Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Night Out: Cafe Manna

It had been way too long since my friend Tiffany and I went out to dinner, so I pulled out the good 'ole CityTin and gave her some options. She had recently gone to an organic and vegan restaurant with some friends and suggested that I try it, so Cafe Manna was chosen.

Cafe Manna is located in the Sendik's Town Center shopping center on Capital and Brookfield Rd. in Brookfield. It is the at the end of one of the strip malls which allows for nice natural lighting from two walls of windows and outdoor dining. The entrance reminded me of a minimalist version of some "upscale" chain quick-serve dining options (They are going to hate that analogy). There is a counter with staff behind it to great you, light maple wood everywhere, and menus, napkins and cups are located behind the counter. Behind that area is the kitchen behind swinging doors. Cafe Manna is the first Certified Green Restaurant in Wisconsin, which really shows how environmentally focused they are. 
View of the dining room from our table in the back

We were sat at a cozy table for two off to the right and near the back of the dining room. If the restaurant would have filled up, we would have gotten to know our neighbors really well with how close the tables were to each other. The light fixtures, sconces and artwork is also minimalist but goes together great to pull the appearance together.
Table for Two

Pretty napkin folding
While we browsed the menu, our server brought over some hummus and crackers and told us about the daily special "Risotto Monday" and that the special risotto was wild mushroom. I wasn't done moseying through menu and the risotto didn't appeal to me so I passed. But because I had previewed the menu that afternoon, I did ask the server for (only THEbest wine in the world #IMO) a glass of Montinore Estate Pinot Noir. Tiffany decided on a glass of the Sokol Blosser Meditrina “The Goddess.” 

While we waited for our wine, we perused the menu and snacked on the hummus. It was pretty good. The crackers had a little sweet to them, which woke up my sweet/salty tasty buds and put them in a happy state. It was hard to stop eating but I knew I had to save room for more food. We had to decide on an appetizer. I heard from my #mkefoodies friends that we had to try the Guacamole Potato Skins, though once looking at everything, I debated between that and the Spanakopita Pie. Ultimately the potato skins won.

Montinore Estate Pinot Noir on the Left, The Goddess on the right
She returned with the wine in stemless glassware, very smart for such tiny tables - less chance of splattering anyone with hand-guesture-talking. We cheers'ed and then I smelt, swirled, smelt and took a sip. It was just as I remembered - Pinot Noir perfection. This winery is very small and doesn't always produce enough to ship to Wisconsin, but I am so glad that someone is still placing orders for it. I tried Tiffany's The Goddess and it was pretty good, but nothing was topping my glass of wine. I savored it until the end of the meal and was sad when it was gone. 
For my entree, I debated between the Pizza Rustico, Raw Lasagna or Polenta Florentine. I am an uber-fan of The Chew on ABC and Michael Symon was talking about polenta on a recent episode and I realized that I don't think I've ever had it grilled or fried. That swayed me in the polenta direction. Tiffany chose the Peace Bowl which was rice and veggies in a coconut curry sauce with cashews.

Our appetizer came out a short time later and looked sooooo good. The guacamole was piled high on the potato skins with a little pico on top of that. We each took one and savored them. The potato was cooked to perfection - crispy on the outside, soft potato inside. The guacamole was mild, just how I like it. Who would have thought potato + guac would make such a terrific combination. (Look for this appetizer in a blog in the near future for Packer Season) I had the server wrap the 3rd tater skin and took it to work the next day. I reheated the potato and plopped the guac back on top and it was fantastic. 
Pepita Guacamole Potato Skins from Cafe Manna

Then the entrees came. They both smelt heavenly and I could hardly wait to jump in, but pictures were needed first. After just a few shots, I got what I wanted and dug in. The polenta had perfect grill marks on it which made for crispy edges and a soft center. I grabbed a grape tomato slice, mushroom and some sauce for the polenta and took a big bite. It was a different texture than I was expecting, not bad, just different. Being that I always heard polenta was so creamy, I was expecting more of a mashed potato and less of a rice texture, but regardless, it was pretty yummy. There was a balsamic sauce on the bottom of the plate (I believe) that the veggies were sauteed in and then a creamy bechamel sauce was drizzled over the veggies, polenta and arugula. It was very good, but way too large of a portion with the appetizer and hummus. I took more than half of it to go. 

Polenta Florentine from Cafe Manna
I did snag a bite of Tiffany's dish and being that I have had limited experience with curry, (and mostly bad at that) I didn't have high hopes for this plate either. Boy was I mistaken! The coconut curry sauce with the quinoa and cashews was divine. I really enjoyed the slightly sweet taste of it, mellowed by the rice. I would definitely suggest that meal to anyone looking for something filling and different. 

Peace Bowl from Cafe Manna
We didn't do dessert because we were full to the brim from our wonderful meal. I would suggest this place to anyone that is looking to try Vegan cuisine and I don't think anyone would be disappointed. For my wallet it was a bit pricey (even the wine, but I knew that going in). I would say this is a restaurant for special occasions and wouldn't be added to my go-to repertoire. But I will highly recommend it to anyone looking for eats in the Brookfield area. 

Tiffany had a few comments to add as well. The food was excellent and she was a member of the clean plate dinner club, however, she is thinking that the restaurant as a whole was missing more ambiance. She wanted something more on the tables, but with the size of them, that may not have worked. And for the price that she paid for her meal and drinks, she would have liked a bit more....something. She couldn't pin it down, but wanted something more. 

Has anyone else tried Vegan restaurants in the Milwaukee area and want to give me more suggestions? I don't think that I would ever become a vegan, but the food options really open my eyes and are drool-worthy. Until my next meal, Happy Eating. 

1 comment:

  1. I love the Jamaican jerk lentil burger at Cafe Manna. I hate those tables where you ended up. I always feel like I'm part of the conversation at the neighboring tables...way too close together!