion, acorn squash purée, Madeira mushroom sauce.
Eclair garnished with coffee, passion fruit and vanilla.
Key Lime Tart served with toasted coconut, lime meringue and graham crumble.
Dessert served last October when some Milwaukee Brewers executives paid a visit.
Consistently rated as one of Milwaukee’s top restaurants. A terrific special occasion spot or date night destination, Jennifer and I dined there often when we were courting.
As mentioned, Bacchus has been re-designed.
The ceiling is gone from the main dining room.
The conservatory got a new floor featuring bright tiles.
The bar has been completely stripped of wallpapering, flooring, and other fixtures.
The Journal Sentinel critic Carol Deptolla noted in one of her Top 30 Restaurants in Milwaukee list, “with its ivory-colored walls and tufted leather banquettes, Bacchus means a posh night out, a white-tablecloth setting for stylish plates.”
So why this week’s no-no designation?
This clearly is not one of the most egregious no-no blogs. Understandably owners customarily upgrade their restaurants. Before he died Joe Bartolotta was making renovation plans with his family. The so-called “dark” interior would be brightened. Some decor was removed and replaced.
I thought Bacchus looked great and I never considered it to be too dark. If someone had suggested to me a few months ago Bacchus needed an architectural overhaul, my immediate response would have been, ‘why’?
OnMilwaukee.com Senior Writer Lori Fredrich has a thorough article on what she calls a “renaissance” at Bacchus with a “worthy refresh” that’s “vibrant.”
The new look isn’t really what grabbed my attention. Fredrich writes there are “bold new flavors.” Bold as in charred Spanish octopus with hummus, preserved lemon and fried chickpeas along with Calabrian chilies.
My concern if you will is that Bacchus doesn’t get too bold, or dare I say it, too weird.
Executive Chef Nicholas Wirth told OnMilwaukee.com “And my goal with each dish is to begin with great tasting ingredients. I don’t want to overcomplicate them.”
Braised rabbit ragout, roasted pearl onions, wild mushrooms, Parmesan cheese
Smoked goat cheese, spiced sunflower seeds, apple cider vinaigrette
Avocado purée, marinated bok choy, jasmine rice cake, sweet soy glaze
Acorn squash purée, Romanesco, cauliflower, pork belly lardons, white wine butter sauce
CRISPY JASMINE RICE
Avocado purée, baby bok choy kimchi, sweet soy glaze
GRILLED MARINATED TOFU
Sautéed spinach, butternut squash, candied cranberries, vegetable demi-glace
And where’s the beef?
Bacchus’ main, non-vegetarian menu has seven items to choose from. Three are seafood (with Bartolotta’s Harbor House a hop, skip and a jump away). The others are a flat iron steak, venison, duck, and a Chateaubriand for two.
I’ve confessed on my blog that I’m not fussy. But there are many occasions when a chef in my view can go too far.
Can’t wait to visit Bacchus sometime, but it’ll be tough since our mini-foodie, 10-year old Kyla has zero options.
I wish Bacchus well. Just please don’t enter the culinary Twilight Zone.
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