Monday, October 16, 2017

Canal Bistro - Brunch

I had a brunch meeting on a weekend with a small group, and we decided to try Canal Bistro because they take reservations. On the weekends, I just don’t have the patience to wait an hour to eat. I had never been to Canal Bistro for full on brunch, so it was almost like going to a new restaurant.

They have a very large menu of choices for brunch, although there are several areas that are variations of similar items—various breakfast sandwiches/pita wraps takes up half of the back page for instance. It’s nice to see some interesting things on there though. I ordered the Mediterranean frittata ($11). It is described as a frittata with leeks, roasted tomatoes and spinach topped with feta, sundried tomatoes and basil. So I sort of pictured a frittata that had the first three ingredients mixed in and the other stuff baked on top. This was more of a (huge) piece of frittata with everything baked inside. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t really get much of the cheese flavor. The whole thing was decently moist, but just a little on the bland side. They should throw some olives in there. It’s huge though. I also ordered a side of bacon, which was crispy and delicious.

Oh, and if you like a mimosa or bloody Mary with your brunch, they were $5. And you can get your mimosa made with a range of various juices. I had a mango one and it was very nice.

My daughter had “The Classic Fool” breakfast plus one egg (she got it sunny side up, but you can get it however you want). This is a bowl of slow-cooked fava beans mixed with olive oil, tomatoes, onions, parsley and fresh lemon and then topped with the egg. The egg was cooked nicely and she enjoyed the dish. It was nice that it had a touch of acid to it.

All in all, while the dishes didn’t blow me away, this is a nice spot to sit outside and have brunch. The menu is quite large, and I look forward to trying something else next time.

Canal Bistro
6349 Guilford Ave
Indy 46220
317/254-8700



Monday, October 9, 2017

Vida - Revisit

Hubby and I had a date night on our own and decided to go back to Vida—we hadn’t been since my birthday in December. I made a reservation (one of my favorite things about this place is that you can book it ahead) and asked to sit in the bar side. We had never sat there and I really enjoyed it—the tables seem spaced a little better and it has a more relaxed atmosphere. It’s a pretty room too.

They first brought us a amuse bouche that was quite delicious. It was a cube of sticky rice topped with a little bit of spicy tuna, kimchi and wasabi. It was a great little bite. Loved the way they made the rice into a cube.

They have changed the menu a bit since I was there and now you can get a four-course meal for $65, or you can order a la carte.  We kind of picked a few from the various sections and shared. The first course section is really just a few bites—not really meant for sharing. We did though.

I ordered the tuna ($18) for my first course and hubby the guanciale ($15). You guys know I love my tuna dishes, but this was one of the best one I’ve had in awhile. It was just three slices of wasabi-crusted tuna with a little mound of buckwheat soba noodles topped with honey sesame vinaigrette and some pickled red onions. Wow—I loved the crunch of the wasabi peas (I think that’s what they were) that were crushed up and used as the crust on the tuna—they gave it crunch and a kick of flavor. I also really loved the noodles on the side—the vinaigrette gave them a really nice acidic flavor. Just a really well put together dish. My stomach is growling writing about it and I had a hard time giving hubby a piece (but I did).

His first course was also really delicious and really well crafted. It was toasted focaccia bread topped with thinly sliced guanciale (which is jowl bacon) and really equally thin slices of manchego cheese. The bread was topped with tomato herb butter and on top of the meat and cheese was some frisee and fig mostarda. Really good.

For the next course, we split the heirloom tomato salad ($12). This was also very good. There were nice chunks of tomatoes, large pieces of burrata cheese, some focaccia croutons, red onion, several herbs and a parmesan crisp. This was also well composed, and had a nice refreshing flavor. The croutons were a little hard to cut because they were so crunchy, but other than that, it was very good.

Speaking of croutons, the complimentary bread basket (which seemingly comes at random times at different tables from my observation—ours came after apps but before salads) is always good at Vida. This night they had little brioche loaves and blueberry friendship bread. And nice and creamy, spreadable butter. Both were delicious.

For our main dishes, I ordered the tortelloni ($24) and hubby the lamb chops ($38). My tortelloni was outstanding. There were several large tortelloni filled with mascarpone and alongside little crispy fried potatoes, asparagus, candied red onion in a sage brown butter sauce and topped with lots of shaved truffles. As soon as I walked into the restaurant and smelled the truffles I knew I was going to have to order whatever it was. It was such a cool combination of flavors. The only bad part of the dish was the asparagus, which was really thick and really woody. 

