By Amy L. Carlson   Published Feb 14, 2005 at 5:41 AM Photography: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography

{image1} Forty8, 4823 W. National Ave., opened its doors in October on the oft-forgotten West Milwaukee entertainment strip that also houses old classics like 4th Base and Mollica's Pub. And, forty8 is bound to make a splash in the Milwaukee restaurant scene with its new and daring cuisine.

On a recent Thursday evening, we found ourselves in what appeared to be a local tavern, where every brown vinyl bar stool held a local patron enjoying cocktails from the fully stocked bar. We weren't sure what to expect but quickly learned forty8 had succeeded in turning out white tablecloth caliber dishes (at white tablecloth prices) on a brown laminate table with basic bar chairs and paper napkins.

All items on chef and co-owner Steven Holz's two-page general menu are a la carte and range in price from sandwiches at $6.99 to pastas at $10.99. Entrées don't come with salads or other accoutrements, but at $2.99, a side salad with signature dressing is well worth it. Also on the menu are an impressive wine list and an entire page of chef-featured specials that focus heavily on seafood and specialty sauces. And for vegetarians, forty8 has a great selection of unique meatless options.

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We began our dinner with a grilled crab-stuffed avocado ($7.99). The presentation was lovely, with the avocado centered amid split grape tomatoes and topped with a mixture of back-fin lump crabmeat and a smattering of colorful diced mango, yellow and red peppers and onions, all smothered in a creamy Mornay sauce (a béchamel: flour, butter and milk, enriched with egg yolk, cream and Parmesan and Gruyere cheeses).

After debating over the myriad entrée options, I decided to try the salmon esteban ($18.99) from the specials menu. The fish came perfectly grilled with a medley of steamed vegetables and angel hair pasta and was drizzled with the delicious Mornay sauce. But, the true star of our meal was the Decatur pasta ($10.99) from the general menu. My companion was thrilled with the large bowl of flawlessly al dente fettuccini tossed with an Absolut Peppar Vodka cream sauce, diced bell peppers and freshly shredded Parmesan cheese. Our only complaint was we would have liked some bread served alongside the dishes to help soak up the delicious sauces.

We ended the evening on a sweet note with a slice of forty8 cheesecake ($4.99), which was average tasting, but again, beautifully presented, with lime, tangerine and black currant and served with large, ripe berries and pear cognac liquor.

The service at forty8 was a little spotty, but co-owner and first-time restaurant owner Gregg Juleen took the opportunity to stop at every table to see how diners were enjoying their meals -- and he was a busy man, since forty8 fills up quickly during the dinner hours.

Forty8 is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m. Bar service only on Sunday and Monday. Smoking permitted, but the space is well ventilated. Good selection of vegetarian options. Call (414) 389-9350 for more details.