Over Memorial Day weekend I was in Madison WI for Wiscon a feminist science fiction convention which has been held there for the past 31 years (I'm male but enjoy it greatly - 1000 of the smartest and most interesting people and many friends gathered for a great weekend).
This past weekend I had the pleasure of dining at Restaurant Muramoto in Madison. The food there was so good, in fact, that I returned for a second night after a truly excellent first meal.
We were dining relatively quickly in both cases so no photos (alas) but I'll try to describe both meals.
106 King St
Madison, WI 53703
Located just a block from the Wisconsin State Capital along a block dense with restaurants Restaurant Muramoto presents a simple yet elegant presence. This is a Japanese influenced restaurant, but not primarily a sushi restaurant - rather it is a bit more like a Japanese Tapas restaurant (though with relatively larger platings). Dishes are served as they are ready, not in a specific order and are mostly intended to be easily shared. On Sunday nights there is also a Chef's tasting for $30 - usually 4 courses including dessert. It is a blind tasting menu, though they will adjust for allergies or other needs (we were going to a dessert function so they substituted an additional course in place of dessert for us for example).
On the first night I went with four other people (though one person had eaten a large late lunch so didn't eat as much as the rest of us). We started with bowls of miso soup - very good, though perhaps a touch salty and a large serving. Next we split two large maki rolls - a tuna w/wasabi tobiko roll and a bbq duck roll w/mango & avocado. Both were served with specific sauces, had 8-9 good sized pieces and were uniformly excellent. The duck had a bit of slightly bitter greens which complemented the overall tastes, the wasabi tobiko plus the sauces added some kick to the very fresh and flavorful tuna.
Our next two dishes were both salads, though very different. One was peppered tuna - sashimi grade tuna but served in slightly large slices and peppered. Very tasty - so good as to get a gasp from one of my fellow diners. We also had the calimari salad which was a mix of great flavors with very thin slices of squid, mangos and much more.
Still a bit hungry we ordered perhaps the best dish of the night - stir fried monkfish. Very fresh, lightly battered monkfish stirfrieds in large pieces with broccoli and farmer's market fresh asparagus. Large chunks, each perfectly prepared.
And then we closed with splitting the peach & rhubbarb cobbler w/lemongrass ice cream. Hot, fresh, and a wonderful mix of flavors (and a great ending to a very good meal).
I do not drink Sake, but my fellow diners did and ordered a tasting flight from the very extensive collection of sakes. Two of which I did taste and even enjoyed (they were smooth and did not burn as most sakes do for me). Well worth exploring if you enjoy Sake. For 5 people, including $40 of sake and wine, our bill + tax + tip came to $135.
On the second night, which was a Sunday I returned with two friends and we each did the tasting menu. Which at $30 a person is truly a bargain for this level of food (in SF or Chicago a tasting menu this good would probably be $75+ a person).
I'll try to recall the specifics of the tasting - the first course was a grouper & grapefruit sashimi like dish (with and ancho chili sauce - really, really good). That was followed by a grilled escovar (sp I know - really light white fish) which was served over rice and a curry soup). The third course was pork tenderloin seved over grilled asparagus (which is in the height of season and was pretty amazing). And then in place of a dessert the chef prepared individual scallops over bacon with a mango sauce (and more) with another great sauce around it - I'm missing much but suffice it to say it was nearly a dessert in itself and a perfect way to end the meal. We had tea with our meal as it was a bit early for all of us to start drinking - but the meal would have gone very well with wine or sake.
In summary, if you are in Madison, especiallly if there over a Sunday night, I highly recomment Restaurant Muramoto. Very good, seasonally influenced, tapaslike Japanese food. For more traditional Japanese fare, they have we were told also just recently opened another restaurant Sushi Muramoto at the nearby Hilldale (sp?) mall just a few miles outside of downtown Madison. Probably very good as well - but I'll gladly make Sunday dinner at Restaurant Muramoto my new Memorial Day weekend/Wiscon tradition.