Midwest Living Review
Pop in for brunch, meet friends for dinner or belly up to the bar to watch the game on one of the 42-inch HD TVs at Palms, a casually classy contemporary eatery that fits perfectly in Milwaukee's arty Historic Third Ward. Natural light, exposed brick and dark woods abound, and the walls inside the 1895 Queen Anne-style building are hung with eye-catching paintings by local artists. On the menu are a wide array of treats to suit any appetite, from light but satisfying salads to po'boys and wraps to gourmet pizzas and rich, luxe entrees. (Salads, sandwiches and pizzas start at about $10, dinner entrees at about $14.) Appetizers range from simple (baguette with roma tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and balsamic vinegar) to sublime (a hand-tossed crust topped with carmelized pears and onions, prosciutto and blue cheese). We spiced things up with Southwestern blue corn vegetable fritters ($9.25), served with sweet, plummy mole rojo and wicked-good habanero honey crema. The red wine poached pear salad is a symphony of garden flavors: honey and lavender French chevre, lightly candied walnuts and an orange/cardamom vinaigrette, atop a bed of peppery watercress ($5.95). Entrees include two 6-ounce beef short ribs ($23.95), braised with veal demiglace, red wine and chipotle peppers. They're tender and down-home delicious, almost like pot roast. The accompanying ancho cheddar mashed potatoes were interestingly orange and creamy-good, but the cheesy flavor could have been stronger to match the deep hue. Broccoli was fresh, albeit slightly overcooked. Our other entree was excellent all around: pan seared Schezwan peppercorn ahi tuna ($30) with wasabi mashed potatoes, grilled baby bok choy, shiitake mushrooms and julienned pea shoots, with a light tamarind and sweet soy sauce. The tuna was sliced a hefty 3/4 inch thick, and the bok choy bulbs were done to tender perfection. If you come in for brunch, you absolutely can't go wrong with the French toast Foster -- a plentiful (to put it mildly) serving of thick, superbly soft slices of bread dipped in vanilla bean custard and topped with caramelized bananas that melt in your mouth ($9.50). The three varieties of bloody mary's from which to choose are just a tasty bonus. When you tired of eating -- as if you could -- simply drink in the visceral, sculptural, enamel paintings of Phyllis Toburen. They're lively with color and seem to leap off the walls in organic bliss. Toburen uses techniques that raise the enamel off the canvas, resulting in artistically cracked surfaces reminding one of something a moonscape, a canyon, a womb. Although each is vastly different from the others, they work together to create a warm, vibrant atmosphere for the restaurant.