Lupi & Iris - A New Dining Experience in Milwaukee That's Well Worth the Visit
This past Friday I was lucky enough to be invited to a pre-opening “friends and family” dinner at the new French-Italian restaurant Lupi & Iris in downtown Milwaukee, now open to the public. It was an honor to be invited to the pre-opening, to not only try the food and feel out the space, but help the staff get up to full speed before oepning to the general public.
As I’ve gone through the process of opening a restaurant before, both as a chef and an owner, and I know how difficult it is to go from 0 to 100 with so many moving parts, people and ingredients.
So many questions run through your mind at once:
Are the point of sale machines in the right places so they are easy to access for the staff, and at the same time do not interrupt the flow of guests and servers moving about the dining room?
What is the natural lighting like in the room at 6:00 compared to 7:00, and how should the interior lighting be adjusted to coincide with it?
Should the dish be finished with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt? Or is it in its finished state without it?
It was impossible for me to NOT watch all of these calculations taking place throughout the dining room, and the beautifully exposed open kitchen, on our visit. And yet with all of the uncertainty that comes with being brand new, the staff, both front and back of the house, delivered an amazing experience that I’m already looking forward to enjoying again the near future.
What we ordered:
Calamari alla Griglia
Wood-grilled calamari on a bed of Belgian endive, with prosciutto, tomatoes, chickpeas, citrus, and mint.
Asparagus and Egg Salad Frisee
Sauteed asparagus & mushrooms in a sherry vinaigrette topped with a fried egg and grilled garlic bread.
Hand-made ravioli filled with beef braised in red wine, Swiss chard and tomatoes sauce.
Sea bass filet baked in a parchment paper envelope with braised artichokes, fingerling potatoes, basil and tomato.
Ordering was one of the more difficult parts of the evening, as the menu is full of Mediterranean inspired dishes. On this particular balmy evening in Milwaukee, all of them begged consideration.
We thoroughly enjoyed how the kitchen executed the dishes we did pick out, and will likely enjoy them all of them again on future visits.
After choosing our dinner selections for the night, I browsed through the wine list and, although it’s likely to grow exponentially, there were many good bottles to choose from. We landed on a beautiful rosé from Provence. Clos Cibonne is the winery this particular rosé came from and it was a perfect pairing for all of the dishes we chose.
I really enjoyed the open air feel of the dining room and bar area. The more I looked around, the more clever design touches I began to notice. The floor to ceiling windows on the south side of the dining room connects the guests with the surrounding neighborhood and almost makes the dining experience feel al fresco.
The open kitchen will soon have counter seating for guests, which is definitely something I will take advantage of in a future visit. The kitchen itself is pristine, and the beautiful wood burning oven and grill give off the most appetite inspiring aromas as all the different ingredients pass through the flames.
Though it was our server's first night taking guests, he gave us flawless service, with a great service style and a fun sense of humor to boot.
It will be fun to watch Chef Adam and his staff evolve and turn this restaurant into one that Milwaukee will be really proud of. Even at the very start of their journey, they are already cooking with fire and delivering an amazing dining experience.
Kevin Sloan is the executive chef for The Pabst Theater Group, leading the backstage experience for artists who visit the Group's venues. He has lead the full-service catering team since 2010.