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Monday, July 16, 2012

Kil@wat's Delightful Contemporary Experience

Fine dining inside the InterContinental Hotel

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It used to be that hotel restaurants were avoided at all costs. But the past decade has seen great improvements in this area, with the likes of Metro, inside the Hotel Metro, and the Milwaukee ChopHouse, in the Downtown Hilton. The best of the bunch might just be Kil@wat, located on the second floor of the InterContinental Hotel.

Elevators will drop you off near the entrance, or you can walk up via a grand stairway. At the entrance is an illuminated orange cube with the restaurant's sign. That color theme extends to the lounge and dining room, with orange upholstery, more of those light fixtures and fresh-cut gerbera daisies at every table. Dark wood tables and lime green napkins counter the orange. It may sound garish, but the colors have subtle, serene qualities that give Kil@wat a unique look.

The best tables are the booths next to the large windows with views of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. The hotel itself is a property of the Marcus Corp.

The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. The menu has a very current, contemporary feel. A perfect example is the simply named hot rock ($12), an appetizer of raw slices of Kobe-style beef served with threads of daikon radish and a sauce of roasted garlic ponzu. At the side is a square slab of heated stone that is used to cook the raw slices of beef. Do it quickly: One second is enough for each side. You do not want to overcook beef of this quality. The sauce is good—not too sweet and with a delicate hint of garlic.

Other starters also offer surprises. Cuban spring rolls ($7) are tasty little versions filled with pulled pork and served with salsa verde offering the tartness of tomatillo tamed with avocado. There is a small side of jicama slaw. The tuna tartare tacos ($11) are tiny but exceptional. The shells are paper-thin, and the raw minced tuna is flavored with Asian chili aioli and toasted sesame seeds. The aioli adds merely a hint of hot pepper, which complements the luxuriant richness of the raw tuna.

Also consider the wild mushroom soup ($6), which is loaded with mushroom slices and topped with a dash of truffle oil and watercress. The simplest of the salads is called greens ($8). It is locally sourced organic leaf lettuces with red flashes of radicchio. It comes with some fine ciabatta croutons and subtle Dijon mustard vinaigrette.

The sound entrees feature items like bone-in pork chop, chicken, pan-roasted salmon, braised short ribs, and a pea and scallop risotto. The steak frites ($25) are pleasing. The very tender, marinated hangar steak is served in slices. Some will prefer to have the béarnaise sauce served on the side. The dish arrives with excellent thin fries with hints of truffle and Parmesan. The fries threaten to steal the show. Lake Superior whitefish ($18) is a square piece, pan roasted with the skin on. It is served in a wide, shallow bowl over saffron tomato broth and a potato and leek hash. It is very well prepared.

Other options include a few flatbreads and sandwiches. One is the classic Big Boy ($10), a double-decker burger that is a nod to the days when the Marcus Corp. owned Marc's Big Boy restaurants. It is even available at brunch. Vegetarians will only find one entrée—rosemary polenta cake ($18)—but appetizers, flatbreads and salads offer other possibilities.

The short but thoughtful beer list includes a Sasquatch stout, brewed in Black River Falls, Wis. The extensive, international wine list offers few bottles for less than $30.

The attentive servers have been trained well. The setting is very relaxing, and the seating is spacious. This is everything you would want in a contemporary hotel dining experience.

Kil@wat
139 E. Kilbourn Ave.
(414) 291-4793
$$$-$$$$
Handicap Accessible
Kilawatcuisine.com
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