Thursday, October 23, 2014

96th Street Steakburgers - Revisit

96th Street Steakburgers is a quick place that our whole family can agree on. It’s borderline fast food, but about as close as I get on a semi-regular basis. They do cook the food to order and even the French fries are fresh.

I haven’t written about it in a few years (holy moly does time fly) and since it is a fairly regular spot for us, I figured I’d do a quick revisit. The burgers are tasty—my favorite part being the special sauce they use. It’s got a little bit of tanginess to it and gives some extra depth to the burger. I get mine with cheese pickles and the sauce—hubby usually adds lettuce and grilled onions. Both options are tasty. It’s a fairly thin burger, and they cook them all the same, but the maintain a fairly juicy inside and have some crispy edges. The burgers are around $4 for a single and around $6 if you make it a combo with a drink and fries.

Like I said, the fries are freshly cut and cooked—they can vary slightly in how crispy they are, but they have a good flavor. I love it when they’re really crisp, and the last couple of times they have been. Sometimes they can be a bit greasy though. The portions are generous with the fries (our family of four usually splits two orders). My daughter loves the milkshakes (around $3) and usually gets the chocolate. 

Anyhow, it’s a good place to get a quick bite at what is basically an independently owned fast food joint. You don’t see too many of those.  The service (counter service) can be a little gruff at times, but they’re quite fast. The place never seems very crowded though. Whenever I go I wonder how they maintain such a big place on the amount of business they have.

What do you guys think of it?

96th Street Steakburgers
4715 East 96th Street
Indy  46240
317/844-6351
www.96thstreetsteakburgers.com 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Milktooth

Of course I have been anxious to try Milktooth and as soon as I asked my friend Suzanne if she’d meet me, she said yes yes yes! She had been to both the preview brunches at Recess and really enjoyed them. I had been trying to wait my obligatory couple of weeks, but could barely stand it.

First of all, this place is pretty darn adorable. Very shabby chic—lots of reclaimed and vintage pieces throughout, mismatched china, etc. I thought the chairs at our table looked familiar and then was told they were from the library at IU Bloomington. I probably sat in those same chairs! Even the tables were made by the chef himself from reclaimed wood. I also liked that although cute, the chairs were comfy. Also, hallelujah for a parking lot. It may not hold all the cars when the place is full, but it holds a lot of them I’m guessing. Food-wise, they’re sourcing much of the ingredients from local purveyors.

It’s a brunch place so naturally, there are eggs everywhere and I was completely overwhelmed with deciding what to order. It all sounded good. We ended up settling on the sweet tea fried chicken and biscuit ($14) from the “Classic” side of the menu and the Chilaquiles roja ($14) from the “Divergent” side of the menu. Of course we needed to try something from the “Adjacent” section as well and chose the latkes ($5).

Ok, this place lives up to the hype (and there has been a fair amount). Everything was good. Really good. If I had to choose a favorite, it was probably the fried chicken. So, here’s the set up: really good, chunky, chorizo gravy on the bottom of the bowl topped with a freshly made biscuit, several pieces of the fried chicken (my piece was a boneless thigh) and a perfectly beautiful sunny side up egg. The egg was seasoned well and the flavor of the chicken was so, so good. Rarely do I eat an egg and not want to season it a little. This needed nothing. The spices in the chicken were my favorite part and I wanted to dole out a little bit with every single bite. The biscuit was buttery and somewhat dense and the gravy gave it just the right moisture. It was all perfect together.

We also had the chilaquiles, which were made up of hunks of lamb carnitas and collard greens. Normally when I have had chilaquiles in the past, crispy tortillas were part of the dish, and this was more of a saucy meat base, but quite good. I liked the slight bitterness from the collards mixed in and when you got just the right bite with the meat, some egg (another perfect sunny side up egg), a little of the guac and sour cream on the side and a few of those julienned (very lightly pickled perhaps?) radishes, it was a wonderful bite. I only wished for a bit more of the sour cream to go around with every bite. It was the kind of dish that could be very spicy, but this wasn’t. It had good spice flavors, but not in the hot kind of way.

The giant potato latke was fantastic. It was super crisp on the edges, but not in the least bit burned. It had a wonderful buttery taste to the potatoes and the drizzles of harissa ketchup and aioli were perfect. A little spicy kick to a familiar ketchup flavor and a little bit of tanginess from the aioli.

I am amazed at the amount of staff working here—they have got baristas making their special coffees (my macchiato was delicious although I did sorta want two sugar cubes vs. the one they brought me when I asked for sugar) and there was one person who looked like he spent most of the time pressing fresh OJ. We sat near the bar where you could watch every dish come out of the busy open kitchen and wish you had ordered that too. The place is lovely to look at and so is the food. And the flavors measure up to the presentation. I can see some people potentially complaining about the portion sizes being small though, although I found them just fine. I found the “modifications are politely declined” wording on the menu fine as well, but am a person who is happy to eat a dish the way the chef wants to prepare it. Others might be less so, but go in knowing this is not your average “2 eggs any style/choice of meat/choice of bread” kind of diner. Put yourself in their hands though, and I think you’ll be happy. I certainly was.

Milktooth is a great addition to Indy’s food scene. And how badly did we need a great brunch spot (and there’s booze too)? I hope maybe they add a night or two of service because I’d be happy having dinner here as well. 

I am anxious to hear what people think about this place and how your experiences have been (and what you ate!), so leave me a comment and let me know.

Milktooth
540 Virginia Ave
Indy  46203
317/292-2280
Milktooth on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Souper Bowl

Every time I write about pho, someone mentions Souper Bowl in Westfield to me. Obviously, I needed to try it so I got my friend Suzanne to go check it out with me since she lives on the north side and is always up for a food adventure. We always order too much food, and this day was no exception.

We started with the fried tofu and the avocado rolls ($3.25). I had never seen an avocado roll on a menu (at least that I can remember) so I was intrigued. It was a cold Vietnamese-style spring roll filled with mainly rice noodles and some crunchy herbs as well as a couple of slices of avocado. It was just okay, not my favorite thing just because it didn’t have a lot of inherent flavor and the thick peanut sauce served with it was a little too much. They were too plain on their own, but all you could taste was the peanut sauce if you did use it.

I think we both liked the fried tofu much better—they were very simple and just the right size (and really, really hot). There was the right amount of tofu to fried exterior ratio. Plus we almost always order this dish when we’re together eating at a restaurant that offers it. It’s kind of a tradition. The one thing I didn’t like about it was they served it with just a standard sweet and sour (read: sweet) sauce, which isn’t my favorite. Usually when I’ve had it, it’s served with a light fish broth, which I prefer. I just used a dash of soy instead. But the tofu itself was tasty.

I order the sliced beef pho ($7.65) and Suzanne ordered the Banh Mi ($3.95). The pho was very good. I liked that the smaller portion wasn’t as overwhelming in amount as it sometimes is—I can never finish those huge bowls. Pho is really about the broth and this one was nice and rich and beefy. There was a fair amount of the very thin sliced beef and lots of the rice noodles. There was a fair amount of really thinly sliced onions in there as well and a smattering of green onions. The side plate was simpler than some-mostly bean sprouts with some Thai basil, a couple of slices of jalapeno and a lime wedge. There was not a lot of the basil and no cilantro, which is also good with it. I threw all of it in (well, not all the bean sprouts) and slurped away. 

Suzanne and I shared both so I also got to sample the Banh Mi. It was also well done, although the bread didn’t have that super flaky texture of others I have had in the past. There was a thin layer of the pate-type spread and some thinly sliced pork. The sandwich was dressed with lots of fresh bean sprouts, sliced cucumber, julienned carrots and a bit of cilantro that were light dressed in a slightly tangy dressing. It was a tasty sandwich (and extremely reasonably priced). I would have liked maybe just a bit more meat on it, but for that price, you can’t really complain. Overall I liked the pho better but Suzanne liked the sandwich better, so there you go.

I also ordered a limeade club soda ($2) that was fantastic. They make fresh (and tart) limeade and then mix it with soda. What a great accompaniment to this type of food. And you know me, add some tart, tangy drink on the side and I’ll be happy. 

If this place was in my neighborhood (and hey, it’s Vietnamese in Westfield!), I would easily visit again. The menu is large and there’s a lot to try.

Souper Bowl
112 East Main Street
Westfield, IN 46074
317/399-7858


Super Bowl Pho on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 13, 2014

Road Trip: Japonais by Morimoto--Chicago

Our first big anniversary dinner in Chicago was at Japonais by Morimoto. We had already made a reservation for the following night at a high-end price fixe restaurant and wanted something totally different from that for our first dinner. Japonais was the perfect choice.

Apparently, this restaurant was taken over and re-vamped by Chef Morimoto (you know, one of the Iron Chefs) not too long ago. They seem to be very successful, as the place was packed. And quite noisy. A cool thing? Chef Morimoto is there most nights apparently, including this night and we got lots of pictures of him working hard in his kitchen (our table was pretty close to the sushi bar).

After glancing through the menu, we wanted pretty much everything on the cold starters page and decided to just go with small plates. It was a wise decision because we got to try lots of things and nearly all of them were great. They want you to order everything at once, but they do a pretty good job at spacing them out. And they’re pretty flexible if you decide you might need “just one more thing.”

The star of the night for us was the tuna “pizza.” ($16). It was this super crisp, almost buttery, wafer thin tortilla on the bottom topped with very thin maguro tuna, the most amazing anchovy aioli, olives, jalapenos, and micro cilantro. Whoa, was this good. The aioli was tangy but salty (and not fishy at all) and the jalapenos gave it a bit of heat (even if you didn’t eat them, just from them sitting on the fish, there was a bit of residual flavor). I loved the olives (of course) and thought it was an interesting thing to add—not something you see with Japanese food often, but kicking up the briny taste. This would absolutely be a must order dish on any return visit.

We also got the toro tartare ($26). This dish is totally cool. Hubby and I had seen it on one of those “best things I’ve ever eaten” shows and wanted it then—so we were excited to get to try it. They give you this flat glass dish with the toro on it—it’s basically pureed into a paste almost. You use this little flat utensil to scoop out a little and drag it through the other dish that contains nori paste, guacamole, chives, wasabi, sour cream and these little crispy rice balls. Then you dipped it into a light soy-based sauce. It was really fun and very tasty. I really like the way the rice balls and chives added texture. It was one of the more challenging dishes to eat (stuff kept falling off) but it was really good.

We also had the Hamachi tacos ($10). It’s funny—if I had these any other place, I would have been wowed. Crispy wonton shells filled with large dices of Hamachi, avocado, tomato, Serrano and jalapeno peppers and yuzu kosho (a yuzu/chili paste combo)—how can you go wrong? The yuzu, tomatoes plus the limes served alongside gave that kick of acid I crave and the fish was impeccably fresh. In comparison, it just didn’t have the combo of flavors and variations in textures that some of the other dishes had that really pushed them over the top. I’d be ordering them right and left if they were on a menu in Indy though. Still a really good choice. 
Hubby got excited after realizing that had fatty tuna (oh-toro) nigiri on the menu and really wanted to get some. It was the only real sushi item we had for the meal. It’s market priced on the menu, and expensive ($13 per piece on this night). The rice here is “hand polished” and while I can’t tell you exactly how that affects the flavor, I can say that you could really taste each individual grain of rice and there was a slight al dente bite to it. The tuna was melt in your mouth tender, but I didn’t care for the small amount of wasabi they put between the rice and the fish. To me, it detracted. Hubby loved it though. I don’t need to get such an expensive piece of nigiri in the future, but it was fun to try.
At this point, we moved into the warm part of the meal and kicked it off with some hot rock American wagyu beef. The beef was very thinly sliced, and you just through it on the smoking hot rock for a minute, just to sear the outside. They gave you 2 kinds of dipping sauces—one was a hot mustard based sauce and the other had a flavor of sesame oil. Both were very good. I went back and forth on which I liked better. It goes quick though. I probably could have eaten another entire plate of the beef, but we moved along.
The last two things we got at the same time—the “Kakuni” ($12) or ten-hour pork belly served in top of rice congee with soy-scallion jus. This dish, or should I say the pork part of it, was the only real miss for me of the evening. The pork was certainly rich in flavor, just too rich and too sweet for me. It was coated in an extremely sweet soy based sauce that was just too much. I loved the rice congee (or rice porridge) underneath it though. It had a wonderful dense consistency almost like grits. We also got our side of duck confit fried rice with an organic egg on top ($9) at this point in the meal. The rice itself was really good—the duck gave it just the right amount of heartiness without being over the top, and the egg yolk gave a nice creaminess to the unique firmness of the rice. It was really well seasoned. The only disappointing part was I would have loved to have eaten it at the same time as the beef rather than at the same time as a dish that also incorporated rice. I also think it would have slowed me down on the beef too. I would order it again and be more specific about when I wanted it.

Since it was our anniversary after all, we decided to get dessert as well, and they presented it nicely with a “Happy Anniversary” on the plate. We had the salted caramel chocolate tart ($10) because we’re both suckers for salted caramel items. It was fairly simple and very tasty. The perfect way to end the meal.

Japonais is certainly a place we are anxious to return to, and I hope to go with friends so we can order more stuff. There is so much that looks so good on the menu. I might try and see if there is anywhere in the restaurant that’s a little quieter, but I’m not sure if there is. And I’m totally ordering that tuna pizza. 

Japonais by Morimoto
600 West Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
312/822-9600

Japonais by Morimoto on Urbanspoon