Hubby’s lamb chops were served with fire roasted cherry tomatoes, green beans and a tahini sauce. The flavor of the dish was really good—you got a real nicely roasted flavor. The chops themselves were a little fatty (and therefore chewy) for me however.

We ended up splitting one dessert. Vida has a great young pastry chef and it would almost feel wrong not to get something (yes, I am giving you an excuse about why you must order something when you’re there). We went with the ricotta doughnuts at hubby’s choice (I think they’ve had some version of this since opening) and we were certainly not disappointed. They had a bourbon maple glaze; candied bacon, maple cream and brown butter ice cream alongside. This was like the flavors of pancakes and bacon for breakfast taken to an amazing level. So good. They also have one of the best (if not the best) dessert wine lists by the glass of any restaurant in Indy if you’re into that sort of thing (I am).

So if it’s a nice meal you want with excellent food, this is one of your top choices right now in Indy. Really good.

Vida
601 East New York Street
Indy 46202
317/420-2323


Thursday, October 5, 2017

North American Adventures: Toronto

Recently, we did a short family vacation to Toronto. It’s a big city (4th largest in North America we learned) and there are tons of food options. It was slightly more challenging to research for me than many cities we’ve visited, but I combined sources and talked to a local blogger there and made my choices. (Prices are Canadian dollars).

The first day we landed right at lunch time and I had read about the Dumpling House not too far from our hotel in one of the three (!) Chinatowns in Toronto. It was a kind of hole in the wall place where people line up for one of the crowded tables. It reminded me of some of the places we used to frequent in San Francisco. The man seating you is a bit gruff and it’s not a place to linger. Naturally we wanted dumplings, but there were many things on the menu. We sort of asked the server for advice and she recommended the things we got: fried rice ($7.99), an onion pancake and the fried dumplings ($8.99). We also got an order of the steamed dumplings ($8.99) as well. They come about a dozen to an order, but luckily you can pick up to three flavors per order for a small upcharge. We had a variety of flavors including shrimp and pork, shrimp and veggie, and lamb in order, but the favorite was the pork and chive. The server was right, the pan-fried ones were the best (they cook them in one big piece and then flip them over to serve). However, the fried rice and the onion pancake were quite good as well (the chicken in the rice was shockingly tender). We pretty much inhaled the whole lot of it. Two women stand in the front widow constantly making dumplings, and their business is non-stop from what I could tell.

For dinner that night, it was just my daughter and me (boys were at a soccer—I mean football—game), and we chose Grey Gardens. It’s a restaurant owned by a female chef who is known for her attitude apparently, and that sounded good to me. We started with the house bread plate ($5) that was served with butter and schmaltz. It was interesting bread—grilled to the point that it had a distinct smoky taste even though it wasn’t overly browned. Our shared salad was really good though. It had pea shoots and snow peas and then throughout, this wonderfully tender sliced grilled calamari. There was a dollop of hollandaise next to it as well. You ran your fork through that and then took a bit of the wonderfully acidic salad—it was great and so unique. We both ordered a pasta dish—mine was my favorite. It was papardelle with fried sweetbreads and tiny little chanterelle mushrooms. It was in a light sauce made with ginger ($25). It tasted very rich but somewhat light at the same time. The sweetbreads were fried perfectly. My daughter had ravioli with corn, chorizo and cotija cheese. Also very good, with a little spicy kick. I liked the unique combos here.

Another day we had lunch at El Catrin Distileria in the Distillery District, thanks to a recommendation from my social media friend, @attackresist. We really enjoyed this meal as well, even though he warned me it was a bit pricey. We started with tableside guac ($12.95), which was nice and fresh but needed salt.  The margaritas were also good. The tuna tostadas also very tasty ($16.95) and my daughter enjoyed a burrito. My son had a quesadilla and all was well in the world. We also got some churros for dessert. The chocolate dipping sauce was eww… but the dulce du leche was on point. It was a very enjoyable lunch in the Distillery District where we spent a few hours.

