Chef Toby Prout signed on as chef de cuisine at 12@Madison nine months ago, and he's putting his mark on the restaurant's ever-evolving menu, adding dishes that oscillate between bold and subtle, creative and comforting. No longer strictly tied to the number twelve, chef/restaurateur Jeff Osaka has expanded the eatery's offerings to a current eighteen small plates and three large-format entrees, giving Prout more opportunity to shine.
As always at the intimate Congress Park restaurant, ingredients pop up from all over the world but blend effortlessly rather than standing out as contrived fusion fare. Case in point is the chef de cuisine's sourdough ravioli — a remarkable enough achievement even without the accompanying flavors. The dish is designed to capture the essence of breakfast in classic Italian form. The subtly tangy rounds of pasta are filled with quail egg and housemade plum jam for a sweet and savory one-two punch. The two large ravioli swim in a buerre blanc sauce made zesty with orange and aji amarillo, a Peruvian chile that adds just a touch of background heat. Atop everything, a sprinkle of bacon lardons and crunchy puffs further the morning motif. Those puffs are nothing more than a few strategically placed bits of whole-grain breakfast cereal — an amusing touch that somehow fits in with the more exotic ingredients.
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Each bite reveals elements of brunch-like flavor, moving back and forth between an egg dish and something closer to French toast. But the ravioli are firmly planted on 12@Madison's p.m. menu, so you can experience the childlike joy of breakfast for dinner.
Other new items on Prout's menu include a delicate salad of pickled apples with Hook's Extra Inning cheese, a Wisconsin product made with goat, sheep and cow milk. Along with cashews and mustard seeds, the salad evokes a refined version of a picnic side dish. A summer risotto comes loaded with green beans, heirloom tomatoes and garlic crema, encircled by a sunny mango-chardonnay coulis. And a plate of green chile hummus gets added crunch from layers of thin-shaved Tokyo turnips and vivid baby beets.
Check out the summer menu at 12@Madison while the season lasts — but rest assured that something good will still be there if you can't make it before fall. The restaurant is located at 1160 Madison Street and is open from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 5 to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Call 720-216-0190 or visit the 12@Madison website for more details and reservations.