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Finding that Perfect Morel

Hot new restaurant in Walker’s Point

Oct. 21, 2014
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Just like the highly anticipated morel mushroom after a long winter and the promise of what spring has to offer, farm-to-table enthusiasts and locavores were excited for one of Walker’s Point’s hottest new restaurants to open its doors this summer.

Even as you approach the front door and spot the big ceramic Morel, it gives you the feeling of finding that perfect Morchella fungus under a tree knowing that you hit an epicurean jackpot for dinner.

The atmosphere is laid back with a European farmhouse feel and a bonus area where you can see what is happening in the kitchen. It’s a great spot to enjoy a craft cocktail and engage with the very friendly staff. The wooden bar, exposed stone and soft lighting was inviting and gave off a warm glow that instantly makes you relax into the evening’s dining experience. As we sat down we thought the chairs were a bit uncomfortable, but soon forgot about that when the charcuterie ($16) arrived on a gorgeous wood board, the items thoughtfully juxtaposed to take you on a culinary journey. The platter was a work of art, everything handcrafted from the kitchen just a few feet away with the exception of the dried cured meats from Madison’s Underground Meats. The pheasant terrine and lamb pastrami were by far my favorite and paired beautifully with the grainy mustard, house pickles and cherry preserves. We had a bonus on our first visit and missed it on the second—a gorgeous smoked trout.

The menu changes almost daily, but don’t worry if you are like me and get your mouth set on something you had the first go around; Chef Jonathan Manyo keeps some of the popular favorites like the homemade ricotta cavetelli or varies slightly from the original in other inventive and delicious preparations sure not to disappoint. 

The ricotta cavetelli ($18) conjures up memories of Nonna in the kitchen cranking out these tender little dumplings all day and you could almost taste the love in each bite. On one visit the cavetelli was paired with a smoky lamb ragu for the evening special as an appetizer ($9), but the portion was generous enough for an entrée. 

We ordered the flat bread with burrata ($12) on one visit, against my protest of, “It’s flat bread and burrata—been there and done that.” I was pleasantly surprised and it soon became one of my favorite menu items. From the crust to the flavor combination, it was a standout starter. A lamb dish ($25) was cooked to a beautiful medium rare and served with a housemade merguez (lamb sausage), lamb bacon diced with puntarelle and eggplant; it was hearty and full of flavor. If lamb isn’t your choice of protein, the pork chop ($28), slightly pink inside and juicy, sat on a bed of slow cooked caramelized onions and kale with a hint of smokiness from the ham hock, creating the perfect balance in every bite.

The goat cheese cheesecake could be considered the house favorite of the staff, a delightfully creamy and tangy dessert paired with different farm-fresh produce, but equally impressive was the clafouti with a silky texture that melts in your mouth. 

I look forward to Chef Manyo’s next seasonal menu, as much as I anticipate the return of the highly regarded morel mushroom and the signs of spring after our soon-to-come Wisconsin winter.

 

Morel

430 S. Second St.

414-897-0747

$$$

morelmke.com

Handicap access: yes

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