Monday, December 19, 2011

Where I'm Eating...Hinterland (Milwaukee)

This weekend we stayed in Milwaukee for a mattress run.  After absolutely no help from the hotel staff, we consulted Opentable and found a few options ranging from Mexican food to Sushi to Contemporary American.  We checked a couple menus then basically just randomly chose to visit Hinterland.

We walked from the Aloft to a little dive bar a few blocks away (I don't know the name and it doesn't really matter as it wasn't really worth mentioning).  We then continued our walk to Hinterland.  I was surprised that we were able to walk everywhere we wanted to go in Milwaukee -- obviously we weren't really looking to travel far and wide, but it was nice not to take a car/taxi everywhere.  I don't think you could live in Milwaukee without a car though.

We got to the restaurant and once were seated we were told the Rib Eye special was sold out as was a fish dish.  We weren't able to get reservations until 21h00 -- I'm perfectly ok with a 21h00 reservation -- so much better than an 18h00 reservation.

We opted for a reasonably priced 2009 St. Innocent Cuvee Pinot Noir -- the wine.com price is $24.99 and the restaurant price was $59.00...not a great mark up for not too bad for a restaurant wine list, eh?  The wine itself was pretty smooth with a little earth flavor - it was quite light.

MS and I split the Sweet Water Mixed Greens Salad - which had a watermelon radish, toasted almonds, pomegranate seeds, goat cheese with a date-lemon vinaigrette.  The split salad was enormous. If we hadn't split it it would have been really too much -- and a waste.

I decided to have two small plates for dinner, while Mike had Wood-fire Grilled Swordfish.  His dinner was served with sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, beluga lentils, cauliflower mushrooms and port syrup. His fish was tasty -- although I'm not 100% sure he'd order it again.

My two small plates were served at the same time and concurrent with MS' dinner as well.  I opted to have to the Hamachi Crudo with espellete pepper, cilantro, beets and radishes.  For a small plate there was a surprising amount of food. While it wasn't full enough for an entire entree, it was more than you'd expect for a small plate.  I bet you could have had a regular salad and a small plate and been very full.  The fish had a red tint from the beets and was very tasty.  It was perfectly prepared, in my opinion. I wish the portion was a bit much though.

I chose the Baked Hand Cranked Cavatelli for my second small plate.  It was pretty mediocre.  It came with strauss veal ragu, olives, chevre and pancetta.  Sounds pretty damn good, doesn't it?  Well, no. It was dry and relatively flavorless.  I think the proportions of each of the component ingredients was off.  Adding a bit of tomato to the sauce would make this fit a little better.

MS decided to have the bread pudding for dessert -- I had nothing.

The service was a bit off too.  We had to ask for butter multiple times before anyone would deliver it.  The water didn't get refilled that frequently and no one topped off our wine.  The wine is less annoying since we did have the bottle at our table, but it is nice when the servers actually do it.  It just shows the service isn't polished or very sharp -- but is it a deal breaker?  No, I don't think so -- the food wasn't all that expensive (about $29 for an big plate entree).  You'd like it to be tighter, but it wouldn't stop me from going back.

If I go back to Milwaukee I probably wouldn't stop by this place again as I'm sure there are many other great places to try, but if I happened to be in Milwaukee and someone else wanted to visit Hinterland, I wouldn't protest. I would have more balanced expectations and would alter my meal plan though.

What is your favorite place in Milwaukee?  When you are in a new town, how do you find your dinner?  Does the restaurant markup on wine really frustrate you?  Do you hate it when you have to ask for butter multiple times? Does that make you feel like a fat ass?

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