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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bourbon & Tunns Reopens

Emerging from a fire with a menu worth exploring

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At the end of last year the Palms Bistro did a major makeover and reopened as Bourbon & Tunns. All of the tropical touches were removed and replaced with a spare look of exposed brick walls and dark wooden furnishings with the aesthetics of a bourbon barrel. Unfortunately, a basement fire forced the place to close for a few months, but it has now reopened—and with a very creative menu.

At a lunch visit before the fire, I tried the sirloin salad ($13.50) comprised of leaf lettuce with sprouts, cornbread croutons, marinated red onion and mushrooms, tomato and slices of steak topped with thin onion strings. The dressing was a tasty bourbon and mustard vinaigrette. The mushrooms and vinaigrette were the keys to making this a special entrée. This salad is still on the lunch menu, which focuses on sandwiches, salads and a few pastas. At dinner, sandwiches are replaced with small plates; some entrées are added, the salad selection is smaller and the pastas are different. Both menus are worth exploring.

The small plates offer interesting possibilities like a smoked duck taco and smoked walleye rillettes in a sort of Midwest fusion. The tuna tini ($12) has raw yellowfin tuna served over arugula with pickled daikon in a martini glass. The tuna is seasoned with ginger-soy vinaigrette and the arugula is paired with wasabi, an interesting combo as arugula has its own peppery flavor. There is not a lot of tuna but fresh fish of this quality is always pricey. Beyond the pastas and salads, vegetarian items are few but one excels. This is the butternut rellenos ($10.50), a pair of Anaheim chilies stuffed with a purée of squash and Gouda cheese. They are served with a cinnamon/cherry mole that is entirely within the sphere of great Mexican moles with rich and intense flavors. It’s simply stellar.

Lunch offers chipotle mac & cheese ($12.50), albeit the “mac” is actually tortolle, a somewhat obscure spiral pasta well suited for being coated with melted cheese. The sauce is chipotle-laced cream with chopped tomato topped with fresh cilantro. At dinner, the price of mac & cheese spirals upward ($23), but in the evening it’s made with North Atlantic lobster tail and wild mushrooms—justifying the price spike. Also a great dinner choice is the Menomonee shrimp & grits ($24), which offers three flavorful super-sized freshwater prawns, served with strips of surprisingly good pickled rutabaga—nothing like the root vegetable’s usual boiled preparation. The grits have a bit of cheese and there are some good mustard greens with bits of smoked pork. The other entrées are pricey ($27 for walleye, $29 for a piece of sirloin steak) but good.

Whiskey is the beverage of choice here but there is also a wine list and a roster of craft beers with a few that are hard to find locally. The service is solid and the new menu has been worth the wait. Prices may be higher than at the former Palms Bistro but the quality of the food is also at another level.

Bourbon & Tunns
221 N. Broadway St.
414-298-3000
$$-$$$
Handicapped access: yes
bourbonandtunns.com