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Disappointment looms with a Jimmy Buffett beat…

I’m not prone to doing restaurant reviews.  I think that people should go and judge for themselves regardless of what anyone else thinks.  So I don’t normally do reviews.  Besides, a place has to be exceptionally bad in all ways not to have some redeeming quality.

That said, I’m going to review a new local restaurant.  It pains me all the more because the owner’s wife came over and apologized for the noise, going so far as to guarantee that if we came in on another night it would be much quieter.   As tempting as a guarantee like that is, I’m not sure its enough to bring me back.

The restaurant, KeyWestconsin,  331 Riverfront Plaza, Waukesha WI.  Situated in downtown Waukesha, across from the Fox River, unfortunately there is no river view from either inside or outside the place.  Which is expected since the Fox River cuts a narrow valley through the city since the dam was built about a block up river.  So you get a view of the parking lot and the bank across the river.  But that really isn’t as bad as it sounds.  With no natural ambiance, the owner brought a bit of Key West and the tropics inside.  The bar situated prominently as center stage to the area reminds me of the bars along Duval St. in Key West.  The topical beach mural, painted by the owner, inside helps to bring the look of  an old limestone building in line with the tropics making it feel more celebratory.

Sadly, the celebratory atmosphere wasn’t long lived.  We arrived to a restaurant about half filled with older patrons.  Given that it was only shortly after 5 pm on a Friday, I didn’t find this too unexpected.  It was loud inside, with 20 foot ceiling and no soft surfaces to absorb the noise, and it only got louder as more people began to filter in for dinner.  Because of  the high ceilings the owners could easily muffle the sound and still maintain the expansive openness that those crazy high ceilings provide.  Man, you have to love that turn of the century construction.  Of course because of the noise levels people start talking louder and louder to be heard, only increasing the problem.  This I’m guaranteed would be entirely different if I came on another night.  If that were the only problem with the restaurant I might be lured back.

I thought it was just a timing issue that the average age at the tables when we walked in was 70 give or take a year.  The problem though wasn’t the time of day, rather the food, if what we ordered is indicative of the entire menu.  So, let’s get into that.  We ordered only entrees, but it looked like the appetizers may have been just smaller portions of entrees.

My daughter ordered the slider off the children’s menu.  Her first reaction was that the slider at other restaurants usually means at least 2 small burgers.  Beyond that, her opinion was that the meat wasn’t very good tasting.  It was bland and had a funky aftertaste.  The fries were also limp, soft and only lukewarm.  This coming from a 10 year old for whom any grilled or fried ground beef patty should taste pretty good.

My wife chose the gluten free crispy shrimp with a baked potato.  The coating on the shrimp was minimal and unseasoned.  I think it might have been corn starch, maybe glutenous rice flour, either way it was bland and flavorless.  There definitely should have been some seasoning in that coating, even as thin as it was.  That would be forgivable though because we love the taste of shrimp.  I rarely do much seasoning of them when I make them at home.  There were more unforgivable issues with the shrimp though.  It should have been cleaned first.  A full third of them had the black, sand vein running down the back.  Of course that would have been easily prevented if they had been rinsed and inspected before cooking.  It would have also been a lot easier if instead of piling what appeared to be a pound of salad shrimp on her plate, they had opted for fewer, larger shrimp.  So we have too small shrimp, with a too thin coating, that itself wasn’t properly seasoned, left to sit too long so that the coating was no longer crispy.

Now, onto my entree.  I chose the sea food casserole which is as they say, “an ever changing combination of Seafood and Fish based on availability…”  So, its a combination of scraps and shrimp.  The shrimp was the same as used for the crispy shrimp, but they were appropriately sized for this dish.  It was suppose to be in a white wine, cream sauce.  The sauce was almost nonexistent, instead the seafood was swimming in what could only be described as a watery broth.  Locking this into the dish, and what I can only assume they thought would make a sauce, was a mixture of cheese and bread crumbs spread over the top.  Honestly, except for a Pasta Alfredo with shrimp, you should never combine cheese and seafood.  What it ended up being was a gooey wet mess lacking flavor of any kind.  This dish could have been saved easily if they had made a simple bechamel, layered it with the fish and seafood, covered it with some bread crumbs and cooked it just long enough to cook the fish and brown the top.  NOTICE I didn’t say anything about cheese.  Salt, pepper, lemon, and tarragon would have been killer in this.

KeyWestconsin, noisy, bland, flavorless, and disappointing to a Jimmy Buffett beat.  I wanted to see this place do well.  I really did, but after sampling the food, I’m not sure where to go with it.  Maybe it was an off night, maybe they’re cook was MIA, maybe the food is seasoned to the tastes of the senior citizens, or maybe its just bad recipes done as cheaply as possible.

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