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Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010

Promising Start for Ward’s House of Prime

Steakhouse fills Yanni’s spot in Downtown Milwaukee

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It’s not likely that red meat is on its way out, but a few months ago there were two major, meat-centric restaurant vacancies: Yanni’s, located near Cathedral Square, and Cameron’s, at Bayshore Town Center. A Mexican restaurant recently replaced Cameron’s, but in mid-November, placing faith in the red meat concept, Ward’s House of Prime settled into the vacant Yanni’s.

The interior at Ward’s has not changed much since its days as Yanni’s. The front room with the bar has a soaring ceiling and the two dining rooms remain spacious and comfortable. Do not be discouraged if the bar is swarming with people on weekends. The dining rooms are large and tables will usually be available immediately.

The menu revolves around red meat, though chicken and seafood are also offered. The bar, which has its own menu of lighter items, serves food until 1 a.m.

Steak prices have soared in recent years. While Ward’s prices cannot be considered low, the entrees do include soup or salad and a choice of potato—and that means a little extra cash for appetizers. It is hard to go wrong with the pan-seared sea scallops ($13). The big scallops are perfectly cooked, barely touching the bed of plum raspberry sauce—just the right accent for the sweet scallops. Carpaccio is on the menu, but why is it made with smoked beef? Flatbreads, labeled as “Jimmy’s stonefired flatbreads,” have a thin crust and are the size of personal pizzas. There are five toppings to choose from, along with a special of the week. The crab flatbread ($11.50) has blue crab claw meat and chopped scallions with Alfredo sauce. The crust is quite good, but the crab seems out of its element and short on flavor. The other flatbreads sound more promising.

The house specialty, prime rib, is sold in three sizes: 8 ounces ($19.95), 16 ounces ($27.95) and 24 ounces ($34.95). The meat, cooked in a range from medium-rare to well-done, is tender and succulent, but not as flavorful as it could be. It’s adequate, but something is missing. Then again, prime rib is not what it was 20 years ago.

The veal marsala ($26.95), on the other hand, is quite good. The meat is not served as pounded medallions, but rather as three reasonably thick slices of tenderloin. The sweet marsala wine has minced shallots and slices of mushroom that create a thoroughly pleasant dish.

The house salad is an ordinary lettuce mix with cherry tomato, cucumber and red onion. The dressings offer no surprises. The soup of the day may be upgraded to prime rib chili or lobster bisque. The bisque is rich and has numerous bits of lobster meat.

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The bar is pleasant on quieter nights. Along with a fine selection of scotch and cognac, the wine list is huge and the beer list is good enough. The bar menu differs enough from the regular one—this is the place to order one of the flatbreads with wine. The appetizers from the main menu are all available, and it is even possible to order the sea scallops or jumbo shrimp by the piece—the ultimate light meal!

Ward’s is off to a good start. The menu and prices seem about right and the service, while far from perfect, is caring toward customers. Steakhouses still seem too abundant in the Downtown area, so Ward’s will have to beat out a great deal of competition.

 

Ward’s House of Prime

540 E. Mason St.

(414) 223-0135

$$$-$$$$

Credit Cards: All Major

Smoking: At Bar

Handicap Access: Yes