Dinner that night was at Buca, which was the one restaurant everyone had helped pick. It’s Italian, and we all know how difficult that is to find in Indy. Buca was in a sort of busy, hopping neighborhood of bars and restaurants. It was weird though—it was pretty early, but you did not see kids (besides ours) anywhere. I don’t think Torontonians take their kids out to eat much. Anyway, it was a cool restaurant that was set in a basement. Lots of cured hams hanging everywhere and wheels of cheese. We started with the steak tartare. It was interesting because it had a ton of cheese with it, as well as the standard egg. It had a unique taste, but was good. The fried zucchini flowers ($15) were my favorite though. These were stuffed with not just cheese, but also scallop, giving it a heartier flavor. I also liked that they leave the tiny baby zucchini on the stem as well. We also really enjoyed the nodini ($6), which are little bread balls with olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Can’t really go wrong here. My daughter loves gnocchi and enjoyed Buca’s version, which were actually stuffed with pesto (in the shape of a cube!) and topped with tomato sauce. Unfortunately the rest of our dinner was just meh. My son’s carbonara had little flavor and the flatbread hubby and I ordered was also doughy and bland, which was weird considering it had porcini mushrooms and gorgonzola on it (as well as mascarpone and rosemary). We enjoyed the restaurant, but it was probably our least favorite meal.

The next night my daughter and I were on our own again (baseball game this time) and went to Byblos (a place my daughter would like me to point out that she picked out). I really, really liked this place. It was the first place with an extremely friendly server, and the food was excellent. We started with citrus olives that were marinated in chili, preserved lemon and cilantro ($6). They were so good—particularly the lemon part. The other first course we had was the black truffle pide ($17). Pide are like flatbreads rolled up around fillings. This was the best thing I ate the entire trip. And they have a whole bunch of different pide flavors. I would like to try them all. This one was stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and halloumi cheese and truffled crème fraiche. Oh yeah, and sliced black truffles on top. This was mind blowingly good. Warm and crisp on the exterior and gooey and truffley inside. For our main course we split the chargrilled Cornish hen ($36) with sabzi sauce, toum, and topped with shaved crispy fried leeks. The hen itself was so tender and the herby sauce (the sabzi) was nicely accented by the toum, which is like a garlic aioli. We had hand rolled couscous with brown butter, saffron and herbs ($8) and it’s a great accompaniment to the saucy poultry. We also had a side of their Brussels sprouts ($9), which are roasted like you see so often these days, BUT WITH CHEESE. They put big hunks of haloumi in there as well as some tahini and yogurt. Really nice. We didn’t really have room for dessert, but we ordered it anyway. It was a fancy hazelnut chocolate mousse and it was as pretty as it was delicious.

The last place we went as a family for dinner was Bar Isabel. It was a bit of a drive from our hotel, but it was worth it. We were sort of wondering how it would go over when we walked in because it really was pretty much a bar, but they gave us a nice table, and while our server was not especially friendly, he gave us great advice about the menu. It was Spanish tapas and was very traditional. We started with a cheese plate ($18) and a ham tasting ($34). There were three kinds of Spanish cheese including a very strong blue that was the table favorite. The ham plate included Iberico and Serrano. Everyone was happy with these. We also got some Spanish olives ($6) that were delicious. My son was suspicious of the color of them and then ate one, and then promptly ate them all. We had to get more.  Next we had the Jamon croquettas ($9 for 2). These were intensely rich. They were basically balls of cheese and Béchamel with some ham mixed in there and then breaded and fried. Hubby really liked them, but they were a little much for the rest of us. The octopus was highly recommended everywhere I read about the place, so we ordered a quarter of one ($22) (you can get a half or whole also). This was wonderful. The kids were starting to wonder if tender octopus was a thing, and they finally got to have some. It was chargrilled and served with a light, slightly acidic sauce and some chorizo. Delicious. Our server also recommended the “pork secreto” ($14), which was possibly even better. It was seasoned a grilled and was amazingly tender. Served with a wedge of grilled lime—perfect. We also had a side of patatas bravas ($10), which were very traditional and a nice side dish. They’re fried potatoes drizzled with a red pepper sauce as well as a mayo type sauce. The best thing might have actually been our dessert though. I would have probably never ordered this if it hadn’t been for all the reading I did online and the way people raved. It is a Basque cake ($10). This was a small round cake that is not overly sweet. At the table they pour a sherry cream sauce all over the top. It was stunning. So simple, and completely amazing. I have already looked up the copycat recipes. I would say as a complete experience, this was our favorite meal.

So that’s it in a nutshell as far as our food experiences in Toronto. Based on what I saw, you could eat for months here and not repeat a restaurant, and that’s a good quality in a city as far as I’m concerned.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Wasabi on 82nd - Revisit

If you are a regular reader, you know I have been on a quest for a new sushi place near my house. None of the ones I have found have been bad, but I have yet to find one to declare my allegiance. So we decided to go back to Wasabi on 82nd because it was a place we used to go on occasion and hubby always liked their nigiri. (Note: I am not confident about the prices listed here. I got them from the website, but I think they might be outdated).

