Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bistro de Paris

****This restaurant out of business as of March 2009.******

So, we had read one of the "reviews" of this place in a local magazine and hubby really wanted to go. He really likes French bistro food, and so far, this was the only one we had heard of in the metropolitan area. I use that term "metropolitan area" because this place is up in Carmel. Old downtown Carmel to be precise. So it means a drive which is why we have been avoiding it up til now. But I really wanted something new because I have been having some bad luck lately with food, so off we ventured (and on a Friday night no less). I say that because traffic is one of the reasons we avoid the area--going north at dinner time means traveling with all those Hamilton county commuters. However, as it turned out, we went a bit later than normal and missed most of the traffic.

We we went in, and I was a little worried as there was only one other table seated. In San Francisco, that would not be a good sign. However, I realize the place is fairly new (only opened in February) and that sometimes it takes a lot to pull Hoosiers away from their favorite chain. The interior of the restaurant is quite nice--and like a very nice bistro might be in Europe--but with tablecloths and more comfortable chairs. And by the time we left, the place was pleasantly crowded, I would say a little over half full.

The server was exceptionally friendly and well-versed on the menu. He brought us a taste of the French onion soup which is apparently a house specialty and he just wanted us to try it. It was good, but generally that soup is a bit much for me, so we ordered other things. He also brought us a taste of the wine we wanted to order which I also found quite a nice touch. He knew the menu well, and obviously this is the type of restaurant in which the chef gives samples to the waitstaff so they acutally know what they are talking about. I have been to too many restaurants around here where the waitstaff has never even tried the item I was asking about.

I started with the Salade au Roquefort which was Boston lettuce and a bit of endive desribed as coming with croutons, bacon, crumbled roquefort and roquefort dressing (I do love my blue cheese). It was good--the lettuce was fresh and the flavors generally good, but based on the description, I found it wasn't blue cheesy enough. I think I counted like three "crumbles" and it needed a bit more of the dressing. Maybe a little extra dressing on the side would improve it.

Hubby had the crab cake which I had quite a bit of, and I liked that it was presented in a unique way. It was a good crab cake (nice big chunks of crab) and was served with a red onion vinagrette, yucca mash and plaintains. They all complimented each other quite well. I especially loved the red onion vinagrette, it was nice and tangy they way I like it.

The star of the evening, however, was clearly the steak fritte. This was something we often had at a little French Bistro near our house in England, and another little French Bistro near our house in San Francisco. Usually it is a very thin ribeye with housemade frittes, or really thin french fries. There is usually some bernasie-y type sauce or an herbed butter, but for whatever reason, they always seem to share a distinct flavor. This one was actually thin filet medallions with very thin frittes and a blue cheese (yes, there is a pattern here I know) bernaise under it all. It was SO GOOD. I am ready to go back RIGHT NOW and order it again. Hubby was very jealous (of course I shared though). And considering how thin it was, I was amazed it was cooked properly (I always worry about this with this entree, but good places pull it off). Now, if you read my last entry for Creation Cafe, you probably think I seem to be ordering a lot of steak and blue cheese. And you would be right. Who knows, maybe I am a little anemic or something--usually steak is not what I order, but in both cases I was glad I did. Hmmm...maybe I am turning back into a real Hoosier with all this beef.

On a side note, we also noticed as we finished up our entrees, that at every table in the restaurant, and I mean, every table, at least one person had the steak fritte. So obviously, we aren't the only ones coming in for it!

Hubby had the "Bistro" which is their version of surf and turf with veal and lobster tail. Hubby said the veal was very good, and properly cooked medium rare the way he likes it, but the lobster was overcooked (sadly such a recurring problem with lobster). I didn't even try it (I am not a veal eater for various reasons, and I refuse to eat overcooked lobster. It is a travesty). It was so bad (the lobster that is) that he hid some of it under the mashed potatoes just to spare the server's feelings (he really was nice, this guy).

We both know the next time we go we are so getting TWO of the steak frittes. And I will probably try a new appetizer. Hmmm.. Brie springrolls sounded intriguing...or maybe the scallops. And we will go back, thanks to the call of that steak fritte.

