MISTRAL

Milwaukee Magazine - - INSIDER -

TAPA-STYLE DIN­ING took off here 11 years ago when La Merenda threw down its first global small plates menu. From Odd Duck to Balzac Wine Bar, mix-and-match, cou­ple-bite din­ing has dug its heels in. And in gen­eral the “starter” or ap­pe­tizer side of restau­rant menus has bal­looned, while “share­able plate” is re­plac­ing the tired, less sexy term “en­trée.” Dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing from the pack has re­quired con­cept tweaks, whether work­ing in un­ex­pected in­gre­di­ents or wrap­ping it all in whim­si­cal pack­ag­ing.

In the co­pi­ous Avalon The­ater kitchen, a cook may be hand-bread­ing chicken ten­ders for movie-go­ers while an­other plates pork cre­pinette with braised la­cinato kale and ba­con gas­trique for a diner seated inside the Avalon’s in­ti­mate Mistral, a breath of fresh sea air. For an ob­server, it’s a wild du­al­ity; for ex­ec­u­tive chef Joe Schre­iter, it’s per­fectly nor­mal. But the lo­ca­tion gives it a cer­tain hid­den gem sta­tus. When bit­ter weather de­scends, don’t ex­pect Mistral to counter it with heavy plates of food. Schre­iter ex­plains his un­ortho­dox ap­proach to win­ter menus (in­cor­po­rat­ing small plates and larger share­able ones) and the ad­van­tages of be­ing housed in an en­ter­tain­ment com­plex of sorts.

MM: THIS TIME OF YEAR, WE TEND TO SEE HEAV­IER SAUCES AND DISH PREPA­RA­TIONS. YOUR PHI­LOS­O­PHY IS DIF­FER­ENT. HOW SO?

JS: I try not to go “ob­vi­ous.” I like light, brighter fla­vors in win­ter. play­ing with dif­fer­ent vine­gars, acids and ver­jus [a high-acid juice made from un­ripe grapes]. An ex­am­ple would be a new dish – branzino with cur­ried squash, a tomato con­sommé from toma­toes we grew and pro­cessed (giv­ing it a sum­mer vibe), plus pick­led mus­tard seed aioli and fried ca­pers. MM: HOW IS THAT STYLE WO­VEN THROUGH THE MENU? The rab­bit cac­cia­tore is very hearty but, at the same time, light. We braise the rab­bit in toma­toes, add an aro­matic ver­mouth,

and fin­ish with a ver­jus. We also use a white bal­samic vine­gar to fin­ish the veg­eta­bles. And we like to use vinai­grettes wher­ever we can, like the harissa vi­nai­grette on the ahi tuna [with Tu­nisian brik, a filled phyllo pas­try]. MM: IS YOUR AP­PROACH TO THE MOVIE THE­ATER MENU DIF­FER­ENT FROM THAT OF MISTRAL?

JS: You don’t think of a movie the­ater hav­ing ev­ery­thing from scratch, but the pizza dough is just as im­por­tant as the pork con­sommé [used at Mistral]. We grind brisket and rib-eye for the the­ater burger, and grind up pop­corn for the bread­ing for our chicken ten­ders. What’s cool is you can get oc­to­pus at Mistral be­fore a movie and pep­per­oni pizza at the Avalon. It’s the per­fect date night.

Mistral’s hal­ibut with green gar­lic hum­mus, pick­led cu­cum­ber, cherry toma­toes and pump­kin­seed oil 2473 S. Kin­nick­in­nic Ave., 414-539-6469 Mediter­ranean $8-$24

JOE SCHRE­ITER

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