Thursday, June 11, 2009



Sigh… I really really want to like this place—a nice independent neighborhood joint already really well-known for their breakfasts and lunches. They recently started serving dinner so we thought we should give it a go. I have had a pretty good lunch here before, but this dinner was a big disappointment. In a word, almost everything was dry.

The menu is pretty extensive and even has some breakfast for dinner items. I decided to try the three course price fixe, which is a great deal. I started with the wedge salad (you had a choice between this and the soup). It was pretty good, and not enormous which was nice and the blue cheese dressing clearly seemed homemade—it was really good.

We also had some pommes frites to share with our friends to start. They do have good fries and a really good roasted red pepper aioli to dip in (as well as a wasabi cream and vinegar, but the aioli is by far the best).

I then had the filet with chimichurri sauce served with roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus. The steak (ordered medium rare) was medium at best and really dry. The chimichurri was actually really tasty I thought—it was a bit tart, but I tend to really like tart things so I thought it was good. The potatoes were fine, nothing too exciting and the asparagus was good, but you know me, I like mine a little thinner.

Hubby had the Baja Tacos which were cornmeal encrusted basa fish with white cheddar and chipotle slaw served on corn tortillas. The sides were cilantro lime rice and refried beans. They were drizzled with sour cream and there was some pico di gallo there too. Again, dry was the word that best describes the tacos according to hubby.

I also had a bite of the asiago fried chicken, and sadly, it seemed to suffer the same fate. However, I did try our other dining companions rosemary roasted pork tenderloin and it was the least dry item on the table. Which is weird, because I generally don’t order pork tenderloin because it is often so dry. This wasn’t bad.

My three course came with a dessert—it was a sort of mixed berry shortcake which was fine as well, but not overly memorable. The service was friendly and helpful, and the dishes were well presented, but the I’m not sure if I was just unlucky, or what, but it wasn’t very crowded in there at dinner—I would love to hear from any of you who might have tried dinner and hear what you thought.

Zest Exciting Food Creations
1134 E 54th Street
Indy 46220


  1. My problem with Zest is the same problem I've had with other restaurants of its ilk in Indy - while you're eating it the food is ok, passable but nothing that's going to wow you. But then you get the tab and it's like WTF! The tab for us at this meal you describe was like $120 per couple after tax and tip, with 2 glasses of wine each. And my asiago chicken was not only overcooked but ridiculously overspiced with dried sage, of all things. And you forgot to mention the crab cakes, those were pretty lame too.

    Does anyone at these restaurants even care what comes out of their kitchens? Even a cursory glance, or a quick taste, of what you're preparing would tell you that these dishes are sub-par and they shouldn't be served. To me it just indicates a total disrespect for the customer - and if that's your attitude, why be in business? I don't get it. Do you have to be an ass and start sending back dishes to get a message across that this is unacceptable?

    I like this place a lot for breakfast and lunch, but this was a woeful dinner. I certainly won't be going back.

  2. I consider myself to be a highly compentent chef with a 5 star cooking background. I work in the city as a chef but on a large scale service capacity. I must agree with Pete. This city is truely lacking in quality places to eat on a fine dining level. DOnt bet me wrong there are some real gems of casual non-chain restaurants here in the city. The closest I have come to have a truely terrific dining experience was at Euphoria and even than was mediocre at best.

    I was fortunate enough to have eaten at Bouchon a couple of weeks ago and while the meal was not something that jumped out at you as menu descripters go it was a fantastic meal and I didnt mind paying the price (actually someone else paid for it but it was still a great meal)

    Like myself I know of several chefs in the city who are able to produce world class stuff, Tom England and Neil Brown come to mind. The country club chefs in this city are probably some of the best. I remember talking with Tony Hansilits a while back and he was relating that even at the heighth of his restaurants popularity he still waw making no money. What does that say about the diners in this city. This is a city that dies not want to pay a premium for its food.

