Thursday, July 29, 2010

Caribbean Cravings


************THIS RESTAURANT IS NO LONGER IN BUSINESS*************************


Who knew there was a Puerto Rican restaurant in our midst? A friend whose taste I trust a lot told me about this place quite awhile ago and I put it on the list then, but for some reason had a hard time motivating myself to go. This is another place on the East side of town, where I am starting to notice there is quite a nice little cluster of good ethnic restaurants, much like the West side of town.

This is a little hole in the wall kind of place for sure. The dining area is nothing to look at, metal folding chairs and tables, but it is clean, and as you walk up to the front with its steam table of the items for sale, you can see this food is being made from scratch. In fact if you peek around the corner, you can see the cook cooking up lots of things in what appears to be a teeny tiny kitchen. They have different specials each day. We were there on a Wednesday when one of the specials is “Pollo en fricase” or chicken stew which is what I got. But what they call “stew” is actually whole legs or thighs in a nice reddish brown sauce with soft potatoes cooked alongside. You also get rice (either white or Spanish rice with peas), beans, and fried green plantains. I didn’t know until after we left you can get fried ripe plantains or fried green plantains or else I would have tried the green ones. I like the sound of that—described on the menu as “crunchy” instead of “sweet.”
Anyway, I got two chicken legs in my portion of “stew.” They were wonderfully tender and juicy and flavored throughout with the sauce they were cooked in. I would guess the sauce had onions, cumin, oregano and maybe some seasoned salt and garlic as well. This was one that had flavors that were hard for me to pick out I guess because this is not a type of food I am overly familiar with. The sliced potatoes were slow cooked along with the chicken and were nice a soft and had soaked up lots of the sauce as well. But I just couldn’t get over how tender the chicken was. The skin was still on, but because it was slow cooked, it was not crispy at all and actually sort of slid right off the chicken as you ate it. But you didn’t need it at all for flavoring as you ate (although I am sure it gave the stew a very nice flavor as it cooked). Since the texture of the skin was sort of gooey, I just pulled it off and skipped it. Didn’t miss it at all.

Hubby had beef ribs that were also slow roasted cooked in a similar, but more meaty flavored sauce. The meat just sort of fell off the bone which was nice, although I have to say, I liked my chicken better (even hubby agreed with that I would say). He got the Spanish rice which he really liked. I had a bite and it had a nice taste, but with a sauced based dish like this, I sort of like getting white rice with mine to really get the flavor of the sauce, and not the rice. Although honestly, you barely need the rice with those yummy potatoes I had.

The plantains were just ok. They were cooked fresh and were smoking hot (in temperature) when we got them, but they just seemed kind of dull next to all the flavors of the other dishes. Like I said, I would certainly be interested to try the green plantains next time. That really intrigues me. And looking over the menu, there will certainly be a next time because on Thursdays they have “bistec encebollado” (or beefsteak with sautéed onions) which is something I have had at Peruvian places and really enjoyed. They also have items on the menu like “Camarones al ajillo” (shrimp in garlic sauce) which I can only assume is cooked to order since I didn’t see it and it is not listed as a particular day’s special. The other regular offering on the day we were there was “Pechuga de pollo ajillo” which is chicken breast strips with garlic butter which also looked quite intriguing. According to the menu they also do Jamaican patties and Puerto Rican fritters known as Alcapurrias… oh so many things to try….

Caribbean Cravings
4632 N. Post
Indy 46226
317/897-4241

Monday, July 26, 2010

Road Trip: Restaurant Tallent

Bloomington holds a lot of fond memories for me because I did my undergraduate degree there a long time ago. Even then, although I could rarely afford it, Bloomington had a unique food culture with a lot of interesting and independent restaurants. Occasionally I would get to go to a few of them back then, but now that I am older and can afford to eat out a bit more, I always like going down to Bloomington.
On this trip, our destination was Restaurant Tallent. Hubby had not yet been and wanted to go and I had promised that I would give it another try in a season that was more up my alley. Well as far as the seasonal ingredients being used on the menu, I was in heaven. How can you really go wrong with lots of tomatoes and corn? I had a hard time choosing.

We started with something that I think was new to Tallent’s menu—a “snack.” These are just that—smaller appetizers priced at $5.00 per portion. There were two or three on the menu but we went with one that was a special. It was salmon tartare described as having citrus in varying ways—including citrus vinaigrette. We assumed that as a snack, and for $5, it was going to be very small. It was actually quite a decent size, and I could have eaten something like this for my regular appetizer. The salmon was good, but it didn’t have enough citrus for me to make it stand out. There was quite a bit of fresh arugula on top that was so peppery and spicy you only wanted a little bit in each bite or it overpowered the other flavors. The salmon also wasn’t served with any crunchy bit to put the salmon on—some chips or crackers would have been nice.

I then had the foie gras poutine. Apparently, a poutine is a dish originated in Quebec consisting of French fries, cheese curds and covered in brown gravy (who