French-inspired with a Wisconsin twist.
That’s how chef and restaurateur Evan Dannells is billing his new eatery, Cadre, which opened Oct. 2 on University Avenue.
People who pay attention to the Madison dining scene had been eagerly anticipating the opening of the new French-inspired restaurant. Dannells is one of the city’s most well-regarded chefs, having moved here in 2002 to work at the city’s most celebrated French restaurant, L’Etoile. He also worked in kitchens at Lucille and Merchant before opening Cadre.
The self-declared farm-to-table restaurant replaces Oliver’s Public House and retains some of its design, but it now has artistic nods to rural France. The dining room is designed around a square-shaped, pewter bar and has large windows along the street side.
In addition to serving lunch and dinner Monday through Friday, the restaurant offers a weekend brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
Cadre’s menus are small and concise, with recipes that offer fresh and simple ingredients to highlight pure flavors.
The breakfast/lunch menu includes a few omelettes that are served with generous side salads, two specialty salads that come in large portions, four sandwiches and an order of fried mussels. The brunch menu is much the same, but it expands with more egg and sandwich options. The dinner menu offers seven entrees (ranging from $17-$29) along with eight appetizers and five side dishes.
The restaurant also has a full bar and a long list of wines—domestic and French—to pair with the cuisine.
A friend and I enjoyed lunch at Cadre recently, and we were impressed with the kitchen’s attention to detail—right down to the table setting, which includes cloth napkins and diminutive porcelain coffee cups and saucers. Based on a single visit, we thought the food and service were terrific and the setting relaxed.
The kitchen’s lunch menu includes two items built around smoked whitefish (which seems to be on a lot of menus these days). The nicoise salad ($13) combines whitefish with tomato confit, beets, boiled egg, nicoise olives, gaufrette potato (a crisply fried potato cut to resemble a small waffle) and caper vinaigrette dressing.
Alternatively, you can order a smoked whitefish salad sandwich ($14), which comes on an airy Madison Sourdough croissant and mixes the smoked fish with red onion, celery, dill, parsley, Dijon, lemon, cucumber and alfalfa sprouts. It is a sandwich loaded with crunchy texture and fresh flavors.
My companion loved it and felt the croissant, in particular, was the finest she has found in Madison (she is a former server at Ovens of Brittany, the city’s first French restaurant, dating back to the 1970s). She was also happy with the kitchen’s frites—a fact that impressed me because she normally eschews fried foods, especially french fries.
But Cadre’s frites, cut between the size of shoestring and regular fries, are light and crispy—definitely a cut above (my friend thinks this is due to the oil in which they are fried).
Among side options, check out the chevre cheese curds ($9). Our first impression of goat cheese curds was positive for the rich flavor, while a plate of seared greens ($7) that was mostly kale with spices was good enough (if somewhat forgettable).
It would be hard to find fault with the bleu mont omelette ($12), which is lightly cooked a la French preference. It features Blue Mont Dairy cave-aged cheddar with bits of apple, bacon lardon, spinach, caramelized onion and gem potatoes. A Mornay sauce is drizzled over the top, et voila!—you have one of the most delicate and tasty omelettes around. A side salad that accompanies the omelette is impressive as well—fresh and light, with mild vinaigrette dressing.
My companion and I appreciated our small sampling of Cadre’s menu and plan to return for brunch someday, and for dinner on another.
Cadre is a welcome addition to the Regent Street-Old University neighborhood. The place is home to enough nice restaurants these days to make the area feel like a scene unto itself.
If you haven’t had a chance to visit, Cadre wouldn’t be a bad place to start.