Skaters circle around Slice of Ice in Red Arrow Park—part of the Milwaukee County Parks system—amid trees strung with lights and the arched façade of the 1000 North Water Street building. The refrigerated oval rink accommodates 100 skaters at a time, making it ideal for family outings and confusing games of super-hockey. And inside the rink’s warming house, visitors can hide from the chill with a cup of coffee.
After sharpening his culinary skills in his native Japan at Monsel Ton Ton Restaurant in Tokyo and the five-star Westin Osaka, Chef Yamamoto Lee relocated to Milwaukee, where he now brings nearly 30 years of culinary experience to the kitchen at Midori Fusion. The eatery, which was featured as the Restaurant of the Month by Key Milwaukee, satiates cravings for Japanese cuisine with an extensive menu of appetizers—such as fried bean curd and tempura squid—and traditional entrees, including beef short ribs, tempura shrimp, and salmon teriyaki. Chef Lee also creates more than 70 classic and unique sushi and sashimi options, from a spicy tuna roll to the no-carb roll wrapped in crabmeat and Dr. Atkins' diploma.
The Exclusive Company—a Wisconsin-bred music-and-movie retailer—has given the gift of song since 1956, earning a Best of Milwaukee award from Shepherd Express readers in 2011. Passionate staffers guide visitors toward sprawling collections of rock and jazz and bins brimming with DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, and loose 8mm slides from Kenny G's summer vacation. In addition to peddling new vinyl releases such as El Camino by the Black Keys and Revolver by T-Pain, the shop functions as a trading post, helping to find loving homes for preowned films and music. All used discs are carefully buffed into shape before meeting their new owners, and each comes backed by a money-back guarantee, which promises store credit if a preowned item exhibits biting tendencies. Most used CDs, DVDs, and vinyl cost less than $20.
The gastronomic virtuosos at Nakashima of Japan devise traditional Japanese dishes including hibachi entrees and an eclectic array of sushi served in an elegant setting with Asian art and adornments. Ravenous patrons can subdue their growling guts with a hearty selection from the extensive menu, such as fresh oysters ($7.95) and vegetable tempura combo ($7.95). Expert chefs prepare hibachi dinners directly on the customers' table, each meat or seafood selection accompanied with house soup and salad, flaming shrimp, vegetables, oolong tea, a sherbet dessert, and a giant funnel for catching flung food morsels ($15.95–$36.95). Sea-chow enthusiasts will enjoy selections from the multitude of sushi, sashimi, and rolls that include all the fish-jammed classics as well as unique specialty rolls such as the Red Dragon filled with shrimp tempura, crab, cream cheese, and cucumber and topped with tuna tartar and hot chili sauce ($9.95), and the Pressed Zushi Box, a chef variety of sashimi, shiso mint leave, cucumber, and tobikko served with wasabi sauce ($14.95).
A white layer of rice rests beneath a blanket of thinly sliced salmon arranged on a plate with fresh sashimi, vibrant shocks of green seaweed, and red-apple slices fanned out like a hand of cards. A chef adds a dollop of black tobiko to Black Dragon rolls lined with soft-shell-crab tempura and avocado, completing an elegant tray ready for service. The same colorful combinations can be found in Jia's Sushi Bistro’s vibrant red walls, black-and-white checkered floors, and cushioned banquette. Beyond their fresh sushi, Jia's showcases a variety of Asian entrees, including pho soups filled with pork or braised short ribs and bento boxes packed with a choice of entree, shrimp tempura, miso soup, and a liberal amount of bubble wrap to make sure nothing breaks.
The chefs at Ginza Japanese Restaurant line their sushi rolls and bento boxes with both traditional Japanese and Western-inspired ingredients. Classic flavors can be found in shrimp-filled shumai dumplings or lightly battered vegetable tempura. Futo maki rolls combine cucumber and avocado with egg custard, pickled radish, pickled squash, and burdock, and the Funky Monkey roll takes a more experimental approach by pairing eel with banana. Teriyaki beef or ginger pork sizzles in bento boxes, surrounded by sides of rice, salad, and dumplings as neatly portioned as a librarian's potato-chip collection.
Named a "favorite new restaurant" and "favorite vegetarian restaurant" in 2009 by the readers of Milwaukee magazine, Café Manna churns out a full range of vegetarian options. The three-star green-certified restaurant's menu lists plenty of gluten-free, raw, and vegan items. Tasty beginnings include locally crafted artisan cheeses served aside cool, plump berries ($13) and exotic sandwiches such as the savory portobello and eggplant indulgence topped in roasted peppers, caramelized onions, house-made pesto, creamy feta, and goat cheese on toasted rosemary-olive bread ($11). Green gorgers can wash nutrient-rich nibbles down with a sip of organic beer or wine from the drink menu and can answer the sweet, sweet siren song of the gluten-free, raw, and vegan chocolate berry tart ($9).