In Dining

Devon's impresses by eluding the feel of a mall restaurant. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography)

In Dining

Affordability and comfort make this place a dining gem. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography)

In Dining

Devon's might be a seafood revival for Milwaukee. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography)

Devon Seafood Grill gets it right

The closing of Red Rock Café signaled the end of an era for Milwaukee's seafood dining scene. After all, the Shorewood restaurant was a long-lived favorite. But that disappointment has been tempered by the arrival of the Devon Seafood Grill at Bayshore Town Center.

The national chain -- which has locations in Philadelphia and Chicago -- claims it gets two shipments of fish flown in fresh -- never frozen -- every day. And it tastes like it.

Since it's located outside the enclosed portion of Bayshore, Devon doesn't feel at all like a mall restaurant. Entering off a street instead of a concourse, the eatery is pleasantly dimly lit with "upscale rustic" stone walls and a calming mix of colors. Stacks of "firewood" built into the walls remind us there's a grill back in the kitchen.

There is a fairly large bar and a few private and semi-private dining rooms, but the main dining room is open enough to not feel cramped but not so large as to feel impersonal.

After a less than stellar experience with service at a new Downtown eatery recently, my dining companion and I were pleased to find that our cheery -- but not overly so -- server was well acquainted with the menu and its options. However, her knowledge of the wine list didn't seem especially intimate.

While we perused the menu, we were treated to fresh from the oven sweet drop biscuits that are amazing and, well, delectably sweet. The biscuits would appear poised to become a local favorite.

To get started, we chose the fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, on which slices of fresh mozzarella lay atop red and gold tomatoes with watercress and frisee. Although the mozzarella was indeed fresh and soft, the tomatoes -- perhaps unsurprisingly in January -- were pale and lacked flavor. That was about the sole misstep in an otherwise delicious dinner.

We also had a plate of the steamed little neck clams which arrived with about 18 clams swimming in a garlic, white wine and clam broth. The clams were well picked-over and all were gaping, fresh and tender in a liquid that transmitted just the right amount of garlic flavor.

For entrees, we selected the seafood mixed grill and the seared scallops with asparagus and a lobster risotto.

The mixed grill assembled a crab cake, seared salmon, scallops and shrimp and added roasted potatoes and sautéed spinach. All of the shellfish was perfectly seared and the crab cake was so full of crab and so absent of filler that it barely held together. The salmon was still flaky but the chef was wise to get it off the grill when he did. Another minute and it would have dried out.

The scallops wore a dazzling sear and were cooked to perfection. Years of ordering scallops has proved that this is never guarantees at Milwaukee restaurants. But Devon got them right and the risotto, although a little beyond al dente, was creamy and radiated the perfume of lobster.

Despite the fact that the portions suggested we ought to pass on dessert, we couldn't pass up the tray when it arrived. We selected mixed berries with a mousse-filled cannolo and a chocolate lava cake. The lightness of the berries was complemented by the richness of its accompaniment and the lava cake was a chocolate lover's dream come true.

Considering the portion sizes and the freshness of the seafood, the fact that two diners had appetizers, entrees and desserts -- along with a Spotted Cow and a glass of wine -- $106 seemed like a reasonable tab at the end. Certainly not a place a family on a budget can get to regularly, but not out of the occasional splurge zone.

Sure, Devon is a chain and sure it's located in a mall -- two things that usually keep us away -- but in seafood-starved Milwaukee fresh fish at a reasonable price and in a warm, comfortable setting is the right equation for getting us to return.


Talkbacks

dseigen | Feb. 4, 2007 at 10:15 a.m. (report)

Devon has become one of my favorite restaurants. If you love seafood, you'll appreciate the quality -- cooked superbly every time. If the dinner menu is too pricey for you, try lunch: the portions are just a bit smaller and the price is reasonable for the quality. The biscuits and sodas are replenished promptly. Even the coffee is good! Thank you, Devon!

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Disappointed | Jan. 29, 2007 at 2:16 p.m. (report)

We tried Devon with 2 other couples before Christmas and were very disappointed. The apps and biscuits were very good, but the dinners were slow and cold. Oh, and to top it off the staff messed up our bill. I love seafood, so we're hoping to go back in a few months once they get the kinks worked out.

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rjl | Jan. 29, 2007 at 1:45 p.m. (report)

We were there on New Year's Eve so I had hoped that the service issues were due to the evening when many may have had the night off. Our entrees were served right after we had just been served our appetizers. We instructed the waiter to take the food back to the kitchen and she said that she would put it under the heat lights. Not the way to serve an expensive fish dinner. The food was good but the water glasses remained empty for way too long, and the biscuits were not offered up again after the first ones. I am hopeful that they have worked out some of the kinks here. It would be nice to have another fish restaurant. I will still go to River Lane until the service issues are worked out.

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ecohn | Jan. 29, 2007 at 12:31 p.m. (report)

I wish our experience had been as good as yours. The food really was very good, but the service left a lot to be desired--water glasses un-refilled for 45 minutes, two entrees in our group arriving ice cold, and the server's response to my question on one of the dishes: "I don't really like fish so I couldn't tell you." I'll take the River Lane Inn any day over Devon.

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schubert65 | Jan. 29, 2007 at 11:35 a.m. (report)

Bonefish, NOT Fishbones!! Anyway, yes it's nice to see some decent chains coming to Milwaukee. Oysters, now we do need more places with osters!!!!!!

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