Monday, May 31, 2010

Bijou - Revisit

You want rich and decadent and old school French? Bijou may just be your perfect place. We have been to this place before, and I reviewed it, but we really have wanted to go back and make good on our promise to order all appetizers. I followed through on that promise, but hubby was swayed by a really yummy sounding special.

I really like the interior and feel of this place. It is warm and cozy feeling and all the staff (which as far as I can tell is the chef, the host, and a waiter) is very friendly and accommodating. We chose to sit a regular table on this trip, as we remembered the booths, while nice and private, being a little too vertical for hubby’s back. We were very pleased with the comfy chairs and plenty of room at the tables.

For something new, I started with the mushroom crepe. We discussed the fact that it could easily be drown in a tasteless cream sauce and debated the merits of ordering it. Pleasantly, it was very good and the cream sauce was flavorful with a cheese taste that wasn’t over the top rich and still had depth in flavor. It was one crepe, filled with a finely pureed mushroom mixture. Nice flavor, not too heavy, and the serving size was appropriate for a rich dish. If they put 2 on the plate, I would have thought it was overkill.

Hubby started with the oysters that he had last time—“Oysters Bijou.” These are little toasts with an (cooked) oyster, bacon and a chardonnay cream sauce. He loved them last time, and if anything, he liked them even more this time. They are really good (we shared a bit). Nice small oysters with just the right amount of bacon and sauce that are quickly broiled. And judging by the number of them coming out, we aren’t the only ones who like them.

We shared the spinach salad we had the last time. It was still very good. Simple and fresh with spinach, red onion slices and really nice Roquefort. I could have used a little more of the cheese and a little less of the dressing (a lemon dressing). The dressing was sweet and tangy at the same time, but mine just had a little much of it. And I mentioned the cheese before—it is excellent Roquefort. And we split a salad, and I thought it was perfect for a middle course. Even the full size salad would not be gigantic though, and I thought about the salad I had at Bella Vita that probably had 10 times the amount of spinach in it. Again, the bread, simple French baguettes are delicious and we went through a couple of baskets.

We were given the same intermezzo we were given the last time, a little tiny dish of passion fruit sorbet to cleanse the palate. A great flavor, and a nice touch, and in just the right amount.
For my main course, I had the appetizer I had the last time, the lobster feuilleté. It is pieces of lobster meat, cooked perfectly, with a heart shaped piece of puff pastry on top and surrounded by a Champagne cream sauce. It was still very good, although the saucing may have been a little heavy handed this time. I didn’t need all the rich sauce relative to the amount of other things. In fact, I would have loved a little bit more of the puff pastry to balance everything out. But overall, this is a great dish. Rich and completely decadent, and delicious.

Originally hubby was going to get another appetizer too, because we liked ours so much as I mentioned, but when he heard the special of pan fried turbot stuffed with lobster, shrimp and crab, he changed his mind. Actually, it was when he saw the table next to ours being served the dish that really pushed him over the edge. It was a lovely dish. Turbot, if you aren’t familiar, is a fairly thick white fish, sort of similar to petrale sole. It is mild in flavor and is a great base for doing lots of things to. In this case, the fish was stuffed with creamy bits of the above mentioned shellfish which were all good in their own right, and the fish was then pan fried to give it a perfect crispy outer crust. It was served with polenta and some broccoli, which were ok, but the fish was the real star. We were glad to have gotten an entrée that we really liked. It renewed our hope that we don’t have to only order appetizers here. But the lesson is, pay attention to the specials, and if they sound good, order them. My main complaint about this place (like you have never heard this from me before) is that they don’t seem to change the menu at all. What is on there is good, but I like variety and based on that special, I would love to see what else the chef could come up with.

Since I had only two appetizers and half a salad, I needed dessert right? That’s what I was thinking. And last time I was so full I couldn’t do it. This time I ordered the chocolate pot de crème. It was really good. Rich and dark chocolate-y. I often just think these kind of desserts are just ok because they taste too much just like pudding. But this one was rich and dense and one of the better ones I have had. Also, I liked the way it was served in a small lidded porcelain dish with a little whipped cream on the side (and not on top). It was a lovely presentation (picture was blurry sorry). Which actually brings me to one of the other things I appreciate about this place. The dishware and glassware is all lovely and high quality. I hate thick wine glasses and while normally I don’t even notice the dishes (usually because there is nothing worth noticing), these draw your attention. They are sort of old fashioned, but fit into the French bistro-ish kind of feeling you get here.