So, it was a little sketchy from the start, because it was 7:00 on a Saturday and there was literally one other table there. A sushi place with no business is always a little scary to me. We sat down and decided to get a little appetizer and ordered the agedashi tofu ($5.50). It was two large chunks of tofu that were lightly fried and sitting on top of some tempura sauce (which is a fish broth base). It was covered by lots of bonito flakes, which are cool because they are so light; they kind of move, making the dish almost look alive. It has a nice crisp exterior and soft interior—the only thing I would change is to make the pieces a little smaller in order to have more crunch ratio—the inside of the tofu was a little too creamy when you got to the inside bites. Anyway, hubby was sort of against it, but in retrospect it was one of the best things of the evening.

For rolls, we ordered the Indy roll ($15), the Fantastic roll ($16), and the Chop Chop Crab roll ($12). The Indy roll is shrimp tempura inside and salmon, tuna and avocado across the top drizzled with mayo and eel sauce. The Fantastic roll is spicy tuna and crunch topped with salmon, yellowtail and avocado. The chop chop crab is soft shell crab mixed with spicy mayo inside and out. Ok, so the first two look pretty good in the picture right? But none of these rolls were good. I can’t put my finger on it totally, but the fish was just flavorless. And some of it seemed sort of like it might have not been the freshest. The spicy tuna in one of them was a mushy paste-like substance. The chop chop crab had lost its crunch and tasted like it could have been made with fried anything. These were not good rolls. I had maybe one or two pieces of each and just stopped eating. It just wasn’t worth the calories.

My daughter had the katsudon ($10), which was a fried breaded pork cutlet sautéed with onions and egg over rice. This dish did not look very appetizing and the taste wasn’t much better. It was also extremely bland and lacking in flavor.  My son’s New York strip teriyaki ($20) was the other best thing on the table—the steak was tender and cooked just right. He was quite happy with his and we all kept sneaking bites.

All in all, Wasabi will not be a place we will be returning. Honestly, with the amount of business they had that night (maybe one or two other tables came in and one carry out order was filled), I am surprised they are still in business.

Wasabi on 82nd
5025 East 82nd Street
Indy 46250
317/594-1188

Monday, September 25, 2017

Fat Dan's- Revisit

It has been awhile since we have been to Fat Dan’s. Hubby and I were both craving hamburgers, so we decided it was time to go back. We also met a couple of friends there who had never been, so that’s always fun.

It was a Friday evening and pretty crowded but we got the last available table. I hadn’t been in since they expanded; I would say it’s a much better use of space than the yogurt store that used to sit empty most of the time next door. Our server came around and took drink orders and then strongly recommended we get the dirty tots ($8.50). He was extremely strong in his recommendation, and told us they were life changing. I mean at that point, we could hardly say no (even though usually we get the fries/tots combo, and I was somewhat resistant to give it up).

Anyhow, the dirty tots consist of tater tots topped with hot sauce, pulled pork, and beer cheese sauce.  So my first couple of bites, I was unsure whether I had made the right choice, but I have to say, these things really grow on you. I liked the cheesy sauce and the hot sauce together that gave it a little heat. And the tots stayed nice and crisp under all that stuff. I sort of wished for something to cut through the heaviness a little—a little dollop of sour cream perhaps? But I am always thinking of how to make everything better. And these things were pretty darn good on their own. By the end, it was hard to not just keep going back for more.

 I went with my classic—the Fat burger ($10). I had it with all the toppings—lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and cheese. It comes with chips as you see, but I also ordered a side of fries to share, just because I couldn’t totally give up on the fries. The burger is excellent—juicy and topped with all the right things. I also really like their pickles. The only thing that surprised me was the server didn’t ask how I wanted it cooked, and I kind of didn’t think about it and it came out pretty well done. The mix of meat they use is so good though, that it still tasted good, but next time, I would make sure to ask for it medium. This place definitely satisfies the craving for a good burger.
The fries ($3.50 for a small) here are also very tasty—they are hand cut and varying in sizes. I really like them.

Hubby ended up getting the brisket sandwich ($11), which he seemed to enjoy, but honestly, I think he was jealous of my burger. He often tries different things here, and I often don’t, but he usually wishes he had gotten the burger too. They’re just that tasty.

Want a really good burger and fries/tots? This is your spot. And who knows, the server might have convinced me to order the dirty tots again next time too.


