Midwest Living Review
It's all about the water at Harbor House: You're at the water's edge, you're looking at breezy Lake Michigan, and chances are you're eating fresh-from-the-waves seafood. (You can order chops or chicken, but why would you, when you have the chance to sample fresh oysters, crustacean and fish?) Selections vary depending on what's in season. It's not inexpensive --Milwaukee's legendary Bartolotta restaurants never are -- but the food is high-quality, and the atmosphere inviting. Appetizers include fried oysters ($12.95) and Maryland crab cake ($13.95), but choose one of the raw bar platters or towers if you like variety: The Itty Bitty Sampler ($24) features Treasure Cove oysters (pink, firm and sweet), top neck clams, tuna ceviche, and lovely chilled shrimp served with cocktail sauce and a red wine vinaigrette. You can also order oysters and other seafood by the piece from the raw bar. The Harbor House Crustacean Bisque ($6.95/cup, $8.95/bowl) is almost unbelievably smooth and flavorful -- like a shellfish puree with a bit of cream and tomato. Entrees are just as good. Fish selections include tuna, trout and whitefish. The sauteed Pacific halibut ($31.95) is outstanding, served atop fingerling potatoes, baby carrots and sauteed spinach, and dotted with Riesling cream. Seafood risotto ($24.75) has large pieces of shrimp, mussels and fish. It's served in a simple bowl, but the flavor is complex: creamy, nutty rice, savory seafood and an unusual hint of cinnamon. Cioppino seafood stew ($27.95) brims with clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops and potatoes. Harbor House is a dream in summer -- a flower-filled yard offers lounge chairs for pre- or post-meal drinks, and a large outdoor dining patio has spectacular views of Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee skyline, including the artistic Calatrava wings on the art museum. Inside, the decor is mostly white and subtly nautical, with dozens of waitstaff and a bar on one side. It feels country-club-dressy-casual, but there are also a few folks in jeans here. The entire effect is that of being on a boat, jutting out over the water while you dine.