Fish Type: Walleye Price: $17.00
Overall, I would recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Excellent|
Potato Score: Fair
Tartar Score: Good
Bread Score: Excellent
Miscellaneous Score: Excellent
Comment: Octopi has basically been going through transitions since they opened which has never fully allowed them to settle into a groove...I guess that's what happens when your business is wildly successful. The contract brewing end of their business is clearly booming, their own Octopi and the Untiled Art labels have been killing it, and their food truck has been showered with acclaim. It stands to reason they'd expand, and since since adding a full-fledged kitchen they've finally been able to find some consistency - at least as far as their Fish Fry is concerned.
We've been to Octopi a couple time recently - once for dinner after the Mint Mark 100, and once when our good friends were in town for a Badger game. Both visits were essentially carbon copies of each other food-wise, so for simplicity sake we'll lump the reviews into one. Octopi has fried cod and walleye available on Fridays and since $16 is relatively steep for cod, I went for the $19 walleye on both of these visits.
$19 is about right for walleye since it's a premier fish and the fillets are usually hearty. Octopi gets the good stuff - it's clearly real walleye (not pike-perch or some other faker) - and they do an excellent job preparing it. Usually breweries and brew pubs just can't help themselves and defiantly beer batter their walleye. This is a mistake. The chef here clearly know this, and selects a delectable cornmeal crust that is perfectly suited to the thick fillets. This breading adds a welcome crunch which offsets the flaky meat it encases rather than overpowering it. What's more, it has some seasoning, but not so much that the inherent walleye essence is lost to it. Walleye is known for its alluring musky flavor, and it comes through here thanks to the thoughtful preparation.
If this Fish Fry has a failing, it's got to be the "smashed potato" on the side. The spud is basically exactly what the name implies - a crushed baked potato - and while it's fine when heavily salted, it's far from ideal. I wouldn't call it "lame" per se, although I have heard that term thrown around when referring to it. The hardest part for me to comes to grips with is the fact they have fries available as and appetizer, and while you can upgrade to them, it comes at a premium (I think it's like a $3 up-charge). I'm pray for the day they just come as an option (or better yet the default) since I've had them, and they are pretty darn good in comparison.
When I have a big fillet of fish, I like a big cup of tartar that's meant to last. The Octopi sauce is thick and rich, but the small Solo cup ran dry well before the fish ran out. Sure, eating this fish dry isn't exactly a punishment, but every bite certainly wasn't all it could be. Maybe I'm just an over-dipper?
Traditional Milwaukee style Fish Fry is known for three things: lake perch, potato pancakes, and rye bread. While Madison Fish Fry doesn't have such an identity, getting a slice of rye with the fish pays homage to tradition. Octopi puts a nice slab of rye on the side that pairs well with their house coleslaw. This slaw an interesting blend for sure but pales loses some significance when put up next to king walleye.
Settling into a groove can be a good thing, but it can also be detrimental if it results in complacency. With constant upheaval the chefs at Octopi were never able to totally focus on their Fish Fry, but with the transition from food truck to brick and mortar kitchen things seem to have finally found their footing. On both of these visits the fish was great, and the sides did what they needed to do. Sure, there are tweaks to be made, but I'm fully confident they'll see the shortcomings and make the changes the people (not just me) want them to make. Overall, we recommend this Fish Fry as is, and can hardly wait to see what the future has in store.
1131 Uniek Drive
Waunakee, WI 53597