Fat Dan’s Chicago Style Deli
815 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy  46220
317/600-3333


Monday, September 18, 2017

Sunrise Café - Revisit

I have written about this place a few times before, but I feel like I need to keep giving gentle reminders about places I like so they stay in business, especially these days. So what is the go to for hubby and I for a greasy spoon type of breakfast? Sunrise. There are too many breakfast places that are trying to be too much, and not pulling it off. This place is a divey diner (seriously, the furniture is very well worn) and the food is consistently good. Want bacon and eggs and crispy hash browns? Sunrise is your place. That is our regular order, but on this particular visit, hubby revisited one of his old standbys, the eggs benedict. I like that you can order them by one ($7.95) or two ($9.25). Hubby had two. They use an English muffin, shaved ham, a poached egg and their homemade hollandaise sauce. Hubby really enjoyed the change of pace, and this dish is a regular choice for my parents, who were also dining with us. It’s not a super fancy version or anything, but it tastes good. I had my usual, two eggs over easy, bacon, hash browns and white toast ($8.95). They do everything just the way it should be, and both the bacon and hash browns are crispy like I like them.

My son is a fan of their fried egg sandwich ($7.95); again you can pick one or two eggs. It comes with cheese and bacon. He likes his eggs fried hard (crazy I know). And it comes with hash browns as well. My daughter usually orders sweets for her breakfast, and this was no exception. She had one chocolate chip pancake ($2.95). They do their pancakes really thin, which I think is kind of interesting. Almost like a crepe. In fact, you can get them rolled up around sausage if you want.
Anyway, at the location on Shadeland, where we go (there are a couple others in Carmel, Fishers, and downtown), there is never a wait, which is a nice thing to know on a weekend morning when you want a solid, fast breakfast. Everyone in my family likes it, and it’s a standard for us. 

Sunrise Café
7387 North Shadeland Ave
Indianapolis, IN 46150
317/288-5303




Thursday, September 14, 2017

U.S. Adventures: Washington D.C.

Recently, we had a whirlwind trip to D.C., where my daughter was participating in National History Day. She had summer school as well, so she could only miss one day of class, and was presenting on a Monday, so we took the opportunity to fly out early Saturday morning and do some sightseeing and eating. The boys flew in on Sunday, because of baseball conflicts.

The first meal was just me and my daughter, and we headed to the Eastern Market, which is sort of like our City Market, but with more meat and seafood counters, and fewer prepared food places. The one main restaurant type place had a line out the door, and I had read favorable places about it, and since she is more patient than son and hubby, we queued up and waited the hour or so it took to get through the line. It was totally worth it. Even though they were technically serving a brunch menu, I asked if they would make me soft shell crab from the weekday lunch menu and the owner/cashier was more than happy to. In fact, he insisted I get the sandwich, because he thinks it’s one of the best things on the menu. He was right.  This was the best soft shell I have had in ages. Lightly fried, and the crab was super meaty and tender, with just the right amount of crunch from the soft shell. There was slaw on it, and I added a little hot sauce, and it was perfection. My daughter ordered their crab cake benedict and it was very good as well. The crab cake had a lot of flavor and wasn’t overly bready. Perfectly poached egg and all was well. The owner was quite upset when she ordered the fried potatoes instead of grits and insisted we try the grits as well, and sent us a side of their spicy version on the house. They were very tasty, with green chilies, and more spice than heat. He also said it was required that we order one of their buckwheat blueberry pancakes, because they are known for them (and pretty much everyone there had at least one on the side). I am not a big sweets as my meal person, but this one was very good—it wasn’t overly sweet and had nice blueberry flavor. Yes, it was way too much food, and yes we didn’t finish everything (that soft shell crab was totally gone though), but it was fun to try everything. And I’d go back in a heartbeat. On Saturdays they have a big farmer’s market outside as well as artists selling their art, and even a few booths of a flea market. It was a fun place to spend a few hours (and delicious).


For dinner that night the daughter and I hit Momofuku ccdc. She has developed a taste for ramen, and I thought it would be fun. We started with the biscuit bites ($6) because my daughter is a bread fiend, and the soft shell crab buns ($19), because, well, as you know, I am a soft shell crab fiend. They were in season and we were on the east coast and I was going to order them everywhere I saw them. The biscuit bites were actually pretty large oblong biscuits that had chives cooked into them—they were pretty standard biscuits—good but not amazing—but we really enjoyed the Szechwan honey butter. One is certainly enough for each person, even for my daughter. The soft shell crab buns were so good. We each had one, and both thought they were great. They were steamed buns, ½ a lightly fried crab, Old Bay seasoning, remoulade sauce and shaved lettuce.

