I celebrated the last day of Madison Magazine’s Restaurant Week at The Wise for lunch on Friday. The Wise is in Hotel Red on Monroe/Regent Street. I may be a bit biased because I’m a diehard Badger fan and love my Alma mater’s campus just a little too much but the location of this lunch was perfect. The hotel is situated on a pointed lot so the restaurant was very small but our table was by floor-to-ceiling windows facing Camp Randall. You can’t get a better view than that on Monroe Street, especially when it was 60 degrees in July on Friday! The view on the weather got me really excited about fall football! So needless to say, I was in a pretty good mood before we even got our food.
The decor of this place is modern and goes off the of the name with a red, black, white and silver motif. The only thing I didn’t like were the chairs we sat in. They were like living room chairs and they sit way too low for the height of the table.
There were three appetizers offered. House-marinaded olives, gazpacho, and a salad with lavender dressing. I’m an avid olive eater (I will eat them right out of the jar standing in my kitchen) and always have been. My Dad has had to ask waitresses to bring olives for me so I don’t eat the ones that come in his bloody marys. I also very much dislike cold soup and lavender so my obvious choice were the olives. The bowl came and was full of a half dozen different types of olives all marinated in a citrusy, lemony brine. The olives were perfectly marinated and the sauce was not too salty. The olives were very unique and enjoyable but the garnish, pickled watermelon rind, overshadowed the olives. It was crisp, vinegary, and flavorful. My mom got the gazpacho, which had a really interesting flavor but neither of us loved it (not because of the quality but probably because neither of us is a fan of cold soup!). Both of the lunches also came with a little dish of uninspired fruit. It was a nice gesture but the fruit’s freshness left something to be desired.
For entrees they offered a chicken salad sandwich, pork tacos, and a grilled cheese. The chicken salad had fruit in it (fruit doesn’t belong with anything but itself in my opinion!) and the grilled cheese didn’t sound spectacular. I’ve always wanted to try traditional pork tacos and these sounded pretty close so I got the pork tacos. There were two of them and I’m pretty sure a third of an entire pig was shredded in them. The pork was extremely tender and flavorful, and was accompanied by creamy cheese and an awesome mole sauce. I thoroughly enjoyed them! My mom ate her chicken salad so good I’m assuming she enjoyed it! It came on a crescent roll with celery, red onion and tarragon in it.
For dessert they offered a fruit crisp, an olive oil cake with blueberry jam and marscapone cheese, and a chocolate raspberry tart. I got the olive oil cake because I’ve had really good luck with olive oil cakes. An olive oil cake is like a more flavorful version of pound cake and the Wise’s version did not disappoint. I’m not usually a dessert person but this was my favorite part of the meal. The cake was extremely flavorful, dense and moist. The blueberry jam was not too sweet or gelatinous, which tends to happen with jam. My mom got the chocolate tart and had to take half of it home because it was so rich. I thought the raspberry coulis was too sparse but she liked it (especially the second time around at home with a cup of coffee!).
FOODNOTES: This place won me over with its location but I’ll probably be back for the food. It was hit or miss with some of what we ordered but overall I enjoyed my meal. The olives were ambitious and tasty, my tacos had great flavor, and I loved my dessert! I will definitely be taking a look at their regular menu before deciding if I’ll be going back.