Tomorrow kicks of Restaurant Week in Cedar Rapids. An occasion that makes a pretty big splash in most other markets, giving patrons the opportunity to taste several areas of a menu for a fraction of the cost. In Cedar Rapids, it’s a tiny blip on the radar. But a tasty blip, nonetheless.
To kick off the week, I attempted to start the eating early. True to form, most restaurant curate items for the Prix Fixe menu based on their everyday menu, but don’t replicate exact dishes. After an hour of annoying back-and-forth, puzzle piecing between what I could order today that will be on the special menus tomorrow, I picked White Star from one of the four Dinner Only options.
Although the tease of beignets and macerated strawberries with vanilla bean from the Lava/Cibo Dinner Only menus lingered far too long, I settled on Roast BBQ Pork Shanks and Wisconsin Wontons from White Star Ale House.
If you dream of wontons with thin, crispy shell and stuffed with filling, here they are. Pinched ever-so-cutely the papers leave no extra dough for cumbersome chewiness. The filling is crab- rangoon- cream- cheese meets homemade- mac- & cheese- cheddar, in both consistency and flavor. Paired with a runny honey mustard that has a spicy bite, these Wisconsin Wontons are not like the fried cheese curds or cheese wontons you’ll find at other local favorites.
The Roast BBQ Pork Shank was a good choice, I must say. The salmon with pepper ragu was enticing, and the pistachio chicken with mango salsa was a strong contender. In the end, smokey roasted baby backs won. You’ll be too distracted by how easily the meat pulls from the bones to notice the onset of heat from the BBQ sauce. Before you realize it, the slow roll of spice from the sauce will kick in, and you’re suddenly holding a chunk of now- boneless meat that is igniting in your mouth. If the garlic mashed potatoes are any indication of what you’ll receive when you order the mashed red potatoes, I’d go that route.
To really amp up the meal, I think it’s necessary to take advantage of the 2-for-1 Happy Hour. You can put away two beers, and three courses for the same price of an ambitious meal at the Taco Bell drive through a la 1am. Plus the beers always help squelch the sneaky heat from both dishes, leaving a you a strategic and satiated patron of restaurant week.