All in all, I still think this place is a nice change in our area. Why can’t Indy support a proper French restaurant? And how is Lebanon pulling it off? Anyway, if you haven’t tried it, and you like old school classic rich food, give this one a try. It really doesn’t take that long to get there.

Bijou Restaurant
111 West Main Street
Lebanon, IN 46052

Bijou on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kountry Kitchen

This fried chicken thing is bordering on obsession now…people keep recommending new places and I keep feeling obligated to try them all. And well, Kountry Kitchen has been on the list awhile anyway, so why not kill two birds with one stone?

The first thing about Kountry Kitchen (and I have seen it spelled many different ways, but I am going with this because this is what they have on their website, but can someone please tell me why businesses like to spell things wrong?) is it looks a bit run down from the outside. Like, if it weren’t for the sign, you would never guess there’s a restaurant in there. And while it is better on the inside somewhat, this is not a fancy place by any stretch (although it was good enough for a visit by President [then candidate] Obama during the campaign). The fact that there are no windows and lots of flickering and burnt out fluorescent bulbs didn’t really improve the ambiance.

But we sat down in the brightest room (the one furthest in the back) and were greeted by a friendly server. And there was a decent lunch crowd in there for sure. We perused the menu and decided to get a fried chicken dinner (natch) and one combo dinner with fried catfish and chicken wings. We got mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and white beans as sides. The lunch plates are also served with either baked or fried cornbread. We got the fried.

The cornbread was more along the lines of pancakes made with some cornmeal. They had a little of the sweet cornmeal flavor, but not a lot. And again, I was missing some butter or something to put on them. They just seemed a little dry. As for the fried chicken, we had a thigh/leg quarter, and while it was tender, I didn’t find anything particularly special about it. The skin was crispy, but basically unseasoned. The wings were a little more flavorful; they appeared to be seasoned a bit, but still nothing noteworthy. I don’t know, maybe you are supposed to doctor it up with hot sauce of something, but I think really good fried chicken should be able to stand alone.
The catfish was certainly more flavorful and had a seasoned breading on it that gave it more flavor. And it was so hot when it came out, we couldn’t eat it for quite awhile. I thought it was pretty good as is, and once hubby started dipping it in hot sauce, he really enjoyed it quite a bit more and promptly polished it off.

The mashed potatoes were the chunky kinds with a bit of the skin in there, which can be really good, but I have to say, I didn’t really think these were. They were a little pasty and didn’t really have a lot of flavor. I just had a bit of the gravy and while it is obviously homemade, it seemed really salty. Hubby, who generally eats gravy on his potatoes, stopped eating it after a few bites (it was on the side). The mac and cheese wasn’t bad, but it was your typical orange kind and based on the consistency of the cheese sauce, I would say was made with a Velveeta-like cheese. I hesitate to compare one place to another too much, but when I think of the mac and cheese at Mississippi Belle, with its peppery flavor, there really is no comparison. I didn’t end up eating the white beans, but hubby said they were fine, nothing special and again, lacking much seasoning.

I don’t know, maybe the fried chicken isn’t the thing to order here, but I was quite disappointed with my meal. Especially after just going to Mississippi Belle a few weeks earlier and having a much better meal at about 2/3 of the cost (and apparently at dinner time they are all you can eat). On a side note, it may be time for me to give the whole fried chicken quest a bit of a rest, as my waistline is suffering a bit (as is my digestive system). Although, with that being said, of course if you know of more places I am missing, keep ‘em coming! I am sure it won’t be long before I just have to give a few more contenders a try…

Kountry Kitchen
1831 North College Ave
Indy 46221

Kountry Kitchen Soul Food on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 23, 2010

H2O- Revisit

I am bumping my other posts out a bit and squeezing this one in immediately for the sole reason that I want you to get in there and eat these soft shell crabs while you can. I was really hopeful when we decided to go to H20 on this night that there would be soft shell crabs…I just kept missing them everywhere else. But this time I was in luck.

