Their creation, Carnevor, 724 N. Milwaukee St., is a cavernous, dark and very trendy and modern restaurant which features a menu filled with carnivorous entrées and an equally substantial wine and specialty drink list for the nightlife see-and-be-seen crowd.
Two recent visits to Carnevor left us wanting more from the restaurant. The service here is superior, but the food was inconsistent and was missing the shimmer that the interior design, the hype and the abovementioned quintet promises.
Carnevor carves its menu into six sections: small plates, shared for the table, soups and salads, Carnevor prime cuts, other meats and steakhouse sides, and the offerings range from, of course, steak ($29-$75, with Kobe Beef rounding out the high end) to seafood and even pork chops and Cornish hens.
Vegetarians will feel more comfortable in another setting, since nearly every item on the menu contains either meat or seafood (hence the moniker), but we were pleased with the variety of offerings here.
The seafood fix (small $39, large $75) was by far the best we have had in Milwaukee, even at seafood specialty houses. The platter featured shrimp, king crab legs, oysters on the half shell and green lip mussels with dipping sauces, and was the most reasonable purchase on the menu for quality and flavor.
Seafood fritti ($11) was a dredged and fried montage of calamari, shrimp and scallops and was very good, but the shrimp were a little fishy, and the sauce, which was a bottled product, did little for what otherwise was a very enjoyable dish.
Woodland mushroom soup ($6) was sold to us as a cream base, but arrived as an insipid broth with mushrooms and large garlicky croutons. With an overpowering taste of black pepper and parsley, my dining companion found it unpalatable.
The aromas and first few slices of each cut of meat in the entrées section were enticing and you can tell immediately that the grade of product here is the best, but the kitchen seemed to be unpredictable with cooking temperatures. On two separate occasions, I sampled the 8-oz. filet ($29) because on the first visit, it arrived just a little overdone, but the flavor and tenderness of the meat were still excellent.
A second try yielded amazing results, with a tender, succulent, perfectly cooked medium-rare piece of meat with a delectable crust on the outside and buttery and juicy beef on the inside. When cooked to temperature, this was, undoubtedly, one of the better steaks I have had in town.
The veal chop ($35) was also upped from medium-rare to medium, but was not as forgivable because even the reduced veal au jus could not repair the juices lost by cooking to another temperature.
Tuna steak ($23) was served just a little on the medium-rare side of rare, and was crusted with ground peppercorns rather than cracked black peppercorns, which didn’t give it the extra pop we expected, but it was still good in the accompanying wasabi mustard sauce.
Sides at Carnevor are a la carte, and feature some novelties such as a cumin-laden creamed corn ($6), exotic mushrooms ($7), potato leek gratin ($7), and truffled mashed potatoes ($7). Our favorite was the corn, which was simple and creamy.
The potato leek gratin was delicious, but a little tough and difficult to cut and chew. The truffled mashed potatoes and exotic mushrooms were best when combined, since the mushrooms were a little dry and the potatoes were a little oily, but together they were heaven, and worked wonderfully with the tender, delicious, carnivorous filet.
Carnevor is open Monday through Wednesday 5-10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday 5-11 p.m., the lounge is open until 2 a.m. Reservations recommended. Attire is business or smart casual. For more information, call (414) 223-2200. The Web site is carnevor.com.
Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.
The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.
Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.