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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Brookfield’s Best

Asian fusion with a twist

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In 2007, Michael Polaski purchased two restaurants that went by the name Monsoon and featured Asian fusion cuisine. He planned to close them both and reopen the restaurants under different names. The first to reopen became Mi-Key’s, located along Cathedral Square. The interior was extensively remodeled and the menu completely changed. The second Monsoon, located in Brookfield, met a different fate. It reopened as Umami Moto, and the interior still retains its elegant Asian touches. While the menu has changed, it too follows the spirit of Asian fusion, with novel twists to sushi and many interesting pairings of ingredients.

The first room you enter has a granite-topped bar, a few tables and tall ceilings. An outdoor patio and two intimate lounge rooms with sofas provide additional dining space. The main dining room, with its rosewood-colored tables, is a fine backdrop for exploring this unique menu.

The maki sushi best fits the Umami Moto concept. The vegetarian avocado rolls ($6) are topped with a tomatillo relish and served on a plate dotted with small pools of wasabi aioli to flavor the sushi. The aioli is a pleasant revelation. The tomatillo seems a bit out of place, but is easily removed. Wasabi, pickled ginger and soy sauce arrive for sushi traditionalists, and the salmon wrap ($8) adds some jicama to the roll. This time the sauce is a very sweet lemongrass emulsion, better suited for jicama than salmon.

The category titled “Beginnings” has starter courses that in many cases are large enough to be entrees. It is very easy to order too much food here. A perfect example is the chicken lettuce wraps ($8). A generous portion of diced chicken is served with bean sprouts, carrots and leaves of lettuce for wrapping the mixture. Dipping sauces include sweet chili garlic and peanut. The peanut, with a bit more spice, is the superior one. If the chicken had been minced finer, it would have been easier to make the wraps.

A curious item is the Shanghai pork shumai ($8). Shumai simply does not look like this. Here it’s made with wonton wrappers and shaped into squares filled with minced pork, some Chinese vegetables and coconut milk. While coconut milk is not common in Shanghai food, it works here, adding a sweet fragrance. In a way these are a bit like xiao long bao, the steamed broth dumplings that I search for at every Shanghai restaurant. These shumai need to be eaten carefully; do not let the coconut milk escape.

At one visit I also ordered an udon noodle salad ($9) with the shui mai. This proved to be a mistake, as both the shui mai and the salad are quite large. Udon are round Japanese noodles that form the base of the salad. They are topped with lettuce, shredded chicken meat and a dusting of black sesame seeds. The sesame peanut dressing is similar to that in a Szechuan salad.

The entrees are diverse, with numerous seafood options and one vegetarian selection. Shiitake scallops ($25) are an impressive presentation: a ring of jumbo scallop with a minced mushroom crust around a julienne of Chinese vegetables, with a few slices of shiitake mushroom thrown in. The center is crowned with an orchid blossom. There also are two pieces of bamboo rice: croquettes with a ring of seaweed. The scallops are merely adequate and the vegetables suffer from too much soy sauce. At this price it seems wiser, and more economical, to design a meal around the starter courses.

The last few years have dramatically improved dining options in Brookfield, and Umami Moto is perhaps the most interesting restaurant this suburb has to offer. The menu is full of twists and surprises—most of which are pleasant ones—and offers many opportunities for exploration.

Service is attentive and the setting tranquil: It’s everything a fine Asian restaurant should be.


UMAMI MOTO
17800 W. Bluemound Road (262) 782-7253 $$$ Credit Cards: All major Smoking: At bar Handicap Access: Yes

Photo by Tate Bunker















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