Monday, March 29, 2010

Sardine: It's the Little Things.

Photography by Amanda Manteufel

I'll try a grading system for now, though like all grading systems, this one might get tedious and need revision.

Grade: A

Food: B+
Food Aesthetics: A-
Service: A+
Atmosphere: A+
I chose to highlight Sardine in this, my inaugural food blog post, because of its attention to the little things. It is also the site of the best all-around brunch in Madison, hands-down, especially because of its moderate price (Sardine also offers very affordable options for children).

Sardine is located in a historic brick building on the shores of Lake Monona. Only a lucky few can sit lakeside, but ironically, in Madison, any lakeside seating is notable, despite our isthmus’ placement between two lakes.

Vaulted ceilings and the contrast between rich, dark wood and tiled floors give the interior a classic, yet urban, feeling. Sardine satisfies one of my particular obsessions, which is that there should not be a bad seat in the house. The back room is designed in such a way that even if your back is to the room, there is some object of visual interest or reflection (panes of glass or mirrors) in front of you.

I almost always order the same thing at Sardine: an omelet that cherry-picks ingredients from the menu’s three omelets (and the more seasoned servers are non-plussed by this request): one with roasted cherry tomatoes, gruyere, and scallions. For me, tomatoes are a must in most omelets, since their acidity and moisture work well with the dense texture, as well as with cheese and egg. Sardine serves omelets with a spring salad and frites. 

Sardine’s food is often hit or miss (I find brunch the most consistent), but when their food is on, it is on, and usually because of a clever twist. Although the salad is simple, the chefs add a touch of salt that gives it the perfect bite and balance. The frites are a perfect fatty complement to the dish. (One weak point about this dish is that the fries are often cold—I assume they sit while the omelet is being prepared.)

Similarly, one of the components that makes Sardine’s bloody mary the best in town is the chopped radish and celery salt-encrusted glass rim. 

Another personal requirement for an A+ brunch is fresh-squeezed juice, another rarity in this city. Below, you see that Sardine not only offers the requisite orange, but grapefruit.

As for my companion brunchers, Paul was very pleased with his dish, smoked salmon with cucumbers, radishes, hard-boiled egg, arugula, capers and sweet mustard on toasted sourdough.

Troy was a little less satisfied with his grilled hamburger with arugula, tomatoes, St. Andre triple cream, and aioli. The main complaints are with the dry hamburger and bread that overwhelms the sandwich—a lighter bread could serve the hamburger well.

Amanda loved her Arugula, brie cheese, crimini mushroom, and scallion omelet, which is not a surprise--Sardine does omelets exceptionally well.

On this day, our conversation centered—due to the large interest in this subject on the part of our male brunchers—around the topic of haunted places in Madison. For that reason, we are on the lookout for a haunted brunch in or near Madison. If you know of one, drop us a line!

1 comment:

  1. Andre' and i miss Madison quite a bit, and some parts of it more than others. Sunday Brunch at Sardines is actually the place and event that he and I both miss most. As you note in this post, it is more about the atmosphere and "feel" of the space more than anything else. Well, that and the AMAZING bloody marys and greyhounds (the latter being particularly excellent because of the fresh squeezed grapefruit juice). Good first post!