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  ’m two minutes away from polishing off goat cheese gnudi with wild mushrooms, cipollini onions and duck confit at Washington Heights’ new Nourri – the successor to Cafe Perrin – when I watch a group of diners take ownership of some seats at the banquette, pushing two small tables together to make a four-top. […]

 

I’m two minutes away from polishing off goat cheese gnudi with wild mushrooms, cipollini onions and duck confit at Washington Heights’ new Nourri – the successor to Cafe Perrin – when I watch a group of diners take ownership of some seats at the banquette, pushing two small tables together to make a four-top. They scan the menu while I lift a forkful of foie gras with duck fat-fried brioche to my lips. No sooner do I swallow than these people are abruptly on their feet and heading out the door. Really? Maybe they just wanted a burger.

In late August, the owners of Perrin closed the place down for little more than a week and, staff and family included, revived the interior, which included installing a bar (in place of Perrin’s bakery counter) and changing the aesthetics of the room with new art. They dumped the old moniker, renaming it Nourri (short for nourrir, the French verb that means “to nourish”).

Christian Schroeder – another expat of Prodigal Gastropub (at the same time Locavore chef Van Luu worked there) – boarded this new culinary aircraft and brought some mojo to his small plate menu. Lest some in the house fear for the future of Perrin’s pastry program, co-owner Joe Schulte is still making the morning buns, croissants, Danish and other baked goods served on the brunch menu.

Did those poor souls who picked up and left ever miss out. Unless they really did want a burger. The dinner menu clocks in at 20 items listed as “small plates” ($7-$16), but they’re not dinky portions put on saucers. Two plates could feed one person. Schroeder will tweak dishes as the seasons change, keeping the big sellers (like the braised grass-fed short ribs with waffles and country-fried sweetbreads, $14), and adding and subtracting others.

There’s no single cuisine favored here. Schroeder deftly makes marriages of disparate styles and ingredients. I love the Indian vegetarian vibe of the roasted purple and white cauliflower with lentils, mango (likely changed on fall/winter menus to persimmon), golden raisins, sweet caramelized onion, and cucumber raita ($9). Beef bulgogi ($12) is a fun, flavorful rendition of the Korean classic, featuring grass-fed tenderloin, house-made kimchi, sticky rice, Asian pear and a duck egg served sunny-side-up.

Other highs: seared scallops served on pequillo pepper fonduta with assertive Iberico cured ham and manchego streusel ($14); fire-grilled pork tenderloin with butternut squash puree, smoked green apple, toasted hazelnuts and rocket salad drizzled with jowl vinaigrette ($12).

Before his Prodigal spell, Schroeder created a short-lived small plates menu at the East Side staple Von Trier. At Nourri, he displays more confidence and latitude for play. I’d take that over a burger almost any day.

[mark]➽ Nourri[/mark]

5901 W. Vliet St., 414-727-0860. Hours: Mon 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; Tues-Thurs 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Prices: Cheese/charcuterie $2.50-$6; small plates $7-$16; desserts $6-$8. Service: Keeping it real. Dress: Whatever you like. Credit cards: M V A. Handicap access: No. Reservations: Accepted.

‘Well-Nourished’ appears in the November, 2014, issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
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