Bistro de Paris
11 West Main Street
Carmel, IN 46032
317-844-7270
www.bistrodepariscarmel.com

Creation Cafe

****AS OF NOV. 2013, CREATION CAFE IS CLOSED*******

I finally made it to the other restaurant in the Bugg's Temple building. I have been wanting to try this place for awhile--the menu always looked quite intriguing (if not a little overwhelming with so many choices). So we went for lunch--last weekend when it was so nice out (not as chilly as it currently is). We sat outside with the kids which was nice because they could sort of run around and look at the canal. It was doing pretty well for a Saturday I thought, since not as many people are downtown, although since it is on the Clarian monorail route, and hospitals are always open, I guess it makes sense. It is cute the way all the servers, including some rather muscle-y men wear little aprons like Grandma used to. And the restaurant itself has that very eclectic, cutesy decor with flowery chandeliers and things like that.

To start they bring you a unique twist on the bread bowl-- some finger length croutons made from various types of bread. They were tasty, but really could have used something to dip them in. Hubby ordered the housemade chips which came with a blue cheese sauce that was quite good with the croutons--which were better than the chips I think.

It was lunch, so I only ordered one thing--the black and bleu salad. I have to say, it was outstanding. My sister had mentioned she had had it (she is one of those Clarian employees) and liked it, and it sounded so good, I followed her advice. And she was right. It was a long rectangular plate with chopped romaine and a few other mixed greens, steak which is cooked to order, blue cheese melted on the steak, walnuts and more crumbles of blue cheese with a raspberry vinaigrette. Really really good.

There were a lot of things to appreciate about this salad--first, the way it was laid out on the plate made it easy to eat and get a little bit of everything with each bite. I don't know about you, but when I get a massive deep bowl of salad, I find it hard to eat it without making a mess, and it is almost impossible to get everything the salad has to offer on your fork. Plus, I find these salads are usually either under dressed, or they serve the dressing on the side which makes it hard to get it properly dressed. This salad came well-dressed and there was not too much lettuce and too little goodies. It is just right. The second great thing is that the meat came cooked to order. One of the downfalls of steak salads I find is that the meat is almost always overcooked, particularly if you are one who likes it medium rare. The next good thing was the dressing was properly tangy which paired so well with the richness of the other ingredients.

Hubby had the mini pulled pork sandwiches and wasn't as impressed. He said they were good, but not overly exciting. He definitely preferred my salad. The kids had cheese quesadillas and seemed perfectly content. They do have a very nice children's menu, with more than the usual options, which I always appreciate.

I poked my head in again later in the week and let me tell you, this place was jammed. They are obviously doing well with the downtown lunchtime crowd--they servers seemed a bit harried and they have a "help wanted" sign posted for all front of the house positions, so my guess is, it may be a bit slow sometimes. All in all, definitely worth a trip for a great lunch. They also serve dinner, but the menu is very similar and a little "lunchy" for me to drive downtown for in the evening. Plus, no liquor license means no wine...

On a side note, it looks like the upstairs restaurant (Euphoria will be the new name) will be re-opening October 21st. With the mussels and the cheese selection (oh, and of course the Chef!). I can't wait.

Creation Cafe
337 West 11th Street
Indy 46202
317/955-2389
http://www.thecreationcafe.com/

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Miyagi's-Reprise

.....heavy sigh..... I am just not having good luck right now with food. We went back to Miyagi's after our first really great meal. We were sort of anxious to go back because we enjoyed it so much last time. Sadly, the quality had dropped a bit. The soft shell crab...what happened? Last time it was so good and this time it was so mediocre...has the crab changed? We didn't even finish it. And I also noticed, after thinking it was the deal of the century last time ($4 for 2 entire crabs), they have apparently raised the price and lowered the quality. It is now $6 and not nearly as good. What happened?? I guess I should have been prepared. My parents went after reading my first rather glowing entry about this place and did not seem nearly as impressed.

Again, we did a bunch of appetizers and one large roll. We did a couple of the same apps and a couple different just to see. The two things that we got the same as last time (because we liked them so much last time) weren't as good. As mentioned, the crab really fell off. We also had the lobster spring rolls again. They were still quite good. Just not as good--where was that really fresh mango salsa from the last time? Where was the orange vinaigrette? Not too much flavor except the rolls, which could have stood to be a little more crunchy. But all in all, still good and still worth ordering.

The bright spot was the hot rock steak--they brought several very thin slices of beef (you can also get it with tuna--maybe next time) that are raw but marinated in a tasty sort of soy teriyaki sauce with a lot of chives on top. You then sear it to your desired temperature (for us about 3 second per side--that is how thin they are) on a hot iron skillet thing at the table. I actually really enjoyed this--it was much better and more tender than the beef dish we had last time which was actually made with filet (gyu no tataky). Also better than the hamachi that we had that was cooked at the table last time (by the waiter though). It was overcooked. Cooking it yourself ensures that doesn't happen. I would certainly get this again.

