Water Buffalo – Milwaukee

Short Take: Very cool atmosphere, Ok service, delicious food. A little pricey.

Full Version:
Willamina and Higgins were joined by Edward (a friend from out of town) yesterday and we decided to take advantage of restaurant promotion in downtown Milwaukee, Downtown Dining. (A select group of restaurants have prepared a pris fix menu at low set price of $10 for lunch and $20 for dinner.) After looking at all the options (the menu selections were all available on line– a very nice touch), we chose to go to the Water Buffalo. (At the time of this posting, the Water Buffalo website was broken.) The Water Buffalo is located in the historic Third Ward area of downtown Milwaukee at the corners of Water and Buffalo (imagine that!). While the address is on Water Street, the door to the restaurant is actually on Buffalo near the river.

We called late on Tuesday to ask about reservations. Water Buffalo doesn’t take reservations for parties smaller than 8, but they did allow us to put our names on the waiting list as we drove to the restaurant. When we arrived 30 minutes later (10 minutes later than we expected) they seated us immediately. The space was very funky and pleasant, though quite loud. Our server, Jasmine, was very friendly and informative. Unlile other restaurants in the Downtown Dining program, we had to ask for the pris fix menu– but they were promptly provided to us. There was one subsititution from what was printed on-line, but it was a subsitution for the better, so we had no complaints. We did take a few minutes to look at the regular menu. It looked very appealing, though somewhat pricey (entrees $16-32, sandwhiches somewhat less expensive). We thought we would like to return to try some of the more appealing items.

Marinated Chicken Wings – Willamina ordered these chicken wings. She was given a choice of fried or grilled and hot or bbq. She chose fried, bbq. When they arrived, they were obviously covered in hot spicy sauce. (Much hotter than Willamina could handle, though Edward thought it was tame. Edward has taste buds and a stomach of steel.) It took us a while to get Jasmine back to our table, but when she was informed of the mistake she apologized profusely and whisked the plate back to the kitchen. The new chicken wings didn’t come out until our entrees were served. The fried bbq chicken wings were very tasty. They were served with celery sticks, a sprig of purple seedless grapes, a cup of warm bbq sauce, and a cup of mustard-blue cheese sauce. Each of us enjoyed the chicken wings/legs.

Lobster and Fennel Fritters – These were the substituted item. Higgins and Edward both ordered these. The plate came out with three two-bite fritters, covered in “crispy fennel”, sitting on a basil-balsamic vinegar reduction. They were absolutely delicious. A little crispy on the outside, soft and chewy inside. The lobster chunks were plentiful and tasty. The only downside was the “crispy fennel” pieces. They were not crispy and added nothing to the dish (taste or appearance.)

Braised Short Ribs – Edward ordered these burgundy demi-glazed short ribs. They ame with roasted shallots and a two-potato mash. Edward kindly shared samples with Willamina and Higgins. The flavor was intense and mellow at the same time. The meat almost melted on the tongue. It was, simply, the best short ribs any of us had tasted. The potatoes were nothing special but adequately matched the ribs.

Smoked Mozzarella Tortelloni – The tortelloni was served in a light wild mushroom cream sauce and covered with more “crispy fennel”. The tortellini was a very pleasant surprise. The mozzarella cheese was very flavorful with hints of a fruity nuttiness while not being too sharp or lingering. The mushroom cream sauce was just right and complemented the tortellini perfectly. All three of us very much enjoyed this dish as well. The “crispy fennel” was, again, not crispy and we knew better than to try and eat it again.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake – All three of us ordered this dessert. When it arrived, we weren’t sure of what to think. The cheese cake seemed small, had no crust of any sort, and looked like a peanut butter marbled cheese cake. This time, there was no need for sharing– which was good. After the first forkful of this dessert hit their tongues, none of them were able to talk. Small sounds of pleasure were heard around the table. The texture and taste was AMAZING. Not too sweet, not artificial. It tasted just like you would hope peanut butter mixed with cheese cake would taste. Almost the best peanut butter cheese cake any of the three had tasted. They did all agree that a little chocolate sauce or chocolate glaze would have pushed the dish over the top.

All of the dishes seemed to be smaller than the normal dishes portion-wise. This is to be expected in a pris fix meal. Even so, there was plenty of food for everyone. All three diners were full at the end of the meal. With three pris fix meals and three drinks, the total came to ~75. It was an exceptionally enjoyable evening and Willamina and Higgins are hoping to return soon.


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