In a word: Good and flashy, but lacking heart.
The specs: #0228
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews by Monnie, Nina, Wisconsin Roaming, Madison Foodie, at Yelp, Cap Times, Self Loathing Pop Culture Fanatic, At First Taste, QSC, interview with Valeria Benner; Food Fight site,
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JM ate the bacon-wrapped filet mignon.
Nichole ate the winter squash soup, duck confit, and Hahn shiraz.
The bill was $76, or $38/person, plus tip.
JM gave Fresco a B+; Nichole gave Fresco a B (see our grading rubric).
Seasonal restaurants can have a hard time in winter in Wisconsin. We'd heard of some delightful dinners at Fresco on June nights, but were less sure it could be charming in the dead of winter, but it ended up being pretty good.
We were seated by a window, JM with his back to the Capitol, which made it look like the dome was perched on his head. That Nichole found this funny even before her glass of (very tasty) shiraz is somewhat embarrassing to us both.
Also amusing was the amuse bouche, which tonight was a shrimp atop a toasted bread round garnished with melon salsa and a perky sliver of onion. The textures - crunchy bread, bouncy shrimp, and juicy salsa - were quite lively.
Nichole's winter squash soup also featured some interesting combinations. The buttery soup contrasted with the sharp cheese garnish, both of which almost (but not quite) clashed with the candied nuts on the bottom of the bowl.
JM's steak and potatoes, like everything else at Fresco, were presented beautifully.
He did feel a lack of cues on how to use the accompanying sauce, so, risking censure, he just drizzled it over the steak. The salad was also very strange to his taste, but the tender steak and bacon combo yielded +3000 points and a 1UP.
The aesthetic theme of squares and circles was everywhere at Fresco, right down to the potatoes under Nichole's duck confit:
The beauty heart radishes (perfect circles) and greens were in a light, tart dressing that balanced and cut the rich duck meat very well. The potatoes were silky smooth and fresh.
We both still had room for dessert this time, so we opted for something we could never make at home: chocolate mousse in a sugar cage, presented with a wooden mallet. JM did the honors while Nichole risked looking like a tourist to get an action shot.
It reminded Nichole of childhood books - was it in Little House? - in which pioneers drizzled maple syrup over fresh snow to make hard candy. This candy was somewhat nondescript sugar, but we ate it all anyway. The mousse was delicious.
Even then, JM thought Fresco was really good food, but he wasn't quite full. It seems that Fresco lacks the soul of your L'Etoile or Harvest. It seems more like somebody thought that MMoCA needed a foodie restaurant and, hey presto!, Fresco. He also noticed that the entire waitstaff was female. He's just saying, is all. Nichole, less interested in such things, felt the experience was pleasant and worthwhile.