We had the same roll that we had last time--the diablo roll with the tempura king crab and shrimp rolled in rice with salmon, roe as well as a spicy sauce on top. There was also some sort of strange cole slaw type stuff on top that wasn't that great. The roll, much like other things, fell off on this visit. Will definitely inspire us to try something different next time.

We also did the chef's special ceviche which was shrimp with an orange marinade. Needed some tartness--which is what makes ceviches so good, if you ask me. It was not bad, but didn't stand out. We were talked out of the ahi ceviche which sounded quite good because the waiter said it was small. I saw it come out and it looked decent to me (of course, I do not require massive portions like some around here). I would like to try it next time.

Speaking of our waiter, we had the same waiter on both visits. He needs to mellow out a little--his style is a little too brash--he strangely carded us when we ordered our drinks (which he didn't do last time) and believe me, we are both quite a distance from age 21. I am not exactly sure why he did this, but it was a bit annoying. When I go out to eat, I want a more relaxing experience than that. Again, the interior is quite nice and modern and on a Friday night, the place was quite busy (and challenging to get a parking space at sometimes due to the comedy club next door which is also quite popular).

All in all, we will be back, but we need to wait a bit this time I think. And I am really hoping for better luck next time when it come to a great meal. I have heard the Tavern at Bugg's Temple (now to be called Euphoria) will be re-opening October 21st (thank you for the info Feed Me/Drink Me) with Chef Gates back at the helm. I can't wait.

Miyagi's
3625 E. 96th Street
Indy, 46240
317/846-7077
http://www.indymiyagi.com/

Saturday, October 4, 2008

SI (aka Scholar's Inn)-Reprise

One word on this one: bummed. The first time we went back to Si (aka Scholar’s Inn) after its transformation to Si, and its new chef, and new interior makeover, we were quite excited. The food was really good. We were looking forward to going back. It took awhile, because I was waiting for the menu to change. Finally, it looked as if it had changed (while actually, I think they just added additional items to the menu). It was not good. Not good at all I am sorry to say. I am worried they are falling back into the trap that they were in back when they were Scholar’s Inn, and I went there for the first time. The menu was huge, and nothing was done well.

I am all about changing menus, but you have to actually replace things on the menu with new items, not simply keep adding to it. People will adjust, even if their favorite thing gets taken off--it inspires them to try new things. This time, we got the shrimp cocktail with gazpacho, lemongrass creme fraiche and crispy pancetta (so it said). It was shrimp cocktail. Period. It was decent shrimp, but very uninspired. The gazpacho wasn't even as flavorful as cocktail sauce. There was some creme fraiche in there, but if there was crispy pancetta involved--I am not sure where it was. Hubby ordered the cured calamari which we were told last time was their house specialty. The waitress made sure we knew it was not fried (must be a problem), and we assured her we liked calamari prepared in various ways. Some of my favorite I have ever had in fact, was sauteed, not fried. Anyway, it was done in a ginger sesame reduction and served with a tomato-type paste. It was a definite Japanese flavor, but so strong, it could've been shoe leather and you wouldn't have known the difference. I really didn't like it. Normally, I like Japanese flavorings, but this was overkill.

For my main, I got one of the new items, a pasta dish with mushrooms, artisan cheese, wilted arugula and truffle oil. Some of my favorite pastas involve just such ingredients, but this one did not stand out. It had a nice truffle aroma when it came out, but not much flavor. It was a huge portion and it was all in all just too bland. I could do better cooking at home I think.

Hubby had the beef shortrib because it is one of his favorite things and he really liked it when he got it here the last time. First of all, the cooking string was left on which seemed a little unprofessional (and somewhat unappetizing) and next, short rib should really just fall off the bone--it was pretty tough. He was really disappointed.

I am hoping this was just a fluke and that Si can make it back to the former glory of our first visit. I am not sure though, if I will be able to convice hubby to go back.

Si
725 Mass Ave
536-0707
http://www.scholarsinn.com/

Sinclair's at West Baden Springs

This week we ventured out of Indianapolis and took a trip to French Lick (well, West Baden really) to spend a night away for our anniversary. Overall, we had a great trip. West Baden Springs hotel is beautiful and the rooms are large and well done. The lobby alone is worth the trip. We also won money at the casino, and hey, you can’t get much better than that!

Last time we went to French Lick, we stayed at the French Lick hotel and while the rooms are quite nice, the grounds are nowhere near as nice as West Baden. We also ate at the restaurant there last time, the 1875 Steakhouse, and while it was fine, it was nothing to write home about. The space the restaurant is in, is also sort of weird, as the entire restaurant sort of felt like a hallway with some little rooms tacked on. Basically, because of all of this, we decided to eat at the fine dining restaurant at West Baden this time, Sinclair’s.

