Milwaukee Bites: Café BeneluxAugust 4th, 2011 |
While beautifully stained wood walls and a large bar make the dining room of Café Benelux quite inviting, this is summer, when outdoor reigns supreme. The sunshine pouring down the large staircase in the center of the dining room practically beckons diners to climb up to the lush rooftop patio, with great views of the Historic Third Ward.
The newest restaurant of the Lowlands Group (formerly Diablos Rojos) has some of the group’s familiar dishes, including mussels, frites and bitterballen (a meatball appetizer with curry ketchup), but comes with a few new additions.
Like its sisters Café Centraal and Café Hollander, Café Benelux has an impressive beer list, many of which are imported from Belgium. The restaurant’s signature beer, the High Speed Wit, is a Café Benelux excusive. At $4.50 a glass, this white beer with citrus and nutty accents is a perfect summer drink. It goes down easy in the sun and compliments their dishes nicely — especially the Fondue Mussels, which come with a High Speed Wit cream sauce along with ham, leeks, garlic, and Asiago cheese.
They come in two portion sizes: 1 lb for $12.95 or 2 lb for $18.95. The 1 lb portion was perfect for two people to share, made even better by a side of frites, which you can add to any mussel dish for $2.
The mussels were tender and sweet and the beer cream sauce was a nice change to traditional broth-steamed mussels. The crusty fresh baguette served on the side was perfect for sopping up the remaining creamy sauce, leeks and ham bits.
Since Café Benelux is designed to be reminiscent of the grand cafés of Lowland Europe, they feature the specialty Pannekoek, a large Dutch style crêpe (thicker than your traditional French crêpe) with a crunchy exterior and chewy interior.
They offer a variety of different pannekoeken, both sweet and savory. I decided to try the Brussels version, which comes topped with grilled asparagus, fried egg, pancetta, parmesan cheese, and a Belgian beer cheese sauce for $10.95.
When the dish arrived, I was a little overwhelmed — the crêpe was so large, I could barely see the plate! Unsure how best to tackle it, I started cutting off small triangles and adding some of the toppings. This strategy worked out well, and I was able to enjoy the texture of the crepe while getting a little bit of every topping in each bite.
The pancetta was chewy and salty and the eggs were cooked perfectly. The grilled asparagus was still crisp but added a nice smokey flavor. I look forward to trying their other pannekoek varieties in the future.
I also tried the Summer Shrimp Salad ($14.95), served with two shrimp skewers, feta cheese, red onion, and fresh strawberries atop of bed of spinach tossed with citrus vinaigrette.
When I tried the first bite, I was little surprised that the shrimp were cold — I expected them to be grilled-to-order. Instead, they tasted like they had been prepped ahead of time and stored in a cooler, making the flavor less than desirable. The citrus vinaigrette fell flat, with very little flavor in comparison to the hearty greens.
However, the combination of feta cheese, strawberries, and red onions was bright and fresh. With a few tweaks, I think this could be a great dish.
To round out our savory meal, we opted to try the decadent Drunken Brownie ($6.95) for dessert. It’s served as two chocolate chip and walnut brownies, stacked atop one another, layered with bourbon whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce. It was certainly a chocolate lover’s dream, but the bourbon cream was a little bit too sweet for my taste.
The service was attentive without being overbearing. Our server was knowledgeable about the menu items and was ready with a fresh round of drinks whenever our glasses were empty.
I will definitely be back, and recommend grabbing a seat on Café Benelux’s rooftop patio for future visitors. It gives a nice view of the area without having to look at aé bunch of parked cars throughout the meal. However, if the rooftop isn’t for you, they have a sidewalk patio as well.
346 N. Broadway
(414) 501 -2500
Hours: 7 a.m. to Midnight (Mon. – Fri.); 8 a.m. – Midnight (Sat. & Sun.)
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner served daily, with a Brunch menu available on weekends
All major credit cards accepted