What's in a restaurant? In this series, we ask chefs around the city to describe their restaurants in their own words and recommend three dishes that embody the best of what they offer. In this edition, we talk with Chef Adam Pawlak of Plum Lounge on Jefferson Street.
780 N. Jefferson St.
"Plum is the sort of place where you can go for a bite before dinner, have a full dinner or grab a bite later in the evening," says Chef Adam Pawlak of Plum Lounge. "We offer people a really different experience in a beautiful space with sophisticated upscale food. It’s food that has passion and creativity behind it, while still being accessible and appealing to a lot of different people.
"We really base our menu on the idea of sharing, so our dishes are appropriate for groups or for someone who just wants something to eat along with their cocktail. But at the same time, someone can come in and enjoy a full meal and leave satisfied. Our offerings are far beyond bar food, and the point is really to capture both a restaurant and lounge experience in one.
"Seasonality is really important to my cooking style, so our menu changes every two to three months, and we really put a lot of thought behind the food we’re offering. I take a lot of pride in the fact that I touch every dish that is served in the restaurant."
1. Charred pork tacos
Smoked pork, roasted chili remoulade, shallot and cilantro blend, queso fresco, crispy corn shell ($13).
"I’m Italian, but my favorite food second to Italian is Mexican. And I love to cook what I like to eat. I also love to elevate street food, so tacos were just a given when I created the menu. I’ve done a variety of tacos, but this is the first hard shell taco I’ve done here. There’s a nice contrast between the crispy hard shell and the soft, tender pork. And there’s a beautiful smokiness at the end from the smoked pork and remoulade. The last menu included a soft shell corn taco with chicken, pico de gallo, queso fresco, jalapeno cream and micro cilantro."
2. Lobster black truffle mac & cheese
Cavatappi pasta, Wisconsin cheddar, lobster tail and claw meat, black truffle, crispy pork belly, bread crumbs ($16).
"I feel like this doesn’t need much of an explanation. It’s over the top, decadent and rich. It’s all the styles of what I like to eat in one dish. Cheese is at the forefront. And then there’s pork belly, lobster and truffle – probably the three most decadent ingredients that exist. It’s that dish that anyone who isn’t vegetarian or vegan should want to order. It’s also my favorite."
3. Crab cakes
Lump crab cakes, charred corn, chili remoulade, micro herb salad, lemon, green oil ($13).
"I’ve always had crab cakes on the menu here. It’s tough to find a good crab cake in the Midwest, and I feel as if I’ve really mastered the technique. The goal is really to showcase the crab in the dish, and it’s one of the most popular items on the menu. And it’s a fun dish to create. If you start with a good crab cake, the variations you can pair with it are endless."
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.