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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, April 25, 2014

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As soon as temps heat up, Bayou's deck is hot with diners.
As soon as temps heat up, Bayou's deck is hot with diners.

Downtown Dining Week: Bayou

Yesterday, "Downtown Dining Week" took me to Bayou for lunch. Located near the everlasting bridge construction on Humboldt Avenue, diners can still get to this hot Cajun lunch and dinner spot, just follow the detour signs.

As expected, Bayou's lunch was authentically spicy and flavorful. Starting the meal with a Cajun caesar salad, Bayou's twist on this classic kicks up summer heat with a blackened Cajun seasoning contrasted by crisp, cool lettuce and rich parmesan cheese.

Likewise, the second course catfish tacos are southern to a tee. Serving up seafood tacos topped with traditional coleslaw, Bayou adds a house made maque choux of corn, peppers, tomatoes and onions. A squirt of voodoo sauce adds a flash of seasoned heat to an already full packed tortilla. I love fish tacos and Bayou's are some of Milwaukee's best; carefully constructing the perfect texture with crunchy coleslaw, crispy catfish and creamy sauces.

I finished the meal with a cut of Bayou's Key Lime Pie. A dessert screaming summer, the crunchy graham crust topped with creamy key lime tart creates the perfect blend of sweet and sour.

Our service was timely and extremely friendly. Clearly proud of their authentic Cajun flavors, the staff was knowledgeable not only about "Downtown Dining Week" but about the concepts and tradition behind Southern Creole.

Kil@wat offers a Watercress Salad as a lighter second course lunch option.
Kil@wat offers a Watercress Salad as a lighter second course lunch option.

Downtown Dining Week: Kil@wat

Lunch number three of "Downtown Dining Week" took us to Kil@wat in the Intercontinental Hotel.

Known for a fine dining menu prepared by Executive Chef Robert Ash, the three course for $10 lunch concept is a tough one for restaurants like Kil@wat

Using high quality products and less commonly purchased ingredients, "Downtown Dining Week" presents kitchens with the task of creating a menu reflective of their style but that also doesn't break the bank. For me, Kil@wat successfully nailed the challenge. 

The special menu offered the tradition of soup or salad to start, followed by a choice of burger, sandwich or salad and then dessert.

Yesterday's lunch proved Kil@wat excels in service; our waiter was spot on. From perfectly timing the courses to double checking on our satisfaction, it was perhaps some of the best service I've seen anywhere in quite some time.

My co-worker and co-diner Andy Tarnoff and I both ordered the soup to start followed by salad. The soup, a roasted red pepper puree, was topped with herb oil, fresh parmesan cheese and fennel. Light yet flavorful, the portion was cup size and served with warm pretzel and sweet rolls. To me, it was a great starter to a light lunch.

The second course Watercress Salad was mixed with feta cheese, figs, cherry tomatoes and red onion. While potentially the smallest item of the second course options (other options were the Big Boy Burger or Southwest Chicken Panini), the garden herb lemon drizzled salad was sufficient. Fresh, mild watercress greens were enhanced by sweet figs and creamy feta cheese.

For dessert, we opted to each try one of the choices: a brownie sundae served with ice cream, whip cream and a pineapple confit and New York Style Cheesecake topped with strawberry-rose compote. Again, dessert was not over-portioned but rather perfectly balanced for a sampling of rich flavor to close out the meal.

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Bulgogi, Korean sweet barbeque was a hot option at Sake Tumi.
Bulgogi, Korean sweet barbeque was a hot option at Sake Tumi.
The chef's choice sushi plate comes as a pleasant surprise.
The chef's choice sushi plate comes as a pleasant surprise.

Downtown Dining Week: Sake Tumi

Last week, OnMilwaukee.com readers voted Umami Moto in as a selection for "Downtown Dining Week" lunch reviews. But unfortunately I realized they don't serve lunch and so, we took it upon ourselves to swap one sushi restaurant for another and headed to neighboring Sake Tumi.

Arriving for lunch at noon, the narrow Milwaukee Street restaurant was packed and we opted to sit at the sushi bar in lieu of waiting for a table. Between the two of us -- co-worker Erin Ulicki and I -- we ordered one of everything on the three-course "Downtown Dining Menu."

Service was friendly and efficient. Despite a packed lunch crowd, our server kept us informed on our order time and brought things to us as they were ready to keep the lunch moving. Hastily rolling sushi rolls as she talked with us, staff seemed energized and eager to participate in the "Downtown Dining Week." In the end, lunch lasted about an hour.

The first course offers asparagus and green bean gomaae or kosher salted edamame. Both were equally refreshing; reflecting the subtle sweet and savory flavoring of Japanese cuisine. 

The second course blended the hibachi and sushi sides of Japanese cuisine. The first option was a combination plate of chef's choice sushi and rolls. Our combination included an avocado roll and salmon roll as well as three pieces of tuna sushi. More than enough to share, standard pickled ginger and wasabi accompanied the plate. 

The other option was bulgogi, a Korean sweet marinated shaved rib eye. Served on a compartmentalized tray, the hefty entree included a small green salad, shaved ribeye with peppers and onions, white rice and two pork fried dumplings.

Lastly, the third course was a selection of cold, creamy Japanese desserts. Green tea ice cream or raspberry sorbet, both were perfectly sweet yet light.

Overall, we had another great "Downtown Dining" experience; friendly service, great quality and tasty food.

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