Kil@wat, the Brightest Restaurant in Town?
A fine place on a sunny day for breakfast or lunch, or later fare as the street lights of Downtown come up.
If you come to Kil@Wat for breakfast or lunch on a sunny day, you’ll be blinded by the light, in a good way, from the large windows that face Water St. and Kilbourn Ave. Then add the glow from the contemporary indoor lights and you have one of the brightest restaurants I’ve ever visited. On occasion I don sunglasses when seated at one of the many booths adjacent to the windows.
Besides the light, the first thing I notice each time I enter Kil@Wat is the décor. The best words to describe the ambiance might be Asian fusion with a touch of contemporary tossed into the mix. Overall the use of southwest burnt orange and chocolate brown creates a peaceful, integrated space for fine dining. To complete this aesthetically pleasing décor, the designers added sage green placemats and napkins and of course, fresh flowers on every table.
Even the gracious entrance suggests a class act as diners enter from the lobby of the InterContinental Hotel after climbing the wide staircase to the second floor. Kil@Wat is low-key, elegant, stylish, and sophisticated, a place where I wear dress-up jeans and respectable shoes.
This attention to detail flows into the service and the food. On both my recent visits, our servers were exceptionally attentive to our needs. At breakfast, my companion, a semi-vegetarian, asks if she can have a replacement for the smoked ham in the Traditional Benedict. “Of course,” our server says. “We make everything fresh here every morning. How would you like your benedict?” For that not-quite-traditional-dish, the chef exchanges ham for avocado. An ample serving of hollandaise smothers two perfectly poached eggs on a toasted English muffin over avocado and sliced tomato.
Served with Kil@Wat Hash, this dish raised the bar for my friend for any future benedicts. As a self-declared connoisseur of that dish she says, “The hollandaise has just the right amount of lemon.” Even the hash, Yukon gold potatoes, sautéed onions and peppers and a hint of cayenne adds memorable flavor to the plate.
After I choose the ordinary sounding Farmer Style Eggs, I’m presented with a dish that far exceeds my expectations. Again, two poached eggs star in a dish that layers toasted sourdough, smoked ham, sliced tomatoes, and spinach, all topped with wild mushrooms in a lick-your-plate-clean cream sauce. To add even more delicious, the chef drizzles a balsamic reduction over all. Damn, that is good!
There’s plenty more to like at breakfast, served until 10:30. Vegetarians will appreciate the Tofu Scrambler with broccoli, wild mushrooms, and tomato. Seafood lovers can feast on the California Benedict with jumbo lump crab, or Smoked Salmon Hash, and anyone with a sweet tooth can order Bananas Foster French Toast with caramelized rum sauce, candied pecans, and vanilla whipped cream. I would add Purple Door’s Malted Vanilla Ice Cream to the French toast.
Since I came to lunch on a Friday, my companion and I order off-menu and opt for the specials, Fish Tacos and the Seafood Burger. The tacos, made with deep-fried tilapia, are ordinary. I anticipate something more like a classic fish taco with shredded cabbage and a spicy white sauce, but instead find tilapia with pico do gallo and green salsa.
The Seafood Burger, made with bits of crab, shrimp, and lobster, combined with panko crumbs and eggs, has an interesting flavor and a delicious aioli that saves it from mediocrity.
Memories of after school burgers when I was in high school and could eat four meals a day surface when I see the Classic Big Boy on the menu — just like the one I ate almost every afternoon in my boyfriend’s car. Like Marc’s, the chef tops a burger with iceberg lettuce, big boy sauce and American cheese. The only obvious difference between the burgers, Marc’s didn’t put the meat inside a pretzel bun.
On the salad menu at lunch, the Modern Caesar has a unique addition, a parmesan tuile, while the Garden Cobb, built with blue cheese, chicken, egg, avocado, radishes, and green beans, stretches the boundaries of the traditional Cobb.
Thanks to its location in the InterContinental Hotel, Kil@Wat makes an ideal dining location before a show at The Marcus Center, Milwaukee Rep, Pabst Theater, and Off the Wall Theater. The restaurant offers a pre-theater meal, three courses for $30.00, or diners can come early for a more leisurely dinner and choose from the regular menu. At first glance it’s a list of familiar options: Pan-Roasted Chicken Breast, Seared Diver Scallops, Rushing Water Trout, Wild Caught Salmon, Bistro Hanger Steak, plus the unique Polenta Eggplant Stack with arugula, queso fresco, corn, and charred pepper salsa.
Look again, and the choices get even more enticing when you read about the Beer-Brined Pork Chop with caramelized brussels sprouts and sweet potato gnocchi, and the Grilled Rack of Lamb with caramelized carrots and roasted potatoes. Cavatappi gives a shout out to shrimp, scallops, and mussels, while the other pasta on the menu, Bucatini, looks to Italy with house-made Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, and roasted fennel in a brown butter sage cream sauce.
Diners who come for dinner and don’t continue on to the theater can enjoy the view from the restaurant, or as my companion comments at lunchtime, “It feels like we’re flying above the city.” That makes it an ideal and quite romantic place to linger over dinner and dessert while relaxing at a window booth as daylight fades into darkness and the lights of the city gradually appear.
On the Menu
139 E. Kilbourn Ave., Milwaukee
Tel.: (414) 291-4793
Major credit cards accepted – reservations encouraged.