Bienvenue a la Maison means “Welcome Home” in French. The new place is in Washington Heights, housed in the former Meritage Restaurant. Although the layout is the same, the modern bistro décor has been updated with light-colored walls and a newly refaced bar. Chef and owner Michael Quinn brings his talent for French cuisine, creating thoughtful, modern takes on classic French bistro food while paying homage to Meritage and its patrons.
Maison’s craft cocktails are what you would expect from a French bistro, blending imported French ingredients with some modern twists as in the Sazerac ($10), which is made with Peirre Ferrand 1840 cognac, demerara, house aromatic bitters, atomized GLD Absinthe Verte and cedar wood-smoked lemon oil. They have a nice variety of biere including both local and imported selections and a well-chosen vin menu to enjoy with the apero “bar snacks” ($4-$14), including pommes frites avec aïoli, moelle roti (a roasted bone marrow served with a parsley salad) and gougeres au foie gras (delicate savory gruyere puffs filled with a foie gras mousse with brandied cherry and apricot preserves).
The plateau fromage come with five different cheeses and accouterments ($16) and the charcuterie ($16) with pickled vegetables and apple Dijon. The cheese and charcuterie are put together like works of Monet bringing color and nature to the plate.
We were fortunate to stumble upon Mussel Monday where you can get a half kilo of mussels with crusty bread and a glass of house wine for $15. The mussels were tender and sweet and you get your choice of the more classic French white sauce or a red sauce. The house red wine was a perfect complement to all the flavors in both sauces.
There were two soups to choose from, but when in a French bistro it is pretty hard to pass up soupe à l’oignon ($5). The onion soup broth was rich with layers of complex flavors and lots of gooey Gruyere on top of the baguette, almost a meal by itself. The salads range from the Maison salad with pickled mustard vinaigrette ($8) to a Niçoise ($14) that was beautiful in presentation. “Plats Principaux” includes the classic coq au vin ($25) with wild black trumpet mushrooms, poisson du jour ($26) and a 10-ounce calotte de boeuf (cap steak, $26) or 14-ounce entrecote de boeuf (bone-in ribeye, $38). The saumon aux lentilles ($25) was a beautiful wild caught salmon with a cold lavender-French lentil salad. The salmon was grilled medium and balanced well next to the bright lentil salad.
The agneau fumé (smoked lamb shank, $27) caught my eye and was paired with roasted parsnips and tart cherries, but the special that evening was duck confit with sliced sunchokes, pickled plums and baby arugula ($24). The duck leg confit was tender with crisp skin, a little salty which I love and expect from French preparations and together with the sunchokes and plums was a divine combination.
The food at Maison was spot on in every level including the dessert menu, which has several bon bons to choose from and an even larger selection of dessert wine and digestif. The petite tarte tatin was replaced that evening with a trio of macarons ($7), Maison’s signature orange blossom sabayon ($8) and—homage to Mertiage—Chef Jan’s chocolate ganache cake ($8). Go “toot sweet” and enjoy Milwaukee’s newest addition to French cuisine.