Saturday, January 31, 2009

Adobo Grill



Ok, I went to Adobo shortly after moving to Indy when it was still on 82nd street and wasn’t overly impressed. But since it has moved, and because several readers have recently recommended it, I decided to give it another chance and write it up this time. Plus, hubby had never been.

This is what I want to know from everyone who likes this place (seriously, please write a comment and let me know)—what is it that you are ordering? Because everything I had except the guacamole and margaritas (and more on those later) was not very good.

Hubby and I wanted to try as much as possible, so we went the tapas route and ordered 4 appetizers to share, as well as the guac. Now the guac maker came out and mixed up a great bowl of the dip and the margaritas are tasty. But here is my pet peeve about the margaritas at this place. They serve them “up” in a martini glass which I guess is a way to make a margarita seem more sophisticated. They taste good, but when I eat Mexican, I want to drink margaritas with the entire meal. You can finish these in a few drinks and then, if you kept ordering more throughout the whole meal, you’d be wasted by the end of it. So I had one, enjoyed it, and then switched to wine. Do they serve them just low brow style with ice and all? I didn’t ask, but they weren’t on the menu (although they have LOTS of different kinds of tequila).

Ok, so we ordered the Taquitos Yucatecos, the Empanadas Nortenas, the Torta Ahogoda “Sliders” and the Shrimp Ceviche. The Taquitos came out first, and were very underwhelming. They were described as Achiote marinated chicken with black beans, tomato salsa, pickled onions, and sour cream. I don’t know what to say other than there wasn’t much of any distinct flavor there. The inside was quite dry and the only thing I liked was the pickled onions. They were the only thing on the plate that had any real flavor.

Next came the shrimp ceviche—it wasn’t bad, and the further down into the marinade you got (it was served in an ice cream sundae type dish), they better and more flavorful it became. There were some hunks of avocado and tomato mixed in. It was probably the best thing we had next to the guacamole. I am pretty sure the shrimp was actually cooked before being “cooked” in the marinade (which is what the menu seemed to say) but the waitress said it was just cooked in the marinade. Seemed a little more cooked than that though.

The last two things were brought out at the same time our friends’ (who were visiting from out of town) entrees were served. Well sort of. We got our last two plates and one of our friends got his entrée. Our other friend didn’t get her entrée for several more minutes which was a little annoying. Speaking of service, while our service was generally pretty friendly, you should have seen the death look/eye roll I got from the hostess when I asked to be sat at a table that wasn’t right on top of another party in a restaurant that was still not even half full.

But back to the food, the empanadas were described as “corn masa turnovers stuffed with beef picadillo, corn and Chihuahua cheese in a creamy tomatilla salsa.” Ok, the crust was tasty but even though the ingredients were totally different from the taquitos, why did they seem so similar? I guess the blandness seemed to meld together..and “creamy” tomatillo salsa? It was tomatillo salsa…not sure what the creamy part was. The salsa was pretty good though—hubby enjoyed it particularly.

Finally, and probably my least favorite were the torta ahogoda “sliders.” They were described as “mini pork carnitas sandwiches with refried beans and avocado drowned in chile de arbol salsa.” What they tasted like was a mini barbequed pork sandwich with way too much sauce. There were a couple little slivers of avocado on each on that you couldn’t even taste for the sweet sauce. I don’t know, I really really disliked these.

We did have the chocolate masa cake for dessert with vanilla ice cream. It was pretty tasty—very chocolatey.

All in all though, I have heard people say the only thing good at Adobo is the guacamole and margaritas (actually, I said that after the first time I went) and I think it might be true. But hey, maybe I am just really ordering wrong. People? Give me some help on this one.

Adobo Grill
110 East Washington Street
Indy, 46204
317-822-9990
www.adobogrill.com

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Farewell L'explorateur



It is with a heavy heart that I must report that one of my all time favorite restaurants in Indy, and one of the places that gave me hope when I moved here almost 3 years ago, is closing. After just about 3 years, L'explorateur will be closing as of January 31st. Thanks FeedMe/DrinkMe for the heads up. And you can read Chef Neal Brown’s farewell message on his blog Babelfish Tartare. You will be sorely missed.

I want to say that I agree with the FeedMe/DrinkMe sentiment about what this says about us as Indy diners. We need to support our independent restaurants and chefs or else we are relegated to crappy (and mainly chain) food. It is January which is a rough time for restaurants anyway, and in this economy, it is even harder for places to survive. Now I realize the restaurant-goers are probably being hit as well, but if you can, go out and support our local independent restaurants and chefs. SOON. Check out my list of favorites for some ideas—and right now, Devour Downtown is still going on right?, so you should be able to get some deals even if you are on a budget. Keep our chefs in our City—I started this blog to try and get people excited about what is going on in our dining scene—and to raise our standards. Don’t let me down!

