L’Etoile Restaurant, Madison, 5/10/23

building – US Bank Plaza, 1 S Pinckney St, Suite 107, Madison, WI 53703

L’Etoile Restaurant was opened by Odessa Piper in 1976.  She was an early supporter of the sustainable food or farm-to-table movement.  In 2005 she sold the restaurant to her Chef de cuisine, Tory Miller and his sister Traci.  They continued the tradition of supporting local farmers and expanded to open a bakery and a casual lunch spot also.  Dianne Christensen became a co-owner in 2007 and envisioned a new space for ‘L’Etoile and the addition of a gastropub.  Chef Miller was the recipient of the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Midwest in 2012.  The new space is in the US Bank Plaza building with 3 walls of glass looking out at the dome of the Wisconsin capital building.  The widely spaced tables are covered with white cloths, sitting on carpet with a high ceiling overhead and music in the background.  Parking is on your own, so allow extra time to make your reservation.  They offer a “5” course tasting with 2 levels of optional wine pairings as well as an a la carte menu.  The full bar and wine list has a fairly hefty mark-up but it is a good selection.  We chose the tasting menu which included multiple extras and chose a half bottle of white and full bottle of red to accompany the meal.  The food is excellent as was the service and if you have the chance this is a place I would recommend, but it’s not cheap.


Frankie shared the restaurant details
dining room
dining room
wine storage
tasting menu
a la carte menu
wine by the glass
white wine
red wine
Frankie spotted the Capital dome



The meal started with a warm moist cloth to refresh and then we were brought room temperature gougeres.  These were made with mascarpone and goat cheese and were a buttery, cheesy delight to start with.

moist towel to start
cheese gougeres
another angle


An amuse bouche was a dashi egg custard with yuzu, charred ramps and blue crab.  The totally smooth custard was topped with ramps mixed with some other greens for a very tasty dish.  The subtle flavor of the crab came through and was well supported by the contrasting textures.

amuse bouche


Riverence Steelhead Trout Crudo was plated with Roots Down Farm radishes, black olives, trout roe and spring garlic.  The trout came from Idaho and really melted in your mouth. The olives added some needed salt to the dish and the vegetables were small and so fresh.  It was lovely and a great start.

trout crudo


Dreamfarm Chévre agnolotti came with ramps, wood sorrel, green almonds, and pine nut pesto. The 3 large pastas sat in the basil/pine nut pesto which was buttery and wonderful.  The green almonds were sliced and the dish was topped with sheep’s milk foam.  The tender pastas were filled with delicious goat cheese which blended perfectly with the sauces and young leaves.  This one was really good.

chevre agnolotti


The bread service was a French style roll with nettle butter.  The butter was green and lightly salted on top but mostly tasted like butter.  The roll was delightful with a good crust and chewy interior.

Great server Brendan and Frankie


Lest the meal leave out foie gras we were brought some torchon -style wrapped in a rhubarb leaf then topped with a sorrel leaf.  A foie gras sushi roll of sorts.  The interior was creamy and luscious with the wrapper having a little chew for a yummy bite.

foie gras torchon roll


Alaskan Halibut was plated with toasted brioche, Blue Moon Farm spring turnips, Driftless Organics daikon, créme fraîche bagna cauda and Harmony Valley crosnes.  The perfectly cooked fish was in a thick piece that was marvelous with the sauce.  It had been crisped on one side and then that was topped with the leaves.  The crosnes were the spiral cut vegetables sitting in the sauce.  They were tart and crisp, but not much flavor otherwise.  They added a bit more texture to the wonderful plate.

Alaskan Halibut


Another extra was 2 of the Stack Farm suckling pig caramelle made with caramelized whey, crispy mushroom and fried nettles.  The braising liquid from the pig was combined with butter to make a sauce for these thicker yet tender pasta packages.  The pork filling combined with the pasta and sauce was lip-smacking good.

suckling pig caramelle
Frankie guarded the wines


Fischer Family Farms New York Strip was plated with miso-braised shallots, black trumpet mushrooms and Japanese eggplant.  The beef was marinated and cooked more medium rare than rare.  The miso shallots tasted lightly pickled but there were also some caramelized onions that were fabulous.  Some mashed potatoes were underneath and helped tie the plate together.  Usually this would be my least favorite course but it was not too much meat and what there was was surrounded by really tasty stuff to eat with it.

Fischer Family Farms New York Strip


A transition to dessert brought another addition to the menu – a canelé topped with smoked bleu cheese mixed with gorgonzola.  It was half of an amazing canelé that was perfectly made.  The sweet crispy exterior and soft interior were nicely punctuated by the sharp, strong cheese flavor.  It was a terrific palate cleanser.

from the side


Rhubarb Tart was alongside a sweet cherry compote, Italian meringue and oatmeal cookie crisp.  The thin buttery crust on the tart was nicely crisp with slices of rhubarb crossing the top of the custard interior.  The cherry compote was a good garnish, according to my husband but the next dessert was mine.

Rhubarb Tart


Doughnuts are on the a la carte menu and I substituted them for the tart for a small upcharge (since they couldn’t scale it well).  They were croissant doughnuts made to order and tossed in spice sugar and served with banana ice cream, vanilla pudding, brûlée bananas and rum butterscotch sauce.  The three doughnuts were hot and the crispy exterior was well coated with cinnamon sugar and drizzled with the butterscotch sauce.  Inside was the soft cake filling to make an outstanding dessert.  Underneath were some banana slices with a crisp caramelized side and some okay ice cream.  The doughnuts stole the show here.



Last treats were a sesame cookie with coffee cream and a rectangle of white chocolate fudge mixed with passionfruit.  Both were fine.

last treats
Frankie admired the bill cover


As a parting gift, they sent an oatmeal cookie cream pie.  The cookie was nice and the filling tasted of cream cheese.

Frankie looked at the take-home gift

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