They were offering them in a traditional spider roll, but they were also offering a tomato salad with an option of adding a soft shell crab on top. We added two (no way were we sharing one). Wow. That’s all I can say. I seriously just wanted to skip the rest of the stuff we ordered and just get another order. The tomato salad itself (which you can get without the crab, but you would be insane) was really really good as well. The tomatoes came from My Neighbor’s Garden and were also really good for early season tomatoes. They were cut into large chunks with lots of thinly sliced basil, an almost guacamole-ish avocado topping, some beautiful sliced cheese and wonderfully tasty vinaigrette (drag your crab through THAT—perfection). Seriously, so get in there soon, these little babies don’t stay around too long (they start getting their regular hard shells).

The crabs were lightly fried and were quite large, but in the perfect state of soft-shelled-ness. Sometimes you get pieces that are still just a little too crunchy. These were not, just the right crunch with what was quite a meaty crab. (In the picture, you can only see one crab because I couldn’t stop hubby from removing the other one before getting my camera out).

Ok, now that my frantic rant is done. I will tell you about the rest of the food. We also had one of the chicken buns which was a soft doughy bread (sort of like a pita in shape, but smaller) that was holding some exceedingly tender slices of chicken that were seasoned with a slightly sweet sauce giving it a slightly more mild flavor similar to that in a Chinese pork bun (which is usually heavily sweet barbeque sauced shredded pork of which I am not usually a huge fan). This was nice though, and was handled with a much more delicate hand. There were some barely pickled cucumbers on top that made for a nice variation in flavor (although I would have liked them more if they were pickled a teeny bit more).

We were also served a special dish of “temple and cheek” pork tacos that were outstanding. Just some tortillas with exceedingly tender pork from literally the head of the pig (hence the name temple and cheek) and topped with a bit of pico de gallo and a wedge of lime on the side. These were outstanding as well, especially with the squirt of lime which made the tender pork so bright and tangy. I hope these go on the menu.

We also had the marinated beef lettuce wraps. Hubby was reluctant because we generally aren’t a fan of lettuce wraps, but we thought we’d give them a go. They weren’t our favorite thing, but the beef was lovely and rare and sliced thin and the presentation was beautiful. The beef was placed on top of some kim chi in a super fresh cup of butter lettuce. There was some nice sticky rice on the side as well. However, I can't say we are any more a fan of lettuce wraps in general.

Finally we ordered the hamachi (or yellowtail) served with chick peas, arugula and a light brothy truffle scented jus. The hamachi was seared, and a nice piece of fish, but unfortunately was a little too dry to really enjoy because it was overcooked. The broth was amazing though and if the fish was cooked a little less, it would be amazing (hell, you could throw that fish in there raw and have an amazing combo).

Oh man, and we had the cookies. Those cookies will knock your socks off. Now this is not news to a lot of you , but since Eli and Nicole Anderson have re-purchased the restaurant and brought back Nicole’s cookies and sorbets, you can get an amazing cookie at H2O. For me, this was my first Nicole Anderson cookie and I was suitably impressed. It was a warm oatmeal raisin cookie served with some lightly flavored espresso cream (great for dipping). This was a perfect ending to our meal.
I am going to reiterate what I said before on my last H2O post though—I think we have a gifted chef in our midst and I hope people get in there and take advantage. And don’t worry if you don’t like sushi (I am not a big fan of rolls myself) because I think the best (and most creative) things are going on on the left side of the menu.

H2O Sushi
1912 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy 46220
317/254-0677 (please please please update the website with the current menu items! I would love to be able to see what is on that left side)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Union Jack Pub

Randomly, hubby and I stopped into Union Jack’s the other day for lunch (picture at left is actually the back entrance by the way). I haven’t been here in years. The interior hasn’t changed a bit since then, other than, thankfully, it is smoke free and I love the big garage door windows that open up to bring in fresh air and a little more light during the day. And they even have screens which is something for which I give bonus points. (Nothing like being dive bombed by bees when you are eating.)

We had no ideas about what we were going to order, but once we were in there, we saw they had “thin crust New York style” pizza on the menu. Now I know, I know, they are known for their deep dish pizzas, but they take a long time to make, and it was lunch. And besides, we have been on a perpetual quest for true New York style pizza since we have moved to Indy (oh how I miss you Escape From New York Pizza!), we thought we would give it a go.