On the bright side, after reading Chef Brown’s own blog, I am hopeful that L’explorateur will rise again (maybe downtown this time?) and I for one can’t wait! (Hey, Spring is my favorite food season, hint, hint!) And in the meantime, I will say it again, go out and support local chefs and restaurants, many of whom are doing great things. If you want suggestions, I am happy to give them!

To Chef Brown, goodbye, good luck, and we will see you soon!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Goose-The Market

Today we finally got around to trying Goose the Market for lunch based on recommendations from several people, including my readers. Everyone else seems to know about it, but if you’re not in the know, it is located at 25th and Delaware. It is a great little neighborhood/gourmet market with lots of great looking meats and a nice stock of various other things such as wine, beer, cheese, gelato (an entire case of it just like in Italy) and baguettes that look pretty good. They also do a small lunch menu with several sandwiches and a soup of the day. You can check out what’s on the menu on their blog on the website listed below. The staff was also very helpful and friendly.
Mozzarella cheeseImage via Wikipedia
Since it was my first time, I tried “The Goose” sandwich—figured if it was named after the place, it must be good. Well, it was quite good. It was a warmed baguette with hunks of fresh mozzarella (very creamy), layers of thin proscuitto, extra virgin olive oil and shredded basil. Sounds simple, I know, but this is some of the best proscuitto I have had in Indy and the slightly warmed bread really added to the sandwich, particularly on a cold winter’s day.

Goose specializes in lots of dried cured meats and has several different sandwiches highlighting these yummy treats. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop in and give one a try. And while you’re there, check out the rest of the place, there are certainly lots of temptations!

Goose the Market
2503 N. Delaware Street
Indy 46205
317/924-4944
www.goosethemarket.com
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Friday, January 23, 2009

Oceanaire-a revisit



I don’t know, but I think the bloom is off the rose here a bit. When we first moved here, I was very happy to find this place—the staff seemed really enthusiastic and there were often changes being made to the menu. And the seafood was really, really fresh. And even the stand-by items were really good.

Recently, on my birthday no less, we ventured to Oceanaire for dinner (my birthday was on a Monday and there weren’t a lot of options for going out as most places were closed). Now, if you have read my previous blog posts about Oceanaire, you know one of my biggest pet peeves about this place is the ridiculous portion sizes. Why does everything have to be so over the top? Maybe there is some link between such things and why so many Americans are so oversized themselves? I’m just saying.

We had the Oceanaire Chopped salad to share (between FOUR people). I like this salad though—it has lots of good bits in it—boiled egg, olives, capers, and even some shrimp and crab.

I then decided to order the tuna tartare for my starter and the appetizer of the blue crab cake for my main course (2 appetizers is the only way I can eat at this place unless I split an entrée with someone). Our table also ordered the fried oysters, one of our perennial favorites. They were good as usual (and there was like 8 of them and they are huge). However, I never got to try the tuna tartare as our waiter informed me that the tuna was not fresh enough and the chef wouldn’t serve it to me. I sort of had my heart set on a cold starter and shrimp cocktail seemed so boring, so I got the lump crab cocktail instead. They serve it with cocktail sauce but it is much better with the remoulade sauce which is nice and tangy with some nice bits of chives and capers in it. Definitely ask for this sauce if you get this cocktail.

I have had the crab cake before—the very first time I went to Oceanaire I think. I remember thinking it was one of the only crab cakes I really like because it is so crabby. However, on this occasion it was a bit dry—and the sauce alongside didn’t do much for it. Horseradish cream I think? Again, better with the brighter remoulade.

Everyone else at our table had the black and blue Marlin. Hubby really likes the black and blue preparation which consists of some sort of blackened fish with blue cheese on top. However, on this occasion he said there wasn’t much flavor to the blackening part of the process and that it wasn’t as good as he had remembered. We also had the au gratin potatoes and between 4 of us, we almost finished them (they are really good though).

The wine list has changed a bit too—we had a featured Vermentino to start which was light and nice with the salad and then we had a Sancerre. It was quite nice, but I have to say Oceanaire has some of the most expensive prices around for bottles of wine. Well, the Vermentino was quite reasonable ($36 I think) but the Sancerre was $70.

