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Inventive twists on dining
Four established eateries revamp their menus, offering unique culinary experiences

Photos by Matt Haas

January 2016

Wolf Peach ó Large Format Dining

Launched last February, Wolf Peachís large format dining is the brainchild of owner Gina Gruenewald. Gruenewald tasked executive chef Cole Ersel with developing four large format options, and each dish is served family-style, accommodating six to eight diners. "Itís something different, and something not many people are doing here," says Ersel. "It sort of fits our style ó our dishes are shareable and served as they come anyways. This (option) takes the pressure off of ordering." Orders must be placed 72 hours in advance, and a deposit is required.

The current large format menu includes a 7-pound leg of lamb, a 4-foot Italian sausage coil, a whole 5-pound red snapper and a bone-in 5-pound prime rib. Erselís top pick is the lamb dish. "Itís definitely my favorite thing to pull out of the oven here. When you cook for long enough, you get immune to the food," he explains. "You donít salivate over the stuff youíre cooking because you know you canít have it. But with the lamb, we in the kitchen always say, ĎIf we just keep that in here and eat that whole thing, that would just be fine!í"

Ersel also presents each dish tableside, where he explains its preparation and the proteinís origin. "Itís fun for me to get out and touch and talk to the tables," he says, adding that Wolf Peach has sold approximately 100 large format dishes since their introduction nearly one year ago. He plans on tweaking the menu for the new year, and his grandmotherís German rouladen will make its debut appearance. 1818 N. Hubbard St., (414) 374-8480,

Kil@wat at InterContinental Milwaukee ó Table 75

Executive chef Aaron Miles and the InterContinental culinary team recently launched Table 75 ó a dining concept that primarily uses ingredients sourced within 75 miles of Milwaukee. Miles describes the concept as a "private, pop-up restaurant" that lends itself to smaller, more intimate groups. He and his staff will travel to any location and prepare any range of cuisine, using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. "Depending on the seasonality and what the guests are looking for, we can give them a dining experience anywhere they want," Miles explains. "It can be an educational experience or just a dinner ó as much or as little as the guests wants."

A driving force behind Table 75ís creation, says Miles, was dispelling the stigma often associated with hotel restaurants. "Thereís a stigma of hotel restaurants that everything shows up on a truck," he says. "Iím using the same purveyors and farmers that local restaurants are. Everything is seasonable, fresh and sustainable."

Miles personally works to educate his guests by interacting with them throughout the Table 75 experience, ensuring the source of each ingredient is made known. "We care about the local economy, the farmers and the purveyors. This is a way to kind of get that out there," he says. "Itís also a good opportunity for the purveyor to get word of mouth within the city with no cost to them. Itís a way for us to give back to them." 139 E. Kilbourn Ave., (414) 291-4793,

Il Mito ó Chefís Counter

While many restaurateurs use extra space to expand seating capacity, chef Michael Feker of Il Mito instead converted the eateryís storage area into a different kind of culinary experience. "My wife said to me, ĎWhy donít you do something you love best? Showcase your cooking techniques and your love for food in a different way,í" says Feker. "I wanted to go one step further and do something where I could cook there personally and serve people. Thatís how I came up with the Chefís Counter.

"If you go to a gallery, you see the finished product of the artist, but you havenít been inside that artistís head and you donít know much about that artist," he continues, adding that his goal is to create a relationship with Il Mitoís diners. "I want them to understand what my mental process is behind everything that I do. Why do I use the ingredients that I do? How do I treat them? What is the chemical reaction of these ingredients?"

The Chefís Counter can accommodate up to 30 people, with 15 counter seats and surrounding high-top tables. Feker himself prepares a specially designed, multi-course meal for the entire party. "I wanted to be the cause of you getting back to the table ó to enhance your dining experience more than just seeing the finished product we put on the canvas we call the plate," he enthuses. 6913 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa, (414) 443-1414,

Ardent ó Red Light Ramen

Breeze by Ardent around 11:30 p.m. on a weekend night, and itís likely a line will be wrapped around the teeny restaurantís brick exterior. Foodies flock to the eatery to indulge in James Beard Award-nominee Justin Carlisleís pork-based ramen ó a dish he and sous chef Matt Haase serve up until 2 a.m. every Friday and Saturday night. "I always wanted a ramen shop. I trained with a Japanese chef for years," says Carlisle. "When I opened up Ardent, the idea of Red Light Ramen was always there. I wasnít going to go for two different spaces."

Carlisle launched Red Light Ramen in December 2013, just one month after Ardent opened its doors. What originated as a place for service industry staff to congregate after- hours quickly evolved into a local culinary phenomenon. "I started it for me and people in the service industry that I knew so we could hang out, talk and have good food," says Carlisle. "People kept telling others about it, and it grew from there."

He says the name spawns from Japanís Red Light Districts, where late-night ramen is often sold. The dish itself, which Carlisle describes as "very rich and very emulsified" is inspired by the tofu-style ramen found in southern Japan, and the recipe never changes. Two alcoholic slushies ó one is flavored like an old-fashioned, and the other changes weekly ó and a selection of beers round out the late-night menu. 1751 N. Farwell Ave., (414) 897-7022,



This story ran in the January 2016 issue of: