Big seafood apps, like a tower of oysters, shrimp and clams, usher in a seafood-focused menu. Whitefish cakes, smoked fish platter, fruit de mer, sturgeon, and blue marlin are all worthy picks. This ambitious restaurant is out to make a brave statement with both decor and food in the old Restaurant Magnus space. Almost everything on the menu seems oversized, starting with the appetizer "towers" -- the smallest of which, at $20, includes six oysters, four gulf shrimp and four clams. The sturgeon was cradled in breadcrumbs, crowned by a thick lick of caviar creme fraiche and perched next to a side of diced bacon and, oh yeah, a fried egg. The blue marlin, topped by a hazelnut pesto, lime aioli and a big frizzled tangle of fried leeks, was almost as good, and just as hard to finish. The only problem with all this ambition is that it can register as overkill. Once the menu is tweaked and some cleaner, more restrained dishes added, the Tempest has the potential to become a classic.
Tempest Oyster Bar
120 E. Wilson St., Madison, Wisconsin 53703
4-10 pm daily, late night menu after 10 pm.