Small is Beautiful at Merriment Social
Delicious Dim Sum and small plates in a cheerful Fifth Ward atmosphere.
Since last August, Chef/Proprietor Andrew Miller and crew have been offering their take on small plates and dim sum at Merriment Social. It’s all good. There’s not a lot of foot traffic in this somewhat obscure corner of Walker’s Point, or as some say, the Fifth Ward, but now that summer has arrived, they can throw open the four garage doors that face Pittsburgh Ave. and launch their charming patio, and the crowds will come.
Inside Merriment, a cheerful space that resembles a bar more than a restaurant, is a bright, art-filled room anchored by a long bar at the back. And in fact, Merriment is known for craft cocktails like the Milwaukee Lion (bourbon, allspice liqueur, maple, and lime) and the Hypnotoad (tequila, cocchi Americano, and lemon). As wine drinkers, we were all pleased with the wine selection, albeit brief, but big enough. If we had wanted to share a bottle, we could have gone to the Reserve Specials, but instead we sampled wine from Italy, Spain, California, Argentina, and South Africa. We enjoyed every glass priced from $8.00 for a Pinotage from South Africa to $13.00 for a Gamay Noir from Sonoma County.
Regretfully, we did not dive into the Signature Merriment Burger recommended by our server because the rest of the menu piqued our combined curiosities. As for that burger, I quote from our server, “The meat, a mix of brisket, chuck, and sirloin comes from grass-fed cows. And, we make everything on that burger including the bun, the pickle, and the special sauce, just not the cheese and the bacon.” Next time!
As our wine came to the table, so did the dim sum cart with three choices, $4.00 each or three for $10.00. On the cart they’re called “dumplings” because the dim sum is listed separately on the menu. Our server pointed out that the biggest difference between the dumplings on the cart and the dim sum on the menu is that the latter are cooked to order.
From the Dim Sum Menu, we tried four out of five. The fifth, Shrimp Wontons filled with cream cheese and pickled chili vinaigrette, scared a companion who didn’t want to share a dish that promised too much heat.
Each of our four dim sum choices was delicious and all over the map in terms of presentation and creativity. We voted the Reuben Pancake our favorite, a classic mix of corned beef, gruyere, kraut and 1000 island layered on a thin pancake with no rye bread in sight. “The Reuben is so incredible I can hardly stand it,” one of my companions gushed as she dug into the generous pile of shredded corned beef.
Lamb Meatballs with tomato-date chutney, watercress and a hint of cheddar were light in both weight and flavor with just a touch of heat to keep them interesting. Candied cashews added crunch to the Duck Spring Rolls and dialed down the heat from the chili aioli.
Only the barbequed, “Char Siv” Lamb Ribs disappointed. The okay flavor and fatty ribs led my friend to comment, “Barbeque sauce belongs on pig, not lamb.”
Brussels sprouts served two ways left no doubt about the versatility of this winter vegetable. From the “Hot” part of the menu, fried Brussels sprouts with pecans, honey, and thyme-crème fraiche, topped with crumbled pie crust created a jumble of flavors. Pie crust with Brussels sprouts? Strange, yet the crust pieces gave a dimension to the dish that otherwise would have been ordinary.
The other Brussels sprouts came from the “Cold” part of the menu, shredded in a salad with pork belly croutons that were crisp, fatty, bacon-delicious chunks that literally melted in the mouth. For this salad, our server kindly asked if we wanted the chilis on the side and not mixed in the buttermilk/mint/thai dressing. We said, “Yes,” which was a wise call. Everyone at the table agreed with this comment: “It has everything we all love in a really good salad, and it’s healthy.”
Likewise, the Focaccia Bruschetta on house-made bread hit all the high notes, with tender, salty smoked salmon, sweet marinated tomatoes, sweet and sour ramps, and for contrast, cream cheese to bring it together.
Gooey Butter Cake, not at all gooey, made with beer jam, topped with whipped crème fraiche made a perfect finish to a shared meal where we found surprises and nary a sour note. Now I can anticipate a leisurely summer evening on that inviting patio and next time I will sample more from the pastry chef, maybe Strawberry Mousse, or Kitchen Sink Cheesecake, or a Mocha Sandwich. I have much to look forward to at Merriment.
On the Menu
- Location: 240 E. Pittsburgh Ave.
- Phone: 414-645-0240
- Hours: 4:00-5:30 Tuesday-Sunday: Happy Hour-dumplings served; restaurant otherwise open 5:30-10:00 Tuesday-Thursday, 5:30-11:00 Friday-Sunday, with Saturday / Sunday brunch 10:00-3:00
- Walk Score: 90
- Website: http://www.merrimentsocial.com
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/merrimentsocial
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/merrimentsocial/
- UM Rating: 8 stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)
- Menu size: 21
- Price range food (small plates): $7.00-$14.00
- Price range food (entrees): $15.00-$29.00
- Wine list size (bottles): 25
- Wine list size (glasses): 24
- Price range wine (bottles): $32.00-$63.00
- Price range wine (glasses): $8.00-$11.00
- Beer list size (bottles): 15
- Cuisine Style: New American, dim sum