The closing of Red Rock Café signaled the end of an era for Milwaukee’s seafood dining scene. After all, the Shorewood restaurant was a long-lived favorite. But that disappointment has been tempered by the arrival of the Devon Seafood Grill at Bayshore Town Center.
The national chain -- which has locations in Philadelphia and Chicago -- claims it gets two shipments of fish flown in fresh -- never frozen -- every day. And it tastes like it.
Since it’s located outside the enclosed portion of Bayshore, Devon doesn’t feel at all like a mall restaurant. Entering off a street instead of a concourse, the eatery is pleasantly dimly lit with “upscale rustic” stone walls and a calming mix of colors. Stacks of “firewood” built into the walls remind us there’s a grill back in the kitchen.
There is a fairly large bar and a few private and semi-private dining rooms, but the main dining room is open enough to not feel cramped but not so large as to feel impersonal.
After a less than stellar experience with service at a new Downtown eatery recently, my dining companion and I were pleased to find that our cheery -- but not overly so -- server was well acquainted with the menu and its options. However, her knowledge of the wine list didn’t seem especially intimate.
While we perused the menu, we were treated to fresh from the oven sweet drop biscuits that are amazing and, well, delectably sweet. The biscuits would appear poised to become a local favorite.
To get started, we chose the fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, on which slices of fresh mozzarella lay atop red and gold tomatoes with watercress and frisee. Although the mozzarella was indeed fresh and soft, the tomatoes -- perhaps unsurprisingly in January -- were pale and lacked flavor. That was about the sole misstep in an otherwise delicious dinner.
We also had a plate of the steamed little neck clams which arrived with about 18 clams swimming in a garlic, white wine and clam broth. The clams were well picked-over and all were gaping, fresh and tender in a liquid that transmitted just the right amount of garlic flavor.
For entrees, we selected the seafood mixed grill and the seared scallops with asparagus and a lobster risotto.
The mixed grill assembled a crab cake, seared salmon, scallops and shrimp and added roasted potatoes and sautéed spinach. All of the shellfish was perfectly seared and the crab cake was so full of crab and so absent of filler that it barely held together. The salmon was still flaky but the chef was wise to get it off the grill when he did. Another minute and it would have dried out.
The scallops wore a dazzling sear and were cooked to perfection. Years of ordering scallops has proved that this is never guarantees at Milwaukee restaurants. But Devon got them right and the risotto, although a little beyond al dente, was creamy and radiated the perfume of lobster.
Despite the fact that the portions suggested we ought to pass on dessert, we couldn’t pass up the tray when it arrived. We selected mixed berries with a mousse-filled cannolo and a chocolate lava cake. The lightness of the berries was complemented by the richness of its accompaniment and the lava cake was a chocolate lover’s dream come true.
Considering the portion sizes and the freshness of the seafood, the fact that two diners had appetizers, entrees and desserts -- along with a Spotted Cow and a glass of wine -- $106 seemed like a reasonable tab at the end. Certainly not a place a family on a budget can get to regularly, but not out of the occasional splurge zone.
Sure, Devon is a chain and sure it’s located in a mall -- two things that usually keep us away -- but in seafood-starved Milwaukee fresh fish at a reasonable price and in a warm, comfortable setting is the right equation for getting us to return.
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.