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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Charro's New Menu Tours the Americas

Good food meets comfort in Milwaukee, Brookfield locations

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Charro opened on Milwaukee Street a little over two years ago. Its menu dabbled in the foods of Latin America and featured hints of Spain. Owners Omar Shaikh, Tom Wackman and Michael Polaski, part of the SURG Restaurant Group, soon added a second location in Brookfield. In early January, however, both locations temporarily closed. This downtime allowed them to do some remodeling and usher in a new menu.

The interiors are not drastically different. The Milwaukee location, dominated by a long bar, feels more like a lounge. The Brookfield one is more spacious, with a granite-surface bar in the front room and a large dining room in the rear. The family-friendly Brookfield locale also has more windows and a room filled with video games.

The major changes occur in the menu, which is nearly identical at the two locations. This time the menu takes a broader focus on Central and South America. The plus side is a very interesting selection of tapas and entrees; on the minus side, the fine Spanish paella is gone (ditto for the ultra-fiery Charro XXX death wings, which really did not fall on any Latin American map).

An example of the new concept is a recent special small plate called faina ($7). Originating in Uruguay, it is a flatbread of chickpea flour that is topped with roasted red pepper, spinach, scallions, parsley, Gorgonzola and guanciale. Guanciale, an Italian variant of bacon from the pig's jowl, comes in thin slices that are nearly translucent. The flavors are salty and at the same time delicate. But the pungent Gorgonzola makes for a rough-and-tumble neighbor.

Be sure to try the pinchos ($9), of Spanish origin. This is three small kababs of grilled lamb that are given an Argentine treatment thanks to the addition of chimichurri sauce (the sauce is green, like a pesto). The Ecuadorian-style ceviche ($11) is a dazzling presentation served in a coconut shell and placed on a plate filled with salt. The ceviche is of grouper, which is a very appropriate fish. The promised citrus marinade is nowhere to be found. The fish is not especially present, either, outnumbered by halved grape tomatoes, yellow bell peppers and a hint of red onion. In fact, the whole thing tastes more like a gazpacho Andaluz! Just add some garlic.

One of the more unusual entrees is the Haitian stew ($17), which offers a base of pumpkin with minced bell peppers. The seafood contains an ample quantity of shrimp and halved sea scallops. The stew is on the sweet side, a factor that flatters the scallops.

One item that stands out is the bistek ($19), slices of grilled hanger steak with chimichurri sauce. The beef is cooked to order—perhaps a bit more rare than medium-rare, but aging makes this a tender delight. The key to this dish is the chimichurri, minced herbs in olive oil infused with garlic. This is close to the true flavor of Argentina, though there also should be some red wine vinegar. Regardless, this is a splendid dish.

The tour of the Americas continues with cordero from Peru, picante de pollo from Bolivia and vatapa from Brazil. This is a menu that will require several visits.

The Brookfield location also serves lunch. Nearly all of the small plates are available, as well as a few sandwiches and a reduced selection of entrees. At lunch, the bistek costs just $10!

Both locations offer comfort and relaxation. Customer service is something the SURG Restaurant Group does very well.n

Charro Restaurante

729 N. Milwaukee St. (414) 431-5557

17800 W. Bluemound Road (262) 782-7253

$$-$$$

Credit Cards: All Major

Handicap Accessible

charrorestaurante.com

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