But first, we started with an appetizer (why not?). So we had the Cheese Fries. These were an enormous portion of seasoned fries covered with lots of bacon and shredded cheddar cheese and ranch dressing on the side. Ok, I am not sure why these tasted so good to me, but they did. Maybe because you could taste that they were using actual cheese and not some weird cheese sauce. And the ranch dressing was actually quite thin, but made for a good dip for them without being over the top. There was something about these that just reminded me of the food I used to eat as a teenager. Sort of like potato skins without the skins. And crisper because the fries were, well, fried. Anyhow, we enjoyed them.

Ok, as for the pizza, we are a bit split on it. As soon as I saw it, I knew it wasn’t really New York style. It was, pretty much in the same style as most pizzas in Indy I thought. It wasn’t super thin large pieces of pizza you could fold in half that was only lightly topped. It was a crispy thin-ish crust that was mounded a bit with the toppings (in this case mushrooms and red onions.) I liked the flavor a bit more than several of the other local places, and I liked that you could really taste the red onions, but this wasn’t New York style. It was pretty much classic “Indy style” if you ask me. So it wasn’t bad for an “Indy style” pizza, but I am not rushing back for another. Hubby on the other hand, enjoyed it more than I did (and ate a lot more of it than I did). But then again, this man would eat just about any pizza you put in front of him.

The server was very friendly, and the service was pretty prompt. You certainly feel like you are in a pub in this place (at least on the bar side) and I don’t think this place, which is sort of an institution in Indy, will ever be hurting for business. I remember really liking the deep dish pies. Maybe next time.

Union Jack Pub
924 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy 46220

Union Jack Pub on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Red Key Tavern

This is going to be a brief one, as there was only one thing eaten here (and really only like three things to choose from), but recently after posting for suggestions about what Indy restaurants should be on the tv show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, this place came up and I needed to know if this burger was worthy. I have always heard good things about them, but had never eaten there (have had drinks but no food).

Well, this place isn’t a lunch spot I don’t think, although they do serve lunch (same thing at all times, burgers, chicken salad and tenderloins). The place was completely empty at lunch time (makes for nice pictures though) and even the server was nowhere to be seen for quite awhile. When she did appear, she was super nice and promptly took care of us.

The cheeseburgers were what I always heard were good, so that is what we had. There’s nothing to get on the side except cottage cheese and chips off the wall. So we got some chips. Ok, as for the burger, you know, it wasn’t a bad burger, but I wouldn’t say it was a good one either. Tasted exactly like the kind of burger you had as a kid when people made them at home. It was ground beef, a little too thick for my taste, a small bun, and your choice of toppings (pickles and ketchup for me). That’s it. It wasn’t particularly juicy and it wasn’t particularly dry. It was ok. And I can see if you have been sitting in the bar in the evening drinking for awhile, this would probably hit the spot. But for something that stands out in my mind, this isn’t it.

I do like the bar though, it is old school and has a great vibe and sadly the longtime owner, Russ Settle, only recently died. This place is an institution (and I love the list of rules for patrons here including no cussing, no coats hanging on the back of your chairs, and keeping all four feet of your chair on the floor at all times). So did I tell the lady from the tv show about it? Yes, but mainly for the atmosphere, not for the food.

And by the way, as far as I know, they are still looking for places. So if you know any "diner/drive-in/divey" kind of place to recommend that has only one location, where you can eat for less than $15 or so, and where they make like 90% of everything in house (sorry but this is gonna be the tough one) within 30 miles of Indy, let me know will ya? I will pass them along.

Red Key Tavern
5170 North College Ave
Indy 46205

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bella Vita

This is the time of the year that makes you want waterfront dining I guess...and since options are somewhat limited here in the middle of the country, we were intrigued to try out Bella Vita on Geist Reservoir. Years ago, when we first moved here, a friend told me it was her favorite place for date night and I always kept it on the list, but only now finally got around to trying it.

