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Fish Type: Lake Perch     Price: $14.00

Overall, I would not recommend this Fish Fry.

Fish Score: Good
Potato Score: Excellent
Tartar Score: Poor
Bread Score: Excellent
Miscellaneous Score: Excellent

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Comment: We’ve heard it called a “Steak House,” we’ve heard it called a “Club.” It’s sometimes referred to as the “Room,” or simply as “Tornado,” but whatever name you choose to call the West Main mainstay, one thing you can’t call it is unpopular. Even their “Friday Fish Fry” garners high praise, despite the fact that the lauded rendition is anything but your traditional supper club faire. We finally got around to trying the atypical entrée a few weeks ago, and much like our experience with The Green Owl we enjoyed a tasty meal, but a classic Fish Fry it is not.

Yes, there is fried fish in the what The Tornado calls their “Wisconsin Fish Fry,” but there is fried fish everywhere, and I’m sorry, but a just because a McFish is fried doesn’t make it a Fish Fry. The Tornado’s take features three pieces of fried lake perch, and some delicious potatoes, but that is about the extent of their typical-ness. From there the meal takes a turn, and while it does wind up being a fair deal for $14, it can’t hold a candle to the AYCE fish you will get at somewhere like The Dorf Haus.

Being that this is actually a pretty popular “Fish Fry” I was sure to ask the hostess if they had any perch left as soon as we stepped to her station (I didn’t want to wind up in the same boat as Cool Dadio, you see). She scurried away only to return moments later to share the good news that several portions did remain. At this point we took the bait and she charted a course to a small table outside the bustling establishment.

We sat down, got our bearings, and within seconds made initial contact with our waitress. She was a true pro and in expert fashion immediately went over the specials and buzzed away to grab us a beer and a glass of vino from the bar. When she returned we put in our orders: fish for me, and for the wife, Asparagus Saint Jaques with a side salad.

Before the fish we were treated to the Tornado’s signature bread plate, a relish “tray” and the clam chowder I opted for instead of salad. The bread plate was nothing short of outstanding. It consisted of three different styles of bread: one KFC-esque biscuit, one long breadstick, and one big loaf of special somethingerother. Each bread paired well with the homemade soup which was a zesty, unique take on the seafood classic. An ice filled glass with also distinctive, and came filled with radishes, carrots and other veggies instead of the water or soda one might expect.

I knew what was coming so when the fish arrived I wasn’t surprised at the atypical presentation. The three fair-sized pieces of perch came laid elegantly across the plate and were covered with a sweet sauce. This sauce took the place of the traditional tartar and paired well with the flaky pan-fried fish, although it was so saccharine that it basically dominated every bite. Although I was sure to note the high quality of the fish on the one or two sauce-less bites I did get.

Since the Tornado is a classic steakhouse I had a feeling their hash browns would be topnotch, and they were. The huge loaf of shredded spuds was cooked perfectly, boasting crispy exteriors and supple interiors. The subtle amount of onion throughout was just right, and blended perfectly with the slice of melted Swiss laid gracefully atop.

Overall, we just can’t quite recommend this Fish Fry. This is a tough one because almost everything was very good, and clearly high quality, but in the end it just doesn’t quite fit the bill of the Classic Wisconsin Fish Fry. As you might expect, the Tornado is a fancy steakhouse and these kinds of places feel the need to go above and beyond, often times going for that which will make them stand out. Unfortunately, that methodology just doesn’t fit with our grading rubric, which ranks the traditional Fish Fry components. And even with that being so, it is still a close call. Too bad, Tornado.
116 South Hamilton Street
Madison, WI 53703

(608) 256-3570