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Helene Ramsdell, a member of The Gazette’s restaurant review team The Four Dishes, ordered this chicken mole entree during a recent visit to Wissota Chophouse in the Cobblestone Hotel in downtown Janesville, Normally served on a bed of sweet potato/andouille hash, the dish featured a substitution of blue cheese risotto and Brussels sprouts.

JANESVILLE

We decided to treat the dishwashers (our significant others) to a night out at the Cobblestone Hotel’s Wissota Chophouse, the new, upscale restaurant overlooking the Rock River in downtown Janesville.

Stacked stone walls and natural wood shiplap give the restaurant a modern flair, and a black exposed-beam ceiling with recessed lighting provides an intimate dining experience. Wissota also features large glass garage doors that, in warmer weather, merge the indoors with the outdoors.

There is a large draft beer list and a nice selection of wines. The cocktail menu is smaller, but all of the standard drinks are available.

I sampled a holiday Old Fashioned ($10) with date and maybe star anise flavor (it was not intense enough that I could really tell).

Helene ordered the cucumber mint martini ($10). She is usually knocked over by the strong vodka taste but was pleased with this subtle offering. Her only disappointment was that it came in a tumbler rather than a martini glass.

With a big group, we turned our attention first to the shareables menu. We started out with the Mediterranean flatbread ($11) featuring goat cheese drizzled with balsamic. It was delicious.

Next up was oysters Rockefeller ($15). They were huge, and my husband—who knows seafood—said they were the best he has ever had. Covered in a béarnaise sauce with chives, spinach and a smoky tapenade featuring Nueske’s bacon, we all agreed they were fabulous.

We were served a basket of warm brown bread with a large square of butter decorated with black and pink salt. It was a great accompaniment to the two soups we ordered: creamy lobster bisque ($9) and classic French onion ($9). The lobster flavor came through in the bisque, but there weren’t any chunks of meat that I could discern. The French onion soup was superb—a stringy, cheesy delight.

For my entree, I ordered the peppercorn salmon ($28), which came on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes and topped with a fruity salsa. It was perfectly done, and even after everyone took a taste, I still had some to take home. I also tried the wedge salad ($9), which was huge (actually two wedges) and delicious.

Jennifer selected the petite filet mignon ($37) with a blue cheese crust enhancement ($5) and then rounded out her meal with a Caesar salad ($11) and garlic-chive-whipped potatoes ($11). The filet was cooked exactly how she wanted—with a nice crust on the outside and a moist, tender pink center. The addition of the blue cheese was icing on the cake. Although the potatoes were lacking in both garlic and chive flavors, they were moist and creamy, and they were made with skin-on potatoes, which Jennifer adores.

Nikki tried the mixed grill ($40) featuring a Manhattan steak, lamb chop and slab of bacon. She kept it simple and didn’t get any enhancements for the meat, hoping it would be tasty on its own. It was. The truffle fries ($9) she chose as a side were battered and had a wonderful woodsy flavor.

Helene ordered the chicken mole ($28) which normally comes on a bed of sweet potato/andouille hash. Regretfully, our server informed her the kitchen had run out and would be substituting blue cheese risotto and Brussels sprouts.

The chicken had a nice, crunchy, bread crumb coating, but the inside was rather dry. Mole is a brown sauce made from a variation of chilies, spices and chocolate with a taste described as deep and earthy. But this sauce was a little skimpy, and Helene couldn’t get a good read on the flavors. The risotto complimented the chicken, and the Brussels sprouts lent another flavor and texture element to the plate.

My husband had the Wissota burger ($16) and truffle fries. Made with Wagyu beef (meat from Japanese beef known for its marbling and delicate texture) and topped it with Nueske’s bacon. It was a real bargain.

Two of our other guests opted for seafood. The scallops ($28) were super-sized and came served with an orange basil butter. The jumbo prawns ($28) in garlic-chive butter also were excellent.

For dessert, we tried the seasonal creme brulee ($8). It was a softer version than what I expected (it didn’t have a crunchy, caramelized crust, and the orange-vanilla flavor was very delicate).

The raspberry deconstructed tiramisu ($9) was a wonderful surprise. Sweet and silky mascarpone melted in our mouths, and the inner raspberry mound gave it a wonderful punch of flavor. It was definitely a winner.

The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.

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