When we were last in French Lick, we looked at Sinclair’s. At that time (about a year ago), it was a true Italian restaurant with a great looking menu. Not the typical Americanized Italian (spaghetti with meatballs), but true gourmet foods you might actually see in a restaurant in Venice or Florence. However, sadly that didn’t play well in Southern Indiana. So after giving up on that, the restaurant changed to food that might be seen in the restaurant at the time the hotel was originally built (i.e. late 1800s) with a local focus. I am not exactly sure what that meant, but apparently that didn’t last either. So now, the restaurant has basically given in to pressure to basically appeal to the masses with a menu that focuses on the Hoosier stand-bys with an attempt to give it a slightly modern flair. In other words, there were several steaks, lamb chops, fried chicken served tableside (!?!) and a couple of fish dishes (fried walleye being one).

The appetizers were things like shrimp cocktail, fried shrimp, a mushroom pastry, an heirloom tomato plate, and some salads. Not a huge appetizer list to be sure, and nothing really jumped out at me, but I ended up agreeing with hubby to try the fried shrimp with a hot apricot sauce, and he got the mushroom pastry and we would share.

The shrimp were good, very fresh and properly cooked. The sauce was not bad, but a little sweet for me (I knew it would be). I wished the shrimp weren’t lying in the sauce; I would’ve preferred a little less sauce than what there was. Hubby’s mushroom pastry was basically sautéed mushrooms with a bit of goat cheese on top and then a puff pastry crust laid across the top. It was okay, but really could’ve used a bit more of the goat cheese to break up the richness of the whole thing.

Even though I was somewhat intrigued to see what fried chicken carved tableside would be like, based on our server’s recommendations, I got the filet Oscar—filet mignon with lump crab and béarnaise sauce with mashed potatoes and asparagus. That was how it was described, and that was what I expected. What I got was a filet sitting in a pool of demi glace with a bit of lump crab and a tiny bit of béarnaise over the asparagus. I am not a big fan of demi glace in general because it really dominates the flavors of whatever it is with. The béarnaise was really good, but you could barely taste it. I asked for some extra béarnaise on the side and tried to scoot the demi glace aside, but again, because the food was right in it, it was difficult to avoid. If I had known, I would’ve asked for it without, but it was not listed on the menu or mentioned by the server. It was a bummer because the quality of the other ingredients was pretty high and you didn’t need to try and hide it with the rich demi glace. The crab pieces were nice and big and the béarnaise was quite flavorful and the steak was pretty good too, and cooked properly medium rare.

Hubby ordered rack of lamb—again the quality of the meat was very, very good and the sides were not bad (roasted fingerlings and a vegetable mix) but it was also sitting in a large puddle of the same demi glace. Completely unnecessary and overwhelmed the tastiness of the lamb. Incidentally, there was a lot of the lamb, probably 6 chops—interestingly, though only one had the bone on it—I had never seen that before. Nothing wrong with it, except you can’t pick up the bone and chew on it which is something hubby has a tendency to do (how manly).

We had a coupon for a free dessert (it is related to a casino after all) so we tried the Apple Tart Tatin. Not very good. At all. The apples were kind of rubbery and there was absolutely none of the crispiness on top from the caramelization (hmmm, is that a word?) that makes this dessert good. We also got another free dessert for our anniversary, which was sorbet with fresh fruit. It was better than the Tart, but I don’t even think it is something you could order from the menu.

As for the service, our server was quite friendly and was happy to make recommendations from the menu. She knew the food pretty well and her recommendations were pretty good. One of my favorite things about the restaurant was the wine list, which is a lot of leftover Italian wines from the previous incarnation of the restaurant. They are trying to get rid of it all (they even have a wine tasting cart they push around to sample various wines), but it was right up my alley. Personally, I was thrilled when I took a look at the wine list.

The room is also beautiful—like an old fancy restaurant from a nice resort built in the late 1800s—exactly what it is. It is a large room with columns and nice views onto the grounds. It had a much nicer ambiance than the French Lick restaurant.

Overall, for a restaurant that has gone through so many changes in such a short time, they are doing an okay job. The service was very good, the room is beautiful and with a few tweaks, (and a new pastry chef maybe), the food could be very very good.

Sinclair’s
West Baden Springs Resort
8670 West State Road 56
French Lick, IN 47432
http://www.frenchlick.com/dining/dining.asp
812/936-9300