For the fifth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Concordia University. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2011."
Last month we got to meet Chef Justin Carlisle, who arrived at Umami Moto after years of working to acclaim in Madison and most recently Chicago.
But last night, I finally got to see what he can do in the kitchen.
While Umami Moto is built on Asian culinary traditions, Carlisle isn't bound by any traditions, as his six-course menu, which also included a pair of amuse bouche treats, showed on Wednesday night.
The description of Carlisle's sweet 'n' sour chicken sounds familiar, but what arrives on the plate is nothing like the sauce-smothered deep fried chicken nuggets you get at most restaurants.
Instead, it's tender chicken with crispy skin paired with charred pineapple and pea tenders and dolloped with pineapple foam. Sumptuous and a revelation.
When a pair of perfectly seared diver scallops arrives, it's sitting atop a slice of lardo. His miso pork belly brings artichokes, apples and bacon.
When Carlisle is writing a menu, he seems keen to engage us and to surprise us and to show us the ways that our expectations can be challenged and the ways that varied cuisines can be wedded to create something new and exciting and, best of all, delicious.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.