We both got a bowl of ramen for dinner. I went with the classic pork ramen with pork belly, pork shoulder and a poached egg ($17) and she went with the vegetarian hozon ramen with scallions, kale and fried chickpeas ($16) and added a poached egg ($2). My pork version was very classic, and very tasty. The broth was nice and rich, and there were nice greens, scallions and bean sprouts in there as well. My daughter’s was also very good—and a bit more unique, but also lighter. I loved the addition of the crunchy fried chickpeas for texture and also for a bit of protein. The broth had an herby aromatic flavor and was a nice change of pace. We shared a couple of milkbar desserts, but I have to say, they were the most disappointing parts of the meal—the cookie we had was extremely dry and the cake pops so dense, they weren’t that appealing.

Once hubby and my son got there, we met up with them for more sightseeing. We had an opportunity to go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as the Holocaust museum. Both were great experiences. We grabbed a quick lunch at Old Ebbit’s Grill, just because we hadn’t made plans for lunch and the concierge could get us in. It was so hot the weekend we were there, the air conditioning was a welcome respite. The food here is fine, not amazing, but it’s an old historical restaurant, so it’s kind of a cool place to take the kids.  Hubby and I split a fried oysters dinner and we all shared some crab and artichoke dip ($11.59), which was quite tasty. The kids had trout parmesan ($18.99) and a burger. Both were fine. We all shared a piece of key lime pie, which was not good. It had no tartness. 

For dinner that night, after the welcoming ceremony for my daughter’s event, we went to Zaytinya, which is a hip Mediterranean tapas place. We all love small plates because we can get a million things, and we all get to choose a few. And we were excited for the cuisine after our trip to Greece last summer. I can’t even begin to tell you everything we had because there was a lot, but some of the highlights were the hommus ($7), the pita (free), the bronzino ($12), the lamb kleftico ($14), and the crispy eggplant dish ($8.50). The pita was like a balloon-filled up with air and super light. It was extremely addicting and so good with the hommus. My daughter, who often ignores hommus, gobbled this one up. The bronzino had a nice acidic kick and interesting flavors from fennel and raki (an anise-flavored alcohol). The lamb kleftico was really interesting—patties made with lamb and phyllo and sitting on top of feta, dill and oil. It was crunchy and rich and the cheese added just the right freshness. The hunks of super crispy eggplant were one of my favorites, although the rest of the family doesn’t like eggplant as much as I do. It was served with a roasted garlic yogurt sauce. Perfect combo of crispy veg and acidic sauce. There were many other courses, but these were the standouts. The olives were a nice thing to eat with everything as well. The soft shell crab was my least favorite of the trip because it was kind of over fried. Several other dishes were just ok. It was a very enjoyable meal, with several really good things, but we all agreed it wasn’t a place we would rush back to. The service was a little weird as well. The waiter sort of ignored my son, and ended up not bringing him one of the dishes he ordered. So my son’s advice was to only bring one kid here at a time. 

The last day, after my daughter did her presentation, we had just barely enough time to get lunch somewhere before heading back to the airport. A couple of different people I know and trust for food had recommended Rasika, so we got a quick reservation and headed there. It’s an upscale Indian restaurant with a couple of locations. We talked to our waiter about recommendations and were told we absolutely should order the palak chaat ($12). Boy was he right. This is one of the best dishes I’ve had in recent memory. My family and I have already started searching the Internet for copycat recipes. So it is spinach, but it’s fried so each leaf is nice and crispy. The whole thing is then topped with this yogurt sauce with tamarind and dates. Then there were diced tomatoes and cilantro on top. Oh my, this was so good. Next time, there will likely be multiple orders. I know, it doesn’t sound that interesting, but it was. As another appetizer, we also shared the tuna chutneywala ($14). This was a very interesting and tasty dish as well (and also recommended) and was seared tuna stacked with a coconut cilantro flavored sauce. It was light, and the coconut added an interesting flavor dimension. Between us we also tried the chicken tikka masala ($19), the tandoori chicken ($18), the dal dhungaree ($7 for half) and the salmon tandoori ($22). All of these were good, but none were as interesting as the appetizers. I’d be tempted to just go with a bunch of apps next time. The dal dhungaree was interesting though—smoked lentils with garlic, tomatoes and fenugreek. All in all, this was a fun place and like nothing we have in Indy, so it was a good place to try. And I’d go back just for the spinach.


All in all, a very satisfying, but quick trip to D.C. We got to try a lot of variation in food, and all of it was good.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Louie's Wine Dive- brunch

Recently I needed to plan a meeting with some other women and my daughter for brunch. On a Saturday. I needed a place that would take a reservation because we were on a limited time frame. So we ended up at Louie’s Wine Dive in Broad Ripple—which I hadn’t even known served brunch until I was researching.

Apparently not a lot of other people know about it either, because it was not very busy at all. The menu is quite appealing and has a good variety of things on it. We started with an order of the beignets ($5) because my daughter was with me, and she can never not order beignets if they are on the menu. These were good—sort of like doughnut holes with butterscotch dipping sauce and lots of powdered sugar. Tasty little things.

I really wanted to order the honey butter fried chicken sandwich, but I was trying to be healthy, so I went with the avocado omelette ($11). It is supposed to be made with egg whites, avocado, heirloom tomato salsa and arugula, but I asked them just to make it with the whole egg, because I was trying to be healthy, but let’s not get ridiculous. I thought it was very tasty. I am not usually an omelette person, but this really hit the spot, and the ingredients inside were exactly what I was wanting. Some nice acid from the seasoned tomatoes, and the avocado was nice and ripe. I really enjoyed the greens on the side too. The crumbled goat cheese was a nice touch and it was dressed appropriately.
My daughter ordered the fried egg sandwich ($9), and thought it was good, but she didn’t really care for the sweetness of the bacon jam that was on there (nor did I). It also had fried eggs, white cheddar and mayo and was on brioche bread. If you like a touch of sweetness, you would probably enjoy this one.  She had fries as her side, and they are nice and crisp. I would have asked for something besides ketchup to dip them in, but she didn’t care. I also would have preferred my egg a little runnier, but I guess that makes for a messier sandwich. 

One friend ordered Emily’s apple harvest salad ($11). It looked like another good healthy option—it was a big salad with chicken, field greens, apples, cranberries, bacon, goat cheese and candied pecans. It had a balsamic vinaigrette. I didn’t try it, but she seemed to like it.

We also had a couple of mimosas ($7), which are really big for sure. They are generous pours into regular wine glasses. They also have some sort of “almost never ending carafes” of mimosa deals, which sounds intriguing. But they do have a full bar, so you can get whatever type of breakfast cocktail you like. All in all, it was a good choice to meet a wide variety of tastes as well as being able to have a reservation (not that you probably need one here as I mentioned, although maybe it gets busier later). The food was solid and the service good.

Louie’s Wine Dive
701 Broad Ripple Ave
Indy  46220
317/722-0140

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Canal Bistro - Revisit

The weather is warm again so it is time for Canal Bistro. But in breaking news, it looks like we will be able to go in the winter now as well, because we spied new dining room chairs inside. Hubby hated their old chairs, and thus, we only went during the warm months when we could sit outside. But now, it looks like we can just go whenever we want. I have written about this place before, and much of the things we order are the same, but I want to keep reminding you all about all the great independent restaurant options we have in Indy.

We did sit outside because it was a nice day. It looks like they have changed up the menu just a bit, although all the old favorites seem to still be there. We did notice what seemed like it might be a new appetizer, although I might just have missed it before--the fried Lebanese pickles ($7). They fry up their very pickled pickles that they often serve as a garnish and then serve them with a tahini sauce. I will say, this was our first time with these and it will certainly not be the last. They are delicious and so is the sauce. The batter is nice and crisp and those pickles have a ton of flavor. I highly recommend if you like fried pickles. But, the main reason we went is for spanakopita, which we owed my son (long story), and we had promised to make up to him. They have my favorite spanakopita because it is so, so crispy. The crunch is my favorite part. I decided to go with the mazza plate ($14), in which you get to choose four items from a list of various appetizers. I chose spanakopita (you get two), hummus, olives and feta. I think they also have very good hummus, and they give you nicely grilled pita bread. And I like to eat olives with every bite. I would probably skip the feta next time—it was fine, but just big hunks of somewhat dry cheese. There are several other choices—I might go with baba ganoush or falafel.

I have converted hubby to the spanakopita as well, so he and my son split an order ($8) and a gyro wrap ($9). My son got everything on the side except the meat (kids) so you sort of had to doctor it up to make sure it had all the right flavors and moisture, but the meat itself is pretty good here. They have tasty fries as well that we had topped with garlic and feta. And my son is now obsessed with the spanakopita as well—so I wouldn’t be surprised if you see us there at some point with just a table covered in orders of spanakopita.

If you have a favorite item though that you think we should try, let me know.

Canal Bistro
6349 Guilford Ave
Indy 46220
317/254-8700


Monday, August 28, 2017

Open Society - Revisit (lunch edition)

I guess some of those marketing emails work because Open Society has sent me a few of them (not sure how I got on the list though) and made me intrigued to try it for lunch. They call it brunch and serve it just about every day. They do have breakfast items and lunch items as well.

So my friend and I split the soft scramble ($10) and the Cubano ($10) and a side of fries ($3). The soft scramble was scrambled eggs with truffle Gouda and served with a side of cauliflower, dressed greens, and a big slab of toast. This was a tasty dish. The eggs were softly scrambled and still on the runny side, which if you ask me is how they should be—I don’t like them when they are super dry. And they had a light truffle taste from the cheese and some extra creaminess from it as well. The roasted cauliflower was somewhat unusual to see on a breakfast plate, but I liked it for a change of pace. And it was cooked nicely. I enjoy dressed greens with eggs as well.  The toast they use (which was also on the Cubano) is very tasty. Thick cut, but a nice crusty country bread. It was a somewhat unusual combo of items, but it worked.

The Cubano is an interesting take as well. So, it’s not a thin pressed version like Cuban sandwiches, but I will forgive this fact (I do like a thin pressed Cuban sandwich) because the country bread used has an egg cooked into it. Yes, it’s an “egg in the hole” as part of the sandwich. This is a genius idea. So when you cut into it (I split it in half to share), the runny egg yolk breaks and makes the sandwich extra decadent. Inside the sandwich is smoked ham, carnitas, Swiss cheese, pickles and yellow mustard. I wished for a little more of the pickles and mustard to balance out the decadence of everything else though—especially with that thick bread. It was a tasty sandwich though, and I enjoyed it. The egg with the pork definitely gives it a breakfast-y feel. This was also served with a side of greens (mostly arugula)—I wished for a touch more dressing though.

I thought the fries were fine-nothing really special here. Maybe if they were cooked a little crisper. I did ask for a side of the chipotle aioli to dip them in (it comes on the turkey club). Confession: I often search a menu for any type of flavored aioli/mayo and order a side of it if I am getting fries. So much more interesting than ketchup to me. It was also just fine, a little flat or something. I’d skip the fries next time. Both of the entrees we shared were very enjoyable though, and I like that they have some interesting things and variations of dishes on the menu. Lunch and brunch can sometimes get kind of boring, but this was good. And it makes me want to come back and try dinner again, since I really wasn’t wowed the first time. The menu looks like it has been changed up since that visit.

Good to see one of the newer places in town still open though—they had a decent crowd, although not super busy. The service was good and the food fairly quick. I am already planning a return lunch visit.

Open Society
4850 North College Ave
Indy 46205
317/999-8706




Monday, August 21, 2017

Luciana's- Revisit

For years my family has gone to La Hacienda—since my kids were in  high chairs and threw half their food on the floor (we are very good tippers). It was fast, cheap and has great margaritas. It is always busy though, so we were excited when a second Luciana’s opened on 82nd Street near our house---it’s really big and much faster to get into during prime dinner hours. I believe it’s owned by someone who used to work at La Ha, and the menu is very similar, as are the ingredients.

So, like I said, they are very similar, but there are certain things that are better at each place. After going several times, I have decided I like the Texas margaritas at La Hacienda better, but Luciana’s version is pretty good. The guacamole is far superior at Luciana’s to the green puree they have at La Ha. The chips are also slightly better at La Ha. Otherwise, food-wise, they are similar though. I have had the chicken soup ($7.99 full, $5.25 for small) both places and they are pretty similar—and one of my favorite items. It is a very homey mix with rice, shredded chicken, tortilla chips, avocado and pico di gallo. I do like that Luciana’s serves a small order because I never eat it all. We always get a side of queso dip and they are pretty similar to each other. Your standard white melted processed cheese.
My son likes the quesadillas—on one visit he had a chicken version, which came covered in queso ($8.25) and rice and beans.  Hubby tried the chicken chimichangas on one visit and wasn’t a huge fan, but liked the carne asada tacos on another visit a lot. These were part of a taco sampler ($10.25) that included the carne asada, chorizo and pork. The chorizo was actually really bland and the pork he thought was fine but nothing special. 

Basically, Luciana’s is a good option for this kind of Mexican food if you want to be pretty sure you don’t have to wait for a table. It is fairly equivalent to La Ha, with some things better at each place. For me though, the biggest draw is probably the margaritas, so I would probably lean toward La Ha. If guacamole was your main draw, try Luciana’s.

Anyhow, it’s an easy, fast place to grab a fast and family friendly dinner and it’s nice to see an additional locally owned place in the area.

Luciana’s
3716 E. 82nd Street (there's one in Broad Ripple too)
Indy  46240
317/288-8864