Brookfield will never be mistaken for Milwaukee or even Delafield when it comes to dining choices. Bluemound road is littered with chains of all types from crappy fast food like McDonalds and Burger King to high-end chains like Flemming’s Steakhouse and Mitchell’s Fish market. Sure there are some great places scattered about including some Indian restaurants. Louise’s and local favorite, Kopps but for the most part its a City filled with corporate chains. North Star American Bistro is the exception to the rule. Located in the Sendik’s Town Center (the southwest corner of Capitol Drive & Brookfield Road it is a very nice place that makes you feel like you are on the East Side of Milwaukee, not some upscale suburban retail center, which may have something to do with the fact that the original North Star American Bistro is located in Shorewood.
Over the past 6 months I have eaten both brunch and dinner there and with the exception of a couple of minor issues, North Star has solidified its place as one of Waukesha County’s gems.
There aren’t a lot of brucnh palces in Waukesha county and the majority of the ones around are buffets. North Star is a table service brunch which is the way I prefer. We visited last summer with some friends and for the most part everything (with one notable exception) was good, but not extraordinary, and the service was sub-par. The standout was undoubtedly the Crab Cake Benedict which featured two poached eggs crab cakes and avocado. Everything is topped with Hollandaise sauce and there are some nice roasted Yukon gold potatoes on the side. This was one of the better renditions of what has become a brunch staple (the two best are Harry’s Bar and Grill and Lake Park Bistro). The crab cakes were large and full of crabmeat with not a lot of filler. At $13.95 its on the high end of what I typically want to pay for breakfast but considering how good the crab cakes were, I wouldn’t hesitate to order this again.
The Creme Brulee French Toast didn’t fare as well. It’s made from brioche bread dipped in a creme brulee batter and served with Grand Marnier berries and vanilla sauce. This arrived at our table with the toast burnt to the point where it wasn’t edible. I cannot imagine how this got out of the kitchen without someone noticing, and therein lies the problem we had at brunch. Our waitress was very scatterbrained and excruciatingly slow which is something I might expect from a hungover college student on a Sunday morning. The problem was this waitress was likely into her 50s. Not only was she slow in everything she did, so was the kitchen. The place wasn’t very crowded but it took a very long time for our meals to arrive
To her credit the waitress offered to have them re-do it or get something else, but my cousins were from out of town and really wanted to get on the road. Given the long time it took to get our food they didn’t want to wait another 30 minutes for a redo. They did take it off the bill. On the “unch” side of brunch things, the Seafood Bistro Salad was a nice, refreshing light meal. It featured a perfectly grilled fillet of salmon on top of mixed greens, tomatoes, pine nuts and goat cheese tossed in a lemon-thyme vinaigrette. The acidity from the lemon in the vinaigrette played well with the creamy goat cheese and really woke up the salmon.
While the brunch experience wasn’t all bad, dinner fared much better with one very minor complaint…actually it was more of an observation than a complaint. We made a 7:00 reservation and were told that the only tables available were in the bar (which is thankfully non-smoking) This was fine with us as I find eating in the bar are to sometimes be more enjoyable and relaxed than the dining room. The only issue (and this is the minor complaint/observation I spoke of) was that I could see no fewer than five empty tables and booths in the dining room the entire duration of our visit. I noticed that most of the people eating in the bar were tables of two and the empty seats were four-tops. Maybe they try to steer two-tops into the bar in case larger groups or families come in without a reservation. Not that it really mattered because eating in the bar was very nice (though if it ever was crowded it might be less enjoyable).
We stared off with some wine and an order crabcakes which the menu described as a “signature starter.” They offer a nice array of wines by the glass with at least one by-the-glass offering for every basic wine style. The pan-seared cakes are loaded with crab and very little filler are served on a bed of mixed greens tossed in a horseradish vinaigrette, which is nice because you get a little salad with your appetizer (they also offer a crab cake salad, which has two cakes and a much larger serving of greens) The crab cakes are and topped with an excellent creamy tarragon aioli. They were some of the best crab cakes I have had in a while and are highly recommended if you visit this place.
Lamb shank with sage polenta (photo is from JSOnline Review)
The entrees we tried I would also recommend to anyone looking for something a little different out in the western suburbs. The Lamb Shank was slow-roasted and topped with a red wine reduction sauce. The large shank was served atop some of the best polenta I have ever tried. Made with sage, it was creamy, rich, and delicious. The sauteed spinach was also outstanding. The only thing I would have liked would have been a bit more of the red wine sauce to dip the lamb into. If you are a fan of lamb you need to try this.
My wife had the flat iron steak with wild mushroom sauce. The steak was very tender and cooked to her desired temperature of medium. It was served with truffle mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. While the steak was excellent, the sides were not as successful. The truffle mash potatoes did have a very nice, pronounced truffle flavor but they needed some moisture as they were a bit dry. A swirl of butter or some additional mushroom sauce would have really elevated the potatoes. Not that this should steer you away from this dish, just ask for an extra pat of butter on the side and add it to the potatoes. The beans were ok but were a tad tough and chewy. Maybe they should rethink using green beans in the middle of winter and use something like Brussels sprouts or broccoli.
Our service at diner was great. Even though we could tell that the waiter was somewhat new and inexperienced, he did a good job, our entrees came out quickly, and the whole experience was very good.
The North Star Bistro serves lunch and dinner daily and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Its a great respite from the dull and uninspired chains that litter the landscape of Waukesha County. For more information visit their website: http://www.northstarbistro.com/ For some additional reviews, follow these links on their website.
EatWisconsin Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Rating Guide: 0=Absolutely terrible, avoid at all costs, 1=Bad, 2=Mediocre/Average, 3= Admirable, 4=Excellent, 5=Sublime