I still love the interior of Oceanaire as one of my favorites in our City---and the crowd was quite large for a Monday night. However, the food is starting to feel a little uninspired and I hate to say it, if a seafood restaurant that specializes in fresh seafood flown in daily can’t have fresh tuna, then Houston, we have a problem.

Oceanaire Seafood Room
30 South Meridian Street
Indy 46204
317-955-2277
http://www.theoceanaire.com/

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Creation Café- A revisit

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

I stopped back into Creation Café (in the Bugg’s Temple building on the canal) the other day with my daughter for lunch. She really likes this place and feels very metropolitan going out downtown! Anyway, to start with, whenever I have been on the weekends, there are always kids in here, which is a nice thing to see. And there is so much décor in this place, from the silverware on the walls, to the intricately painted table tops; it is a great place to distract an otherwise bored kid or toddler.

My daughter loves the kid’s quesadilla here and refuses to get anything else. She also loves the fries in spite of the “basil” (actually parsley) that is on them. I had a few myself and they are well seasoned and tasty. She also informed me that the chef did a good job cutting the quesadillas into the right size.

I was having a hard time deciding, but I had the “fungus amongus” salad which is mixed greens with quite a bit of romaine with warm sautéed wild mushrooms and two good sized dollops of breaded goat cheese served with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. One of my favorite combinations of flavors is goat cheese, mushroom and balsamic so this was right up my alley—it is nice the way the sharpness of the vinegar and the goat cheese tones down the richness of the mushrooms. I could’ve done without all the romaine (actually the amount of greens was a little much for me altogether) but other than that, the salad was pretty good. Not out of this world, but a decent, and somewhat unique, salad.





The great thing about this place is that the menu is quite large and there are a lot of things I would like to try. I need to get a sandwich next time and see how they are. The Caprese BLT with bacon, basil, fresh mozzarella sounds good. I really like that they are trying to come up with some interesting combinations of things that are different from your average lunch place.

Also, to correct something from my last review, they do serve beer and wine, so if you are in the mood for a drink, bottom’s up!

Creation Café
337 West 11th Street
Indy 46202
317/955-2389
www.indycanal.com

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Restaurant Review Policy

When I first started writing this blog, I knew nothing about blogging and blog ethics, but I did know something about food and frustration with restaurants around here and the lack of any reviews that seemed to be honest and trustworthy. Thus, I started this blog for a few purposes: 1) to get some honest (and not always positive) reviews out there and hopefully in my own little way improve our restaurant scene; and 2) to vent. Since then, I am thrilled to see that my blog has a growing reader base of people that appreciate my honesty and who also love food. With all that being said, I realized after being offered a few free meals (hey, I thought it was pretty cool!), and after learning more and more about the blogosphere, that accepting the free meals wasn’t the best way to keep my blog as honest and trustworthy as I want it to be. This is not to say that I have EVER given anything but my honest opinions and insights on any given restaurant, free meal or not. I have always been absolutely and sometimes, brutally honest and will continue to be. And in each example where I was offered some freebie, I have always disclosed it in the review. But in order to maintain my moderately anonymous visits, and to maintain the undeniable appearance of non-bias, I will:

1. No longer accept free meals from restaurants, chefs, or public relations people;
2. Review a restaurant based on one visit only. I do not have the money or time (or babysitting) to be able to go to a restaurant multiple times before writing a review. But since most people experience restaurants this way, I think it makes it that much more real. I do on occasion re-visit places (naturally these are often places I like) and will often write new posts on those re-visits or sometimes just add comments on older posts.
3. Not announce my visit(s) or revisit on demand. Sure, email me to tell me about your restaurant —I always love to try places that are new or that I haven’t been to in awhile.

I want my experiences to be just like anyone else’s who might wander in off the street. I welcome any and all feedback from my readers regarding this policy and anything else that is on your mind. You have no idea how much it brightens my day when you write to me via email or the comments section of one of my posts! Keep it up! (Thank you also to those more experienced bloggers and to those just regular people who helped me work through this issue and figure out what I needed to do!)



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SI/Scholars Inn -- once again

So in the interest of full disclosure, I want to start by saying that we were invited to SI by the restaurant because they were concerned about my last review and wanted me to come give it another try—so they provided us a meal to give them another opportunity. I have since given this practice a lot of thought, spoken to some fellow bloggers and have decided to discontinue accepting free meals. From here on out, I want my posts to be totally unbiased in any way (well, they are anyway, but I want to avoid any appearance of bias). Thus, I am posting my new policy in this regard in the following post.

Anyway, I will start by saying that I am happy I did go back, as this meal was much better than the last (and closer to the way it was the first time we went). The chef de cuisine, Josh (who cooked our meal for us this night), brought us 2 starters—the marinated calamari and the chicken wings which are a new item on the menu.

