I was kind of disappointed when one of my favorite Lake Country restaurants, Kahuna’s on Pewaukee Lake, closed a couple years back. I really enjoyed their tropical themed menu with excellent fish tacos, great coconut shrimp, and addictive coconut rice. Last year Baja Grill opened up in the Kahuna’s space. It didn’t get off to a good start, even Journal food critic Carol Depotella made note of their stumble in here recent (and mostly positive) review. However they recently hired Adam Brousil, who had worked at Madison’s popular Eldorado Grill, and as Depotella noted, there was a dramatic shift in the quality, variety, and presentation of the food offered at Baja.
I should disclose that I know the Chef. We were friends in high school and recently casually reconnected through Facebook. He had no idea I was coming in or that I would write about it (he wasn’t even working the night I visited) but I figured I’d share that info and let readers take that into consideration when reading this review. I should also disclose that my favorite kind of cooking is southwest/Tex Mex/Mexican, which probably influences me in reviewing Baja Grill more than an old friendship.
There are several appetizers to choose from and we had a hard time deciding between the Caribbean Crabcakes and the Pan Seared Scallops. We always seem to gravitate towards crabcakes and decided to try the scallops for a change. Four large sea scallops were perfectly seared and served in a pool of a spicy chipotle sauce and drizzled with a buttermilk poblano vinaigrette. Some very good slaw accompanied the dish and served as a nice cool contrast to the heat of the chipotle. I’ll warn you, if you don’t like spicy foods you should maybe veer towards something else on the appetizer menu. If you like a little kick to your food though, this is a “must order.”
Pan Seared Scallops Appetizer (photo from bajapewaukee.com)
My wife and I both ordered from the Pan Latin portion of the menu and both were in the mood for fish. My wife was enticed by the Mahi Mahi special that evening. The fish portions were huge. The Mahi-Mahi was perfectly cooked with a great pecan crust and a coconut and pineapple (think Pina Colada) infused sauce that gave the fish a distinctive tropical taste. The sautéed vegetables served alongside it were delicious as well. There is only one minor complaint and that was the rice. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t at the level of everything else on the plate. That same rice is served with Baja’s Catfish Dinner which featured two large filets of cornmeal breaded catfish with some more of that tasty slaw and some of the best pinto beans I have had at a Mexican/Southwestern restaurant. Instead of cooking and pulverizing them into an unappetizing refried mush like everywhere else, these were cooked enough to make them tender but still retain their shape. The catfish was awesome by itself, even better with the horseradish chipotle cream pooled underneath the large filets.
Cornmeal Breaded Fried Catfish (from bajapewaukee.com)
We had flan for dessert and it was very good. I have probably had flan about 2 times in my life so I don’t have much to compare it to. It was smooth and creamy with an excellent crust with bits of almond in it. I took some of it home and ate the leftovers for breakfast the next day. Speaking of breakfast, Baja Grill also serves a Sunday brunch. I cannot wait to get back and try that as well as some of the Mexican specialties.
Baja Grill is located at W279N2221 Prospect Ave, Pewaukee – (262) 696-4624 www.bajapewaukee.com