Jeffrey Merlot

Pastiche Is a Little French Gem

The tiny restaurant on KK has succulent food and wonderful wine selections.

By - Oct 14th, 2014 02:07 pm
Pastiche interior. Photo by Jeff Merlot.

Pastiche interior. Photo by Jeff Merlot.

I’ve said before, the French have a way of turning what may at first blush seem inedible into something deliciously divine. Now, coming from southeast Louisiana, I have had my fill of frog legs and I would never put them in the “inedible” category, but I think a lot of Midwesterners do.

Which brings us to Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar and what they can do with frog legs. While my date opted to start things off with the Pastiche house salad ($6) with unique candied-curry almond clusters, seasonal greens and fresh fruit dressed with a tangy-sweet raspberry vinaigrette, I just had to try the deep-fried frog legs ($9) in a light, crispy tempura-beer batterish coating and served with a zesty remoulade. The meat tasted, looked and felt like a light white fish – something between cod and haddock, something one finds at a traditional Friday fish fry. It was delicious. I had my frog legs with the Lyonnaise salad ($6): frisee lettuce tossed with a light dressing, perfectly crispy-fried bacon lardons and topped with the traditional poached egg. Though the frisee was a little unwieldy, that was a mighty tasty salad.

Next, my date opted for the salmon ($21). Yaakov Sullivan sang this dish’s praise in an earlier Urban Milwaukee article. And no wonder. I had a bite and was stunned at how delicious the salmon and its choron sauce were. It was accompanied by a grilled shrimp and braised lentils.

I opted for the slow-cooked rabbit leg with gnocchi ($19). Now, again, there are those who might consider rabbit to be a non-option. But try it! Be adventurous and make your first experience eating rabbit at the hands of an experienced chef de cuisine, like Pastiche’s. Rabbit is one of the most traditional game dishes consumed throughout the entire world and one of the oldest meats eaten in Europe. The taste and consistency of it is – and yes, it’s really true – just like both white and dark chicken. The gnocchi that came with this rabbit were dressed in a dark, rich, utterly delicious mushroom sauce. The dish also came with grilled Brussels sprouts. Lovely.

For dessert, my date chose the gluten-free, chocolate ganache cake ($7). Her entire meal was gluten-free, by the way. I opted for the crème brûlée ($6) which came topped with an insipid cookie wafer (they should leave the wafer off – the dessert is rich, sweet and creamy and in no need of it).

She had a glass of French (Côtes du Rhône) Michel Gassier “Cercius” white wine ($8) and I washed it all down with a couple of Belgian light ales (Duvel – $6 each).

Vegetarian options, like the ratatouille ($12) are available, but my perusal of the menu came up with no vegan options. But I’m sure they could accommodate vegan requirements, if asked (just leave the cheese out).

Every Tuesday, Chef Rachael prepares small-plate, seasonally inspired tapas. The wine room on the second floor is a unique addition to any restaurant. They specialize in finding wines by small growers and producers, with daily wine tastings up there.

The bistro’s wood-rich interior is charming, but quite limited: Reservations are required (there are only ten tables, after all).

With its rich menu not overly packed with selections and friendly service with a smile, Pastiche is a winner. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar
3001 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Milwaukee (Bay View)
Tel.: (414) 482-1446

On the Menu

Recipe: French Chicken Dumpling Soup

(Bouillon de Poulet avec des Quenelles de Volailles) – makes 4 servings.

Jeff Merlot's French Chicken Dumpling Soup

Jeff Merlot’s French Chicken Dumpling Soup

This is a good example of what you won’t find served in restaurants in France, but is served by the French in their homes. Hailing from the Lyon-Alps region of France, it’s delicious and quite easy to make – perfect when you have a cold or hangover.

Ingredients for the quenelles or dumplings:
7 ounces raw, skinless chicken breast, cut into pieces for the food processor
5 slices (about 3½ ounces) white bread, crusts removed and torn into pieces
6 tablespoons, plus 1½ teaspoons half-and-half
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground, black pepper
⅛ – ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the stock:
6½ cups chicken stock
2 large carrots, sliced about ½” or less
5 button or crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped and divided in half

Jeff Merlot's French Chicken Dumpling Soup

Jeff Merlot’s French Chicken Dumpling Soup

Put the stock, carrots and half of the parsley in a large pot and bring to a boil, covered. After the carrots have cooked until fork tender, put in the mushroom slices and continue to simmer while you make the dumplings.

To make the dumplings, put dumpling ingredients into a food processor and process until you have a smooth paste. Make 9 to 10 oval-shaped dumplings by rocking the batter back and forth between two large serving spoons. They don’t have to be perfect, but it’s important they are all about the same size so they cook evenly together. Drop the quenelles into the stock and cook 5 minutes for large and 3 minutes for small. They’ll float to the surface when done. These can also served with tomato sauce instead of in soup. Check for seasoning and serve immediately garnished with remaining parsley on top.

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