Balzac – Milwaukee

Short Takes: First-rate gourmet Small Plates off of Brady Street.

Long Take: Willamina and Higgins enjoy tapas. Perhaps it is the appreciation for smoked meats and cheese one often finds on a Spanish inspired menu. Then again, it could be the overall environment of sharing and trying new flavors.

Willamina went searching for a new restaurant to try on a Saturday evening. A reservation was made for Balzac Wine Bar for 6:30 pm, and when they arrived the restaurant was empty. They had a choice to sit in the stylish, candle lit dining room or on the pleasant patio. Due to the gorgeous evening and the very loud rap music pounding inside, they opted for the patio.

The waitress was pleasant and attentive. Balzac is known for its very large collection of wines from around the world chosen by a sommelier on site. They have wines by the bottle, glass or “tasting.”

Willamina and Higgins started the dinner with a cheese plate, opting for an apple wood smoked cheddar and a mild white cheese. The cheese plate was artfully arranged, surrounded by crackers, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, apple slices, walnuts and thin slices of french bread.

It was pleasing to the eye and the palate.

Willamina and Higgins then had panchetta wrapped asparagus in a wild mushroom cream sauce. This was a delicious and well executed plate, from the slightly crisp panchetta to the perfectly cooked asparagus. The mushroom sauce was a great backdrop to the dish. Higgins remarked that it was only missing bread as an additional means for enjoying the leftover sauce. The waitress, upon hearing this, kindly brought a small basket of bread to the table.

The final dish was a plate of three pan-seared scallops with a sweet potato mash and wilted spinach sautéed with garlic. The scallops were beautifully caramelized and tender. Higgins remarked that the sweet-potato mixture was a tad bitter from an overabundance of cinnamon, but when eaten with the scallop was quite good.

The dessert menu had about 5 options including a “creme brulee flavor or the day.” Willamina was disappointed to hear that they did not have this dessert available, despite it being on the menu. Mildly disappointed but sated, Higgins and Willamina headed off into the Milwaukee skyline sunset to make their way home.

They plan to return to Balzac again, possibly with friends equally interested in sharing a small plate or two.

The total cost of the meal (2 cheese plate, 2 small plates, 3 wine tastings, and 2 glasses of juice) came to $60.


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