When Bar Bistro 608 opened atop the Sundance Cinemas at Hilldale in 2007, reviews were mixed. Madison liked the space, especially the rooftop seating, but the menu didn't go over as well.
"I wonder if Robert Redford has actually eaten the food or maybe he has nothing to do with the operation. That is more likely," a diner posted on Isthmus' Forum on TheDailyPage.com at the time.
Now Sundance and Redford have refocused on the rooftop space. They plan to reopen it this summer as the Rooftop Bar and Bistro with a menu culled directly from the three Utah Sundance restaurants (Zoom, Foundry Grill and the Tree Room) and overseen by Sundance executive chef Mark Shoup.
Shoup arrived in Madison this past Sunday to complete staff training and set the ball rolling with two charity benefit events before the restaurant's official opening on Friday, May 28.
He's looking to give Madison diners "a taste of what we do," with "classic dishes and established favorites" drawn mostly from the more casual Zoom and Foundry Grill menus but with a couple from the fine-dining Tree Room menu. In a phone interview, Shoup said he wanted the restaurant to remain "accessible to most diners."
Certainly the flavors will be accessible, and prices are in line with what Madison diners are used to from restaurants like the Coopers Tavern - nothing's over $16. In putting together the menu, Shoup did look at what was going on at some other Madison restaurants, but says he was more intent on "bringing what we do here in the mountain states to Madison."
He describes that mountain cuisine not so much in terms of ingredients but as "not flashy or showy but about technique, about flavors that go well together."
One natural for the Madison menu was a fish fry. "I'm a little hesitant to do fish and chips in Wisconsin; it's such a staple," says Shoup, who's originally from Flint, Mich. "It is Friday nights." The Sundance version features cod in a beer and cornmeal batter, served with fries and coleslaw ($11). One item unique to Madison is the pastrami burger ($10), a Shoup hamburger creation that also includes all the elements of a Reuben under one bun. It's "kind of heavy, good drinking food," he suggests. Lighter fare includes the crispy calamari rings (from Foundry Grill) served on arugula with a lemon-thyme vinaigrette ($7).
From the Tree Room comes the Sundance Salad (with goat cheese, currants and candied pecans, $8) and from Zoom, a pumpkin-seed encrusted trout ($12). The pepper steak (pictured) from the Tree Room caps the menu at $16.