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Liliana's

In a word: Somewhat enjoyable, somewhat expensive, somewhat Cajun.

Liliana'sThe specs: #0330
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Madison Dining Online and chef's response and again later, WiSJ, Yelp, Ruppert Food Blog, up on the waterfront, Fringe Foods, 77 Square, Down 2 Eat, Mad City Eats; Madison Originals profile; more on their official web site; Liliana's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Latest Liliana's news and reviews

JM ate the cheddar-stuffed hush puppies and the crawfish etouffe with a root beer.
Nichole ate the tomato soup with creme fraiche and lime sauce and the ribeye.
We split the beignets.
The bill was $61, or $30.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Liliana's a B; Nichole gave Liliana's a C (see our grading rubric).

Tulip reflectionLiliana's, set as it is along the "Main Street" of Fitchburg, feels about as far from the French Quarter as you can imagine. Yet, upon entry to this establishment we see a balcony too near the ceiling for anyone to stand on.  One call can almost hear the rattle of beads.  It was all a very strange artifice. Also, the person taking our reservations indicated that they were full at the time we requested, and asked to move our time 15 minutes later. But when we arrived, they were only full if one considers "couples" lepers that have to sit at obnoxiously small tables while four-tops sit vacant all 'round. We tried to make the best of it.

We couldn't resist a try at the cheddar-filled hush puppies. Sadly, they were large and gummy corn-batter-balls wrapped around a small dollop of decent, sharp-ish cheese. We asked what kind of cheddar it was, and while our waiter didn't know off the top of his head, he was happy to ask for us (but he said the chef had thrown out the packaging (?), so it remains a mystery). The appetizer came with a side of horseradish tomato sauce that had its charms. Nothing about the bread basket recommended itself, though - not the "meh" rounds of white bread, and definitely not the olive oil, which, while not necessarily off, was certainly not good enough to be used on bread alone.

Hush puppies

Tomato soup with creme fraiche and limeNichole's tomato soup was the high point of her meal. It had a mellow, grounded tomato flavor. As everyone knows, cream is always good. And the swirl of lime sauce added a light, playful note.

Crawfish etouffeJM's entree looked like a still from a Burt I. Gordon movie. Flummoxed by the three whole crawfish, he asked our waiter the protocol for dealing with them; again, he didn't know right away but asked for us, by which time JM had fumbled through a couple exoskeletons. Despite its dramatic presentation, this dish won the dubious distinction of being the first Cajun meal JM has ever tried to improve by adding more seasoning because it needed it - it was basically a big bowl of bland bell peppers and rice with a few tender shrimp.

RibeyeNichole's not a frequent eater of steak, so she was surprised at the fattiness of this ribeye. It was very heavily marbled, nicely charred, and the pickled red onion garnish was a fine touch. She passed on the plain mashed potatoes, but JM enjoyed them. The "Cajun" tomato salad was very oily and otherwise not noteworthy.

BeignetsWe're not sure Liliana's was the best place to lose our beignet virginity (take that, Googlers!). These were nicely puffed up and served warm, but were gummy inside, with powdered sugar piled on rather than sprinkled. These and the gooey hush puppies seem to indicate that Liliana's fry oil needs to be cranked a little hotter.

A couple other odds and ends helped Liliana's fail to distinguish itself - while it's forgivable that they don't have chicory coffee, it's not so OK that they have no espresso drinks of any kind (even we know cafe au lait goes with beignets). To be fair, they serve their coffee in individual French presses, and some say you can make cafe au lait that way. But they don't have lemonade. Maybe a choice of 7 kinds of hurricanes makes up for this, but not in our book.

If Babs and Liliana had a kid with Babs' flavor infused into Liliana's menu, maybe Madison would have another good Cajun restaurant. But for now we still have to pin our hopes on NOTO and mourn the loss of Gaston's.

Comments

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Come on up to the Fox Valley some time, and meet us at Menasha Grill. Didn't have time to try the beignets there, but the chicory au lait was decent.

I'd be dubious of any beignets that flat.

But when we arrived, they were only full if one considers "couples" lepers that have to sit at obnoxiously small tables...

Hey, I think I've sat at that very same table :)

Just 2 notes:

1. Beignets (at least in NOLA) are SUPPOSED to have powdered sugar piled on. Thats the way its served at Cafe du Monde, which is far and away the most famous place to get them in NOLA. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cafe_du_monde

2. Espresso doesn't belong anywhere near a cafe au lait. Half coffee, half milk. Thats all there is to a cafe au lait. Nothing more, nothing less. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Café_au_lait

This is not to argue against your review, just factual corrections. :)


Ah, thank you, scarymike - constructive criticism is welcome. As we said this was our first time eating beignets, so all we were going on was a little cursory research.

