Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Update From The Garden

Onmilwaukee.com Scouting Report

By: Amy Schubert

I admittedly don't make the drive to Caledonia very frequently, but found an enticing reason to travel there after visiting Sebastian's Fine Food and Spirits, 6025 Douglas Ave.

Patrice and Scott Sebastian, veterans of Milwaukee's dining scene, have created and maintained a surprisingly comfortable, casual, yet high-end dining experience in one of the more beautiful restaurant spaces in our area.

The building, which for years housed the Spinning Wheel, was refreshed and refurbished when the couple opened Sebastian's nine years ago. Bright, airy colors enliven the cedar walls, a combination of antique cars and trains is behind the bar and floral accents linger throughout the space.

An immaculately manicured lawn and herb garden acts as the focal point of the main dining space, and a fireplace takes center stage in an adjacent dining area. Sebastian's is the type of restaurant that serves just as well for entertaining clients as it does for a quiet evening with family or a more celebratory friendly get-together.

The Sebastians formerly (and famously, to those who remember traveling to the location on 23rd and Wisconsin) owned both Café Sebastian, and Catering by Sebastian's. The pair had previously worked in Milwaukee icons such as West Bank Café, Chip and Py's, and Mike and Anna's, and after running both catering and café for several years in the 1990s, in addition to maintaining other careers, they made the full-time leap to opening Sebastian's in Caledonia in 2000.

The menu at Sebastian's marries fresh herbs from Patrice's garden, Scott's penchant for classic French preparation and sauces and the light, fresh flavors of Asian-influenced cuisine. The one-page selection of small plates and entrées is well-considered and ebbs and flows with the seasons, but diners can always expect fresh fish and seafood selections, steaks and unique salads and appetizers.

Asian influence has become more prevalent in their cuisine in recent years, and coincides with Scott's hobby and passion for Japanese knives. On my visit, I got to sample both their flair for the flavor influence and adeptness with utensils in a smartly sliced tuna dish that wrapped sashimi-grade tuna in nori and ginger before tempura battering, frying and accenting with a brightly flavored and colored pepper and mango slaw.

Small plates are $12 or less and feature standards like crab cakes and mussels, with a Sebastian's twist. Plates here look nearly too good to eat, and salads and specials are ripe with creativity. For dessert, expect interesting homemade selections like beignets with cinnamon ice cream and chocolate and caramel sauce.

Friday evenings feature a three-course menu for $19.95, with your choice of soup or salad, one of two entrees and one of two desserts. A recent Friday menu offered a Korean-style barbecue pork and a walleye dish.

But with a daily menu and nightly specials as intriguing as they have here, you may want to forgo the pre-fixe and dive into something more ethereal, like a copper river salmon or a yellow edge grouper.