Ok, let’s get this out of the way. Here’s the thing with the calamari. We had it the last time and didn’t like it—I didn’t know if it was off or what, but we had it again and we both still didn’t like it. I love calamari in general, prepared in most any way, sautéed, fried, whatever (unless it is chewy) but the flavors here are too over the top for me—it is a strong sesame and ginger flavor and is served cold. I asked the server if this was a popular dish and he said it was probably one of their two most popular appetizers, so there you go. Obviously my tastes are different, and maybe you might like it, but I do not.

The chicken wings were more enjoyable—they were fried with a sweet bay mustard glaze. I am not sure exactly what that means but it was sort of a sweet very mild mustard glaze that tasted like it may even have some honey in it. There was a nice creamy blue cheese fondue drizzled on top. An interesting take on chicken wings. I probably would not order chicken wings normally (at least not in a restaurant like this), but these were meaty and not too bad, if not a little sweet for my taste.

Next we were brought what was clearly the star of the evening; a salad the chef prepared for us that isn’t on the menu. I think this may be one of SI’s problems. This salad was fantastic. It needs to be on the menu. It was fresh spinach with sliced red onions and sliced fennel with orange segments and light vinaigrette served with 2 amazing and perfectly cooked sea scallops. They were caramelized exactly the way they should be on both sides and were still medium rare in the middle. Items like this could take this place to another level. A lot of the appetizers seem a little one dimensional, but this salad was one of the best things I have eaten around here in awhile. Get it on the menu guys! (When I asked about this, I was told that the chef does try to have fresh fish specials, but keeping such things on the menu all the time was tough).

For our mains, I had the lime and cumin marinated skirt steak with sweet chile sauce and charred corn and black beans. It was good—I liked that you could really taste the marinade and it gave the meat a unique and fresh flavor. I could have done with a bit of starch besides the beans to go with it, but that’s just me. It was huge I will say, and by this point, we were getting pretty full. Hubby had the short rib with tamarind glaze and scalloped potatoes. He had the short rib the first time we went, loved it, had it a second time and was really disappointed. This time he was very happy and thought it was back up to the high standard of the first time. Apparently this is something that Chef Brenchley considers a specialty, so it was nice to see it back up to its original high standard.

We ordered off the half off wine list which is being advertised and were quite happy with our selection. The weird thing about the list is it doesn’t have prices on it so it is hard to know what it is half off of.

We also were seated upstairs for the first time and I really enjoyed this atmosphere better than downstairs. I appreciate the interior of this place for a classy modern feel, but some of the tables leave you feeling almost too isolated. I do like to feel like I am eating out amongst people when I am eating out. Upstairs, even in a pretty private booth, you can look out at other people at other tables, but they aren’t so close that you have to listen to their entire conversations.

I am glad to see the menu being changed up a bit, and I hope to continue to see more changes. And maybe take some of the old standbys off and make people try new things. I know this is a risky move in this part of the country where people are so resistant to change, but other chefs are doing it in Indy, and are doing it successfully. There is some inspired cooking going on here, and there is clearly talent, let’s see it shine.


Scholar’s Inn/SI
725 Mass Ave
317-536-0707
http://www.scholarsinn.com/

Friday, January 9, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Me!

I am excited to write that today is my one year anniversary writing my blog. I want to thank all of you who have been there from the beginning (Mom, Dad, Heather and Hubby) and all of you who have found me in the last 12 months. My reader base has grown significantly and it truly gives me hope to know there are so many of you who care about good food in our fair City. I also appreciate all the supportive emails I have received from many of you as well as the comments to my posts. A special shout out to Renee and Feed Me/Drink Me as well for the mentions my blog has received there.

Now, as a present to me (my favorite kind), and to the rest of my readers, I am asking you all to comment to this post sending me two of your favorite restaurants—maybe one that is a nice restaurant and another that is a little place that maybe I haven’t heard of. Or just two of your regular haunts that you feel are underrated. Or just your two faves period. Whatever they are, I am always looking for new inspiration and I know you all will have it! I will also enjoy seeing if some of your favorites are the same as mine.

Thanks again to each and every one of you and here’s to another great and hopefully, delicious, year!

Cheers!
Erin

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Zest Exciting Food Creations

This is a place I kept hearing about, and I wanted to try, and then I would forget about it. Finally hubby and I made it over one day for lunch. This is mainly a breakfast and lunch place, but they have also recently started serving dinner some nights a week. Every reader review I have read about this place online is a rave, so I thought I needed to go.

