Triskele's offers affordable American Nouveau cuisine

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The “triskele,” a symbol from ancient Greece, utilizes three interlocking spirals, three bent human legs, or any other threefold element to convey rotating motion. The symbol is especially popular in Celtic culture.

Former River Lane Inn head chef JoLinda Klopp and her partner Lynn Winter chose the name Triskele’s for their quaint South Side Milwaukee neighborhood restaurant. The eatery has been on a continual path toward success, celebrating its fifth anniversary on Oct. 31. The small corner location at Third and Maple streets, formerly home to Nina’s Horsefeathers, has become popular for its casual, comfortable atmosphere and exceptional food.

We stopped at the restaurant one recent Saturday night and found the atmosphere buzzing and the tables more or less full for the entire night. The menu is brief, concentrating on what was once called American Nouveau cuisine. But there is pretty much something for everyone – and at a reasonable price.

The prices are so reasonable, in fact, that we ordered the most expensive wine on the menu, a 2010 Irony Pinot Noir ($40), a nicely turned-out red from Monterey County, Calif. It was the first bottle of that particular wine our waitress had ever served. As she struggled to open it, we reminded her of the unwritten rule that if she couldn’t uncork our wine with one pull, it must be free. 

Despite the uncorking challenge, the wine, blended with 5 percent Petite Sirah and 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, was an excellent value for the price.

We chose the wine because it is light, elegant and complimentary to the mixed bag of appetizers and entrées we planned to order. We began by sharing an order of sweet potato fries, dressed with fresh cilantro and served with a soy and honey dipping sauce ($7). The natural sweetness of the potato was enhanced by the cilantro and offset by the salty soy sauce tempered with sweet honey.

We split on our next course – a cup of cream of cauliflower and Brussels sprout soup ($4.25) and a small Caesar salad with “crispy” capers (7.50). The soup, laced with chunks of potato and Chardonnay, avoided the sometimes-unpleasant smell of cooked cauliflower, delivering a smooth, savory flavor.

The Caesar, served with a creamy Parmesan/Reggiano dressing and large croutons, was standard-issue except for the capers, which had been fried to a crispy, cracked texture. Edible flower buds made the salad uniquely appealing.

Entrées arrived in short order. Different as they were, neither was a disappointment.

The butternut squash ravioli ($13.75) was definitely the more appealing of the two. Pasta pockets, stuffed with squash, were poached in apple cider and brown butter, seasoned with fresh rosemary and dusted with amaretto cookie crumbs to bring out the sweetness of the dish. The flavors complemented each other well, resulting in a very satisfying dish.

The beef short ribs ($18) arrived bone-free and fork-tender in rich, brown gravy with roasted shallots. Three pieces of meat, creamy-smooth mashed potatoes and a crisp watercress salad, combined to offer a variety of satisfying tastes and textures. Klopp’s preparation shows why the River Lane Inn rose to prominence under her culinary leadership. Triskele’s allows her to make an even more personal statement, to create menus that are even more special.

Klopp’s special touch should propel Triskele’s forward for another five years.

TRISKELE’S

Address: 1801 S. Third St., Milwaukee.

Phone: 414-837-5950.

Web: triskelesrestaurant.com.

Hours: 4-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 4-10 p.m. Friday–Saturday.

Prices: $9.50-$18.50.