This was a time when I checked out the menu before going in and was a little excited by the fact that even though it is Italian (and I think I have mentioned how I have yet to find an Italian place I love in this town), it had a wider menu than the standard alfredo and red sauce and pasta all smothered with cheese that you see a lot around here. It also sits right on the marina at Geist and has a nice view of the lake. We really enjoyed the setting and were hoping for the best.

We decided to start with the beef carpaccio and the truffle fries. The carpaccio was described as thin beef with parmesan cheese, capers and olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I am not sure why they decided that they needed to take the carpaccio and turn it into crostinis, but it was not carpaccio. It was toasted bread with melted cheese topped with thinly sliced raw beef, roasted red peppers, large slices of parmesan and a couple of capers and a fairly heavy dash of balsamic syrup. When we ordered this, we wanted something light. This was certainly not light. And the biggest pet peeve about the whole plate was the roasted red peppers, which brings me to my next point. When you are making your menu, if there is some ingredient that will dramatically change the flavor of the dish, such as roasted red peppers, please list them in the ingredients. Especially when you take great care to list every other ingredient. Because for me, a roasted red pepper is a dominating flavor, and also happens to be one that neither I nor hubby particularly like. So basically it was pepper flavored beef on bread (hubby says more like pepper flavored bread since the delicacy of the meat flavor was totally lost). And the balsamic was a little heavy too, so the delicacy of the flavor of the meat (which was pretty thin, although not as thin as I would have liked) was completely lost between the peppers and the balsamic.

The other appetizer we ordered, the truffle fries, were even worse. So they were called “fries” but they were obviously not fried, and now looking back at the menu, they are actually baked, and there was nothing remotely crispy about them. They were also slightly undercooked, so there was the added benefit of not only not being crispy, but being too firm as well. There was some cheese melted on top, and apparently some truffle oil drizzled there too, although I didn’t taste it. Although, I didn’t really taste much of this dish because they were not good. Don’t call something “fries” unless they are. And ewww, don't serve ketchup with truffle fries.

Luckily for hubby, he ordered a pasta dish that turned out to be pretty good. It was “Papardelle Oceano.” These were large wide noodles with crab and shrimp in a basil cream sauce. I had some of it and it was enjoyable and worth ordering. The bites of crab were fresh and not at all stringy the way crab mixed in dishes like this often is. Hubby was quite pleased and felt that the restaurant had redeemed itself somewhat, although h is entrée was supposed to come with a salad which never came.

I had a spinach salad with blue cheese, boiled egg, pancetta and pinenuts (and unmentioned shredded carrots, not my fave). It was tossed lightly with a creamy parmesan dressing. I was let down with the salad as well. There was an enormous amount of spinach and what appeared to be no toppings. But as I dug down (which took some effort with all that spinach), there was actually quite a bit of blue cheese buried at the bottom (not as much of the pancetta and pinenuts). Because the salad was seriously underdressed for the amount of spinach, I asked for some extra on the side. Once I sort of dug out the goodies and added the extra dressing, it wasn’t bad. But I only ate probably a quarter of it.

The last annoying thing about this place is that the service was pretty slow. I think they may have been a bit understaffed for the crowd, as I only saw about three servers outside and it was filling up, including many large parties. For instance, the bread they brought to every table (except ours) turned out to be very good, but we had to ask for it and didn’t get it until the end of the meal. Like I said, hubby said his pasta was one of the better pasta dishes he has had in the City, and because of the view alone, we may go back one day. But for me, it won’t be based on the food or the service.

Bella Vita
11699 Fall Creek Blvd
Fishers 46256

Bella Vita on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mississippi Belle

Finally we found the fried chicken place we were looking for the other day. I am not sure why it was so difficult considering when we were at Marco’s we could have stood at their door and looked straight at it. For some reason I thought it was on Keystone, so we were looking in the wrong place. Anyhow, this time we came prepared with the actual address (always helpful) and very easily went straight to Mississippi Belle where my fried chicken quest could continue.

The interior of this place is decorated much like a large scale version of your Grandma’s house in the 70s. Friendly though, once someone noticed we were there. Since there were menus on the tables, we assumed we were just supposed to sit anywhere, which we did. I think there were only a couple of people working and the first 5-10 minutes we were there, they were apparently cooking or something. Anyway, once we were spotted, we were quickly served and our order taken. And we did not wait long at all for our food.

