Over the past few years there has been an explosion of bars and restaurants serving brunch in the Milwaukee area. I am not talking about the shitty overpriced brunch buffets with limp bacon, questionable eggs, and dried up pork loin, but actual sit-down restaurants with a brunch menu. Some of my favorite places include Harry’s Bar and Grill in Shorewood (the Crabcakes Benedict are amazing), the Hi-Hat on Brady Street(mmmm breakfast burritos) and a new favorite, Fuzzy’s Bar and Grill in Waukesha (great flat iron steak and eggs). While most places do a great job with brunch, none of them can hold a candle to Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro.
I must admit Lake Park Bistro is one of my favorite restaurants in Milwaukee. I have probably eaten there 5-6 times and never ever had a bad meal. The food is great, the atmosphere is outstanding (without being pretentious), and the service is always top-notch. So I was undoubtedly excited when my wife surprised me and said we were going for breakfast to celebrate our one-year anniversary.
It wasn’t too crowded when we got there and we were promptly seated and presented with a menu and our choice of a mimosa, champagne or orange juice. I thought about a house Bloody Mary, but ended up getting a mimosa. The menu is divided into three sections and you pick one item from each of the categories; appetizers, main entree, and dessert. The price of the meal is based on the price of the entrees, which fall into the range of 22-31 dollars. The hardest part was choosing an appetizer as they all sounded great. The options included a cheese plate, a bowl of soup (soup of the season or French Onion), a charcuterie plate, salads, shrimp, and a few others.
I opted for the Huitres pochees au champagne, which were champagne poached west coast oysters with wilted spinach and caviar as it sounded the most interesting, and decadent. My wife had the seasonal fruit with country ham, with a bit of Cassis liquor. My oysters were out of this world. Very fresh and the champagne cream sauce was light enough to not obscure the taste of the lightly poached oysters. The spinach was replaced with Swiss Chard as we visited during the great spinach scare of 2006. The Swiss Chard was a bit thicker than spinach but it worked perfectly with this dish, offering a nice bitter element to cut the cream and butter in the dish. If I were Bartolotta’s I would offer this as an alternative even though spinach is now safe. I savored every bite of this dish. My wife, who avoids mussels and oysters like the plague, tried the dish and even liked it. The fruit plate was good, with nice pieces of fresh fruit and a slice of country ham.
On to the entrees. My wife opted for the Crabe et oeufs poches au beurre d’espelette, which translates into Peekytoe crab-cakes over wilted spinach topped with poached eggs, Hollandaise sauce and red pepper butter. I opted for the most obnoxious version of steak and eggs known to man, the Onglet et brouillade de truffes noirs. Which I believe translates into “holy shit this is good!”. Actually it is an onglet (or hanger) steak, which is one of the best cuts of meat in my opinion, served with scrambled eggs with black truffle shavings and some yukon gold potatoes. I ordered the hanger steak medium rare (any hotter and it will be somewhat tough). The steak was cooked to perfection with a great crust on the exterior and warm red center inside. The steak was also really big. The eggs were not simply treated to a token shaving of truffle. There was truffle in every bite and boy were they amazing. This is the first time I have had a real shaved truffle and now I know what the fuss is all about. My previous truffle experience has been limited to oils and butters. My wife’s crab cakes Benedict, one of my favorite brunch foods, was also outstanding. The spinach was replaced with the Swiss Chard, which was a good substitution. The crabcakes were full of sizable chunks of crab and the eggs were poached to perfection. With all apologies to Harry’s Bar and Grill, these are the best Crab Cake Benedict I have eaten.
Feeling stuffed, and not being used to having dessert at 12:00 noon, I didn’t know what to expect with our third and final course. I strayed from what I typically like for desserts (chocolate stuff, ice cream, etc) and tried some Crepes Suzette, which were filled with orange custard and Grand Marnier. If given the choice again I would probably opt for something else, but that is not because they were not good (they were) but because I am not a huge fan of fruit based pastry. My wife smartly ordered the chocolate mousse, which was really good. Luckily she was kind of full, so she was more than willing to share a few bites.
Overall it was a great experience, the service was attentive without being annoying or rushed, as is always the case at Lake Park Bistro. The food was far more intersting than most brunch offerings and wonderfully prepared and there are definitely enough options to please people who want lunch or dinner. The great thing is that you can mix it up with the three courses. So I hereby declare this as the best breakfast I have ever eaten. Though the price is much more than you would want to spend on breakfast every weekend, it wasn’t that hard on the pocketbook. I would highly recommend this brunch to anyone who wants to celebrate some special occasion or just experience a different side of one of Milwaukee’s best restaurants.