    I was talking with a city historian and he told a story about how in the mid 60's there were really no good restaurants in the city. That if you wanted a premium dining experience you had to belong to a club. And that those who were not members were consigned to eating at a cafeteria. I would put it too everyone that this is still probably true to an extent. I bet that most people dont know of a certain country club chef actually trained at Alinea in Chicago. Or that there is an instructor in the city that worked with Adria Feran. I think its going to be a long time before we see anything out of this city. Sad cause we are the heartland of America and produce some amazing food.

  3. I sadly agree with both of you (although I think Euphoria is one of a couple of the standout restaurants in Indy with a creative chef, great staff and a warm interior). This is sadly a question that is raised time and time again, what is it about Indy that prevents great restaurants from being successful? Do people really not care--the chefs and the clientele? I'm not sure, but Indy is sorely missing L'explorateur and Elements....What will it take to get people as excited about food as they are in so many other cities in the world?

  4. sorry about the typos I was on a rant.... and did not use spell checker....

  5. I couldn't agree with you more about Zest. We want to like it. We want it to be good. But we've never had a good meal there. It wasn't ever truly bad. It was just so average, so bland, so dry, so overcooked or too much sugar in things that shouldn't even have sugar. Not to mention bad combinations of flavors.

    For Daddychef: My husband and I have the same rant as you at least once a month. I'm glad we're not the only ones who get so angry about the restaurant scene here.

    We miss Tony Hanslitt's Tavola di Tosa and Tosa Cafe so much. Don't even get me started on great places like Elements.

    We're not from here. We have no ties here. I can't tell you how depressed we get that we were transferred to Indy. We're happy to have work but what is life without good food and good friends?

    -disgruntled foodie

  6. DaddyChef, were you talking about Le Bouchon in Chicago? My wife and I really miss that place. As you say, it's nothing spectacular - but just a good, honest, well-prepared meal at a fair price that's going to be consistently solid every single time you go there. The frites will be crispy, the steak will be medium rare, the roast chicken will be juicy. No surprises.

    What drives me crazy about dining here is that the quality of the local meat and produce is outstanding - the stuff at Locally Grown Produce or Goose the Market or the local farmer's markets is fantastic. But something definitely gets lost on the trip from the market to most of these restaurants. You can eat like a prince at home, but when you go out to eat it's like huh?!?

    From what I understand, Bloomington has a couple of outstanding places that capitalize on the excellent local sourcing. If a metro area 1/10th the size can support a few quality independent restaurants, why is it that you can count the decent restaurants in Indy on one hand? I just don't get it.

    I really like living in Indy, but this restaurant thing is what my wife and I truly miss the most about Chicago. Drives me crazy, it shouldnt' be that difficult to get a good meal at a fair price.

  7. It's apathy, perhaps, in the case of Zest. A restaurant sees success in the breakfast/lunch category and then re-uses half of the same ingredients/flavors for the dinner menu but charges double the brunch price. It's a lack of creativity, IMO.

  8. ...and I thought I was being a malcontent or just being negative when I post comments about how lackadaisical or mediocre a lot of restaurant food is in this town - when it is not just plain bad.

    I don't feel like such a bad guy now. Yes, what you say about Tavola was and is true. There are not enough people here who appreciate the kind of food Tony crafted to financially support enterprises such as Tavola ... or L'Ex (under his former sous-chef...) ...or other such places for long.

    On a related note, with regards to Asian cuisine - Indy is even further behind. I compare stuff here with SE Asia (where I grew up), or NY (I lived across the Hudson for many years) or SF and so on and I get depressed.

    People tell me I need to approach the places in Indy for what they are, as Indy places - but this is incorrect, in my view. After all, how do you know something is good or not unless you can compare it with something that is recognizably better in a wider field than just your backyard? One problem here, of course, is that one's own personal taste preferences come into play. Some people, or even communities, for one reason or another, may simply prefer a particular kind of taste or style, and will stick to it no matter what. Could there be something of that going on in many places in the Midwest?