Well, we were obviously here for the fried chicken, but there are other main dishes on the menu as well. For lunch, they offer baked chicken, meatloaf, ribs and a couple forms of roast beef, as well as a few other things. Each plate comes with 2 sides and “hot water corn bread.” With the intention of sharing, I got the all white plate and hubby had the all dark meat. We shared the sides of mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and fried cabbage.

But let’s start with the cornbread. So I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect with “hot water cornbread,” but these were kind of yummy. They were like little discs of fried corn bread batter, almost like a fried biscuit in their consistency. They were quite crunchy on the outside, until about half way through where they were more soft and doughy. I enjoyed them, although I had a desire for something sweet (apple butter maybe?), or even some sweet cream butter to put on them. Hubby really liked them.

But on to the heart of the matter, the chicken. In a word, it was good. Very good in fact. This chicken is pan fried, not deep fried, so it doesn’t have the super thick crust like some does, but the crust itself was crisp and had a lot of flavor. This was what I found lacking at some other places--there was no seasoning on the chicken. Mississippi Belle had a good amount of seasoning—you could see it on the skin. The breast was probably one of the more tender I have had when it comes to fried chicken, which is very hard to pull off. While I probably love the crust at MCL the best, the meat there is often a bit too dried out. This was not the case here. And the wing was even better. I had some of the dark meat and it was (naturally) moister as well. All in all, this chicken is up there for me. Has the homemade flavor, and is not cooked to death. Like I said, this is not battered in anyway, but the skin is seasoned and fried crisp.
The sides were also quite good. Hubby continues to talk about the mashed potatoes and gravy. He really liked the gravy. (“It tastes like someone actually made it!”) Now I am not a gravy person when it comes to potatoes, but I didn’t think to ask for it without and so did have some. It was pretty good as far as gravy goes for me. But I am getting the potatoes next time without it. The potatoes were creamy and tasted like potatoes.

The mac and cheese was really good I thought. Not the bright orange variety—elbow noodles with a slightly more “found in nature” type coloring, a creamy yellow. And you could see the flecks of pepper in it. Hubby thought it looked like macaroni salad when he first saw it, and initially thought it was cold. But it wasn’t. But that gives you an idea of what it looks like. It was really tasty. Nice and creamy and again, well seasoned. I would get this again in a heartbeat.
The cabbage wasn’t bad, but wasn’t super exciting (and I do generally like cooked cabbage). I am not sure what part was “fried” tasted more like boiled to me, but it had a little more flavor to it I guess than just pure boiled cabbage, but not that much. I enjoyed it ok, but I am not sure I would get it again.

I am excited to have this place around (and not that far from home). From now on when I want to get a bunch of chicken, I am going to get it carry out from here. I like knowing it is freshly made, and the sides aren’t coming out of some corporate container that was shipped in from somewhere else. And I think my kids will love this place—this is their kind of cuisine. And I will enjoy taking them somewhere local as well.

So I guess in conclusion, while I probably still think MCL has my favorite fried chicken when it is fresh and cooked perfectly (which maybe happens maybe about 60% of the time), this is up there. A completely different style, but for what it is, it is very well done.

Mississippi Belle
2170 East 54th Street
Indy 46220

Mississippi Belle on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 10, 2010

Shelbi Street Café

We continued our tour of Fountain Square the other day with a visit to Shelbi Street Café for lunch. We wanted something new and a couple of my readers had recommended it. You know, as we parked around the corner and walked into the café, I was thinking how much I really like Fountain Square because it feels like a part of a city with history. Not to get too preachy, but our downtown, while it has its beauty for sure, sometimes depresses me for the fact that on so many streets there are nothing but chain restaurants as far as the eye can see. Recently I had a person email me coming from out of town who was staying right downtown and wanted a recommendation for a restaurant that was walking distance, not a chain, and kid friendly (and good). Honestly, I had to tell her if she really wanted something good, her best bet was a cab. And then, take it to Fountain Square. There are lots of options that met her criteria. Anyhow, I am off point again, but this really bugs me.

