Review: Braise

15 July 2015

I embarked on a rather long, two-part trip in the middle of July — just when everyone else is travelling… I had to be in northern Wisconsin for an event so I decided, for the first part of the trip, to spend a little time in Wisconsin. It’s been too long since I’ve been there, and I’ve always enjoyed it.

I made my way at first to Milwaukee for a quick overnight stop, and take in dinner at the well-acclaimed Braise. They are known for their connection to local producers, so I was looking forward to sampling some of the best foods Wisconsin can deliver and what this kitchen can cook up. I got there and chilled out with a drink and looked over the menu. Small plates seem to dominate, so I decided on a series of plates for tonight’s dinner.

I chilled out and tried to relax, but my back was killing me from a busy day (not helped by the flight very early in the morning). Then the first snack item arrived.

1-lamb_bun

This was a lamb bun, a special of the day (they do a pork one too). Sadly it was a bit meh for me, as the bun tasted odd, nowhere near the Asian street style they were trying to replicate. The condiments also worked against the meat, like they wanted to do too much. Over-cheffed? Anyway, let’s see what dish two brings. But when it showed up I was confused…

2-bone_marrow

This is bone marrow? Problem is what they did to it. It’s basically coagulated into something that’s really not pleasant to eat. The lump on the right of the picture was especially unpleasant, reminded me of day-old crisco that’s been left out. Why didn’t they just bring out nice, roasted marrow — instead of trying to turn it into a some coagulation that just tasted like it was gonna lodge itself in my aorta like a huge fat embolus?

I was starting to feel this dinner isn’t going my way. I’m not sure what this kitchen was thinking to be honest…all this great produce, but messed around for absolutely no reason. It’s like someone who decided they need to overdo something. Why can’t I just have the fresh ingredients in their glory? Then dish number three came and I was now sure…

3-chanterelles

I love chanterelles to death, I can eat them all day…but not really on this place. The liquid was far too acidic and just ate into the mushrooms; the knödel-wannabe (supposedly made of polenta) tasted more of matzoh. I really am souring, no pun intended, on this place… I couldn’t wait to finish the last dish and get out of here…

4-humba

And this is “humba” supposedly, a dish that I love eating. Regional Filipino cuisine is awesome if done well…but this was, just well, trying too hard. The rice cake was getting soggy and the sauce was rich but fought the other ingredients. The meat itself was lacking, and really fell in the spirit of doing Filipino cuisine. Frankly the daikon on top was probably the best feature and it soaked up the sauce far better than the rice cake.

I got a coffee and headed out, extremely disappointed. Once again, the restaurant I prioritised during trip planning turned out to be the weak link, such as Farmhouse in Kansas City. Great sourcing is vital for excellent restaurants, but when they are not executed well, you may as well be eating stuff you get at the low-quality volume grocery stores. I know Braise is trying to be experimental, but this falls flat on so many levels and ways.

Off to Madison, where I KNOW the food — especially the cooking — is excellent. Should have gone there a day early…

And once again, I should NEVER look at the James Beard list. They frequently lead folks astray…

Braise
1101 South 2nd Street
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

9 thoughts on “Review: Braise

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  3. I totally understand what you mean. I’ve never eaten at Braise but have tried places that kill an ingredient by trying too hard. Simplicity is best when working with fresh ingredients. I too love love love Pig in a Fur Coat and Forequarter. I enjoyed your reviews! 😉

    • Thank you!!! The more I see TV influencing cooking with the pressure to “do something” to the food (or else it’s not “cooking”) the worse things are getting. Why waste natural goodness, right? Thank you again, I already miss Madison! 🙂

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