Anyone know more places in Madison that serve beignets? Obvs I have to do some field work. :)

I have no idea where to get a good beignet in this town.

I do really like New Orleans take out for nola style food though. You guys should give them a review. :)

L'Etoile used to serve beignets occasionally on their dessert menu, but that was in the Odessa days, not sure about now.

May I speak to the Cajun Chips I had at Liliana's on a lunch visit? OMG! A very fine use of potatoes--thinly sliced and crisp as anything, a little spicy. Don't miss 'em.

On our visit we tried the Tomato and the Black Bean soups, both equally delicious. I was impressed with the Catfish Po'Boy (not so much with the bread it was served on, little too toasty). Not so impressed with the Etouffe, although the File Gumbo was quite tasty.

We found service a little slow. Go with people you enjoy talking and drinking with and it'll be fine.

Bluphies makes a superb and huge beignet, it doesn't look like the ones you'd get at Cafe Du Mond, but they taste really really good!!

I actually really liked the Etouffe. I went here for my birthday a few months ago and I have to say that the food was excellent, it was the parking and service that weren't so great. I ended up parking in the bank parking lot and walking, which wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't 0 degrees at the time. They still seem extremely disorganized. Oh - and those four people tables are extremely cramped too!

I had heard that this place was associated with Louisianne's, but after reading this review there could be no way. Louisianne's is on of my favorites!

We ate at Liliana's last Friday. Everything was wonderful and we are looking forward to taking friends there next weekend. Try the scallops!

I have to say to give it another chance as well. I went for the first time in June and was extremely satisfied with both the service and food - it was actually nice to receive food that was spicy! I ordered the jambalya and was incredibly happy with the meat to rice ratio...usually you get a pile of rice with a few pieces of sausage and shrimp, but that was not the case.
Perhaps when you went they were still too new and by the time I got there they had gotten their sea legs.

I second the scallop recommendation. they were some of the best scallops i've ever had

New menu at lilianas some great stuff
check it out! new beignet recipe the ones i had recently were better than ever!

Again, have to say the newer menu makes this restaurant my favourite. Beignet's are perfect, scallops succulent and service fantastic.

My only gripe though, almost every meal bar dessert has been over seasoned. Without the as-salt on my palate, the food has always been complex and flavorful with a wine list to suit.

Liliana's has a hurricane named the Pat O'Brien. Clearly, they're having fun there.

I didn't mind the artifice as much, though I know what you're talking about. And I'm glad, in a way, that I wasn't the only one slightly befuddled by the prawns. On the appetizer, they were in full-shell. On the entree I was erroneously delivered and allowed to keep if I wanted it, it was shelled between head and tail.

If a place is going to serve you whole bugs, you'd better not be viewed as gauche if you suck the heads. As I would have been the only one in the room doing so, I abstained.

A decent experiment for Restaurant Week 2009, but nothing special. Add the geography, and we're unlikely to return.

I went this this week with a coupon. The beignets were excellent. I have had them at Cafe du Monde. They tasted as good (if not better) than I remembered. However, I was 12 years old so you may not want to trust my memory.

They did seat the two of us at a four top so we had plenty of room. The service was excellent; we even got to meet Liliana. Todd thought his short ribs were OK. I liked my seitan. I would have preferred traditional hush puppies, but they weren't bad. I would go back just to have the beignets.

Decent appetizers, luke-warm beer and lousy, chilly, overpriced entrees (risotto and tilapia). Our meal seemed to go further south as it progressed. Although the drunk couple seated right next to us, and I mean RIGHT next to us, eating oysters (after asking the server if they were raw) was fairly entertaining.

Fresco has memorable beignets worthy of a return.

Just had an incredibly good meal at Liliana's for Restaurant Week. Our table tried the Jambalaya (yum!), the seafood boil (crawfish, wow!), and a Coq Au Vin in a crepe. The Oysters Rockefeller appetizers were also very good (as a previous-non-oyster-eater, I was blown away by their deliciousness) and Bill reported the fried alligator was great too. Our desserts disappeared so quickly I can't even remember what they were... except for Bill's Bananas Foster, which inspired larceny in my soul. Liliana's needs a revisit!

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