But as to Shelbi Street Café, I have to say, I was a little disappointed. The menu features mainly salads, pizzas and sandwiches for lunch. I debated between trying one of the pizzas and one of the sandwiches and in the end I went for the Portobello mushroom sandwich because it was the one that most appealed to me at the moment. It had grilled portabella mushrooms, grilled zucchini, yellow squash, caramelized onion, tomato, guacamole and chipotle mayo (well that is what the menu said anyhow). It was served on focaccia. Ok, first of all, there was no guacamole on this puppy. And you know how I like my avocado. So that was a little disappointing. And the sandwich was really tall. It was so tall I had to take a few layers of veggies off just to get it in my mouth. And sadly, while the mushroom was pretty tasty, the bun was pretty soggy from all the juices from it and the other things --especially the bottom of the bread. The caramelized onion was nice, but the chipotle mayo didn’t have enough flavor to really be noticed. The tomato was a good addition for little acidity, but as usual, would have been better if it was riper. I was also asked whether I wanted fruit or sautéed veggies as a side and said fruit (how may veggies does a girl need on a plate?) and still got veggies. When I got our server’s attention, he did bring me out some fruit, but it took a few minutes. I did try the veggies (squash, asparagus, zucchini, and carrots) and they were pretty good. Hubby enjoyed them and ate all of his. I commented that I sort of like these healthy options as a side, and while hubby liked eating them, he said it just isn’t right to not serve chips or fries with a sandwich. So there’s one man’s opinion on that.

Hubby enjoyed his Philly Cheese steak quite a bit more than I enjoyed my sandwich. I had a bite and it was pretty good. Still nothing that was jumping out at me as something I would go back for though. It was lots of beef and onions on more of the focaccia (slightly nontraditional I guess).
The people were really nice in this place and honestly, I wanted to like it. Hubby certainly liked it better than I. But with so many great choices in Fountain Square, this would probably not be one I headed back to anytime soon.

Shelbi Street Café
1105 Shelby Street
Indy 46203

Shelbi Street Cafe Bistro on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 7, 2010

Oakley's- Lunch Revisit

Hubby and I hadn’t been to Oakley’s in awhile, and we hadn’t been there for lunch together since before we moved to Indy (we went one week when we were house hunting). I was hoping for one of their incredible soups to strike my fancy, but alas it wasn’t to be. (I think it is time to take butternut squash off the menu by the way—it’s almost May). The soup of the day was black bean which never has really gotten me excited so I went a different direction and decided to revisit the tarts.

I have a thing for puff pastry which the tarts are made on, and even though the last one I had was a little too pizza-ish in flavor, I thought I would give it another go. This time I had the chicken tart which was puff pastry with a bit of tomato coulis type topping, thin sliced chicken breast, a large round of mozzarella, and pesto and balsamic glaze drizzled about. It was served with a small side salad.
This tart was excellent. Really good. This time the tomato did not overwhelm the other flavors. The chicken was really tender and moist, the cheese added a great texture and richness and the pesto and the balsamic made it for me. These two things were excellent and added just the right amount of unique flavors that let you know you were in a skilled chef’s hands. The pesto did not overpower but just added the fresh green taste and the balsamic gave it the perfect sweet and tart balance. The side salad was basic, and dressed with vinaigrette. Didn’t wow me, but it was fine. But hubby had a couple bites of my tart and was quite jealous.
Hubby had the salmon pot pie which he had quite fond memories of from our first visit 4 years ago. He couldn’t remember if it was the same, but he wasn’t quite as impressed this time. It was a lovely presentation—served in a little cast iron pot it was the creamy salmon mixture with cauliflower, pearl onions at the bottom topped with more of the puff pastry as well as some sort of lemony pesto and artichokes which was a little heavily seasoned for hubby. This was one of those cases where the presentation was beautiful—hubby said he thinks Chef Oakley is one of the best platers in Indy and I tend to agree. But sometimes too many layers can lead to too much going on (wow, never thought I would say that, I do love my layers of flavor). But there was something on top he didn’t care for too much. Once he got down into the salmon part he enjoyed it much more than whatever was on the top. I had a bit of the bottom—it was very creamy and rich and had a nice flavor. But mine was better.