They have an extensive menu of sandwiches and salads as well as breakfast items served all day. The place was about half full when we got there and the service was very attentive. At first. Anyway, we ordered sandwiches which come with your choice of sides. I had the hot mushroom sandwich with goat cheese, caramelized onions, balsamic and some greens. The hot sandwiches are HUGE and served sort of hot dog style, wrapped in foil—I realized after I got it that was because it is so big, the sandwich would fall apart if you tried to eat it without the foil. In fact, for me, it was really too big to fit in my mouth, and a bit too much bread I thought, so I sort of ate it open-faced. It was pretty good but a little rich for me—no way could I finish the whole thing. There were A LOT of mushrooms on that puppy though. I got the homemade macaroni and cheese as a side and it was really good. Old fashioned with a nice bread crumb crust. Hubby and both really liked it and the portion is definitely enough to share (which we did and still didn’t finish it).

Hubby had the shredded beef sandwich—I didn’t try it, braised meat isn’t my fave, but I think he liked it about as much as I did mine—good, but so big and a little dry. He got the pomme frites as a side and they were great—one thing this City has mastered it seems are the pomme frites. You can get great ones at Taste, Zest, Nordstrom Café, Brugge and several others. The red pepper aioli was also very good, although not my favorite of all the fancy aiolis you can find around town. Probably Nordstrom has the lock on that with the olive aioli with Taste at a close second with their herby aioli.

The worst part about our visit was the service once we had ordered. It took forever to get our food, and the place wasn’t that busy. I guess I should have been forewarned by the intricate table cloth paper art that is displayed on the walls—clearly people are having enough time to do some large detailed pieces!

The interior is very homey and eclectic—a nice neighborhood café. It is also bigger inside than you would think looking at it from the outside. There is quite a bit of seating.

All in all, the food is pretty good, and certainly very hearty. I would probably go back and next time get the mac & cheese with a side salad or something. That would certainly be a full meal! Or maybe we will go next time for breakfast. Regardless of what you eat, you will certainly not leave this place hungry.

Zest Exciting Food Creations
1134 E 54th Street
Indy 46220
317-466-1853

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Capri

The other night, during the ice storm, I had a babysitter and dammit, I was still going out to dinner even though everyone I talked to thought I was crazy. I did however, relent and agree to go somewhere close by. We decided first on Pikk’s Tavern only to find it closed (apparently forever according to Feed Me/Drink Me). After skidding out of that parking lot, we debated what to do and ended up on Capri, as it is very close to our house. Now, I should tell you we have been there a couple of times before, and I have never been overly impressed, other than the bar is beautiful and the nice roaring fireplace is a great place to be on a cold night. For one thing, it is another one of those classic Midwestern Italian restaurants that serve portions that are ridiculously large and consist of entrees identical; to almost every other Italian restaurant in the US. So I decided, if I was going to agree to go, I was just going to get appetizers, one of which to be the antipasto platter we had had before with Gran Padano cheese, Proscuitto, olives and marinated veggies.

So after literally sliding into their parking lot, we started with the fried calamari—and hey, it was pretty good. A true Italian “fritto”—a light fry served with a homemade marinara. The marinara was quite fresh tasting and not bad. Man, if they made it into a fritto misto, it could be really good. Maybe add some sliced fennel and even thin sliced lemons to the fried mix and it could be unique and outstanding.

Hubby wanted to order the veal Bolognese because he had heard it was one of their best dishes, but then was swayed by a fresh pasta with salmon and cream sauce special. Once he was served, he immediately regretted his choice. He didn’t think it was great, and because it was smoked salmon in the pasta, he said it seemed to taste a bit too fishy (even though he does like smoked salmon by itself).

I did have the antipasto platter, which was as good as always. It isn’t stellar, but it is tasty and hits the spot and I don’t feel like I am going to explode when I walk out. The funny thing about this is that in another review I read, it was the only thing the reviewer didn’t like. So there you go.

Probably the best part of the dining experience here, besides the atmosphere (in the bar side—the other side tends to be quite empty most of the time—we made the mistake of sitting there the first time we went), is a bottle of wine that you don’t see everywhere and it is one of our favorites. It is a Gavi di Gavi and is a bit more expensive than some of the other choices, but really tasty.

All in all, if we have another ice storm, or if I just want drinks and an appetizer, we may go back to Capri. For a great Italian meal experience, I will keep looking and hope to find something a little less predictable.

Capri Restaurant
2602 Ruth Drive
Indy 46240
317-259-4122
www.capriindy.com