A week before its grand opening, the proprietors of the Stir Crazy Asian Grill were thrilled about the restaurant's location adjacent to Brookfield Square.
Two months later, it's easy to see why.
Located in a 6,500-sq. ft. stand-alone building at 15795 W. Bluemound Rd., Stir Crazy has drawn steady crowds for lunch and dinner in a corridor that includes Claim Jumper, Mitchell's Fish Market, Bravo! Cucina Italiana, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Houlihan's.
During two recent visits, customers seemed to represent a cross-section of the area: shoppers, extended families, couples on dates, office workers and -- at dinner time -- large groups of female diners in celebratory "girls night" mode.
The "something for everyone" vibe extends to the menu, which features 65 pan-Asian items that put Stir Crazy between Chin's Asia Fresh and P.F. Chang's on the food map. In essence, Stir Crazy is a cross between Chang's, which has operated for several years at Mayfair Mall, and a Mongolian BBQ place.
If you're looking for a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, Stir Crazy may not be your first choice. With high ceilings, a sizable bar, an "open" kitchen and several large tables catering to parties of six or more, Stir Crazy is not exactly serene -- especially when they bang a gong and fire up the woks.
Once you pull open the giant chopstick door handle, the place practically crackles with energy. On each of two visits, a friendly hostess turned our party over to gregarious servers who were both eager and prepared to answer questions about the vast menu.
Diners at Stir Crazy have two primary options. They can order a prepared dish from the vast menu or opt for the Market Bar, a do-it-yourself setup in which you are handed a small wok and a card on which you indicate your choice of protein (beef, chicken, seafood or tofu) and a starch (white rice, brown rice, fried rice, lo-mein, rice noodle or shanghai noodle).
After loading your wok with fresh vegetables (bean sprouts, bok choy, bamboo shoots, broccoli, baby corn, carrots, celery, green and red peppers, mushrooms, cabbage, onions, pea pods, pineapple, spinach, tomatoes, water chestnuts, yellow squash and zucchini), you ladle on made-from-scratch sauces ranging from classic Chinese, garlic ginger, sweet and sour, Thai curry, Teriyaki, kung pao, peanut or Szechwan.
You hand your concoction to a chef, who mixes the protein and starch, fires it up and hands it back.
The Market Bar is a popular option, particularly at lunch, but the culinary results depend on the diner. The "fixed" menu items are inherently less adventurous, but still solid.
A recent dinner started with an Ahi Tuna and Avocado Poke ($9), which is a tower of marinated Ahi tuna, avocado, red onion and sesame seeds on cool ginger-lime and sriracha sauces. The dish, which drew raves from the server, was pleasantly presented and delicious compared to lettuce wraps ($9), which seemed fresh but somewhat ordinary.
Crab rangoons ($7), stuffed with cream cheese and crab meet, disappeared from the table quickly. So did the crab cake hand rolls ($8), a flaky crab cake wrapped dusted with breadcrumbs and nestled with rice and a unique sauce and served sushi-style in a nori wrapper.
Two chicken dishes -- orange peel and sweet and spicy ($11.50) -- were hits with diners. Both came with tender pieces of crispy chicken and white or brown rice. The orange peel, tossed with broccoli in an orange sauce, had a slight kick. The Thai chili sauce in the sweet and spicy chicken brought more heat, but it wasn't overbearing.
The fixed menu features a variety of noodle dishes, such as kung pao, pad Thai and blazing noodles, that cost $11.50 with extra charges for chicken, beef and shrimp. Several of the dishes - teriyaki, kung pao, pad Thai and Mongolian are available during lunch for $8.88, which includes a spring roll.
The signature dish at Stir Crazy just might be the Japanese steak ($19), grilled filet topped with a soy butter mushroom medley and served with grilled wasabi asparagus and sesame onions. A dining companion savored every bite and said he would order it again on his next visit, but only if he could resist the urge to sample the Vietnamese Lemongrass Pork Tenderloin ($15).
The appetizers and entrée didn't leave room for dessert on either visit, but nearby diners seemed to be enjoying the Mandarin chocolate fondue, served with strawberries.
With a broad menu, reasonable prices and a cheerful staff (that really seems to push wine by the glass), Stir Crazy is the kind of place that you can visit multiple times, especially if you bring along some friends for plate sharing. The only real drawbacks -- wait times ranging from 30-45 minutes during peak times and a crowded parking lot -- are indications that some people are doing just that.
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.