Hubby was also happy to see they had wine by the quartino and not just by the glass. You know, one glass just isn’t quite enough, but 2 is too much for lunch. A quartino is technically a third of a bottle, so just a slightly bigger glass (they call it a glass and a half). I loved in England they had two sizes of glasses everywhere, small and large, and they had lines on the glasses to measure that you got exactly that amount every time. I think it must have been regulated by the government or something. You never got those crappy small pours on the first glass like you so often do around here in order to entice you to order the second glass.

Anyway, it was a great lunch, we sat outside on the sidewalk in full sun and it was gorgeous. The food was good, the service was good, and so was the ambience. I was a little concerned that there was only one other table there at lunch, but maybe they make up for it at dinner.

Oakley’s Bistro
1464 west 86th Street
Indy 46260
317/824-1231 (and by the way, one of the better websites around for local restaurants too. Well done.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Garrison Brunch

Ok, I have to admit, I have been itching to try this place since one of you guys mentioned they have really good fried chicken (I told you, I have a little problem with fried chicken). And because it is known for its Sunday brunch buffet, I always think of it when it’s some sort of brunchy holiday like Easter or Mother’s Day. But on these days, it is nearly impossible to get a reservation. So I decided to just pick a random Sunday, invite the family, and have a nice family brunch on some non-holiday Sunday.

The Garrison is located at Fort Harrison state park in one of the historic buildings. It is a lovely setting and the restaurant overlooks a bit of the golf course. There is a nice deck that had a few tables on it. It was too cold the day we were there, but hopefully they let you sit out there when the weather is warmer.

We made our reservation for 11:00 and at the time, I didn’t realize that is when they open. There were people lined up to get in at 11:00 (without reservations). Slightly annoyingly, they didn’t open at 11:00 promptly, but shortly after. But we had a very large group (16) and they had set up a very nice table with carafes of water, iced tea and lemonade which I thought was a nice touch. They serve other drinks (including mimosas) that you can order from a server.

So the spread here is Midwestern cuisine—a giant buffet of breakfast and lunch items. Breakfast-wise, there were scrambled eggs with cheese, fried potatoes, bacon, sausage, eggs Benedict, French toast and a omelet and waffle making station. Lunch-wise there was fried chicken, fried catfish, pork tenderloin slices, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and au gratin potatoes, a couple of veggies (think corn and green beans), and cherry cobbler as well as a carving station with ham, roast beef, and a whole salmon. There was also a case with warm bread items (biscuits, dinner rolls, etc).

Separately, there was a full fruit and salad bar, and a large table full of various desserts (mainly cakes and pies), and my kids’ favorite part—a little kids cart (at their level) with chicken strips, pizza, more of the mac and cheese, and cookies. They just liked the idea of being able to “help themselves” (sort of) even though I think several of the adult items were the things they actually ate.

So I tried several things, and I will say, I did enjoy the fried chicken. It was especially good when you got it right when they brought it out and it was steaming hot. The dark meat and wings were the best I think because they were slightly moister (although even the breasts weren’t bad). There was nice seasoning on the crust giving it a nice flavor. The catfish was not bad (a few too many bones in my piece). I also enjoyed the eggs Benedict—I was surprised at how runny the yolks still were considering it was a buffet. The flavor was nice, although they were a tad dry (not quite enough Hollandaise). The mashed potatoes were quite creamy and had a bit of cheese, and the mac and cheese wasn’t bad either. The carved roast beef was far too done for me, but the jus served alongside had a nice, purely meaty flavor. The salmon, while fully cooked through, was still quite moist since it was the whole fish. Several people at the table really enjoyed it.

I found the desserts sort of blah, even though the spread looked very impressive. But there were a lot of the same cheesecake with slightly different toppings and a lot of cream pies. I tried several, and none of them really stood out to me. The kids certainly enjoyed them though, even though I was a little nervous about my son with the nut allergy as there were quite a few things that were obviously peanut/nut oriented on the table (and I am pretty sure some of the cookies on the kids cart were peanut butter which was a little scary) But he stuck with chocolate cake and was fine.

All in all, we had a nice meal and my teenage/20 something nephews certainly got their money’s worth! And it is nice to be able to have a big family gathering and people can just get what they want when they want. The food was all a little better than what I expected, but not so good that I crave any one thing. But I am sure at some point we will go back—and maybe a hike through Fort Ben after.

The Garrison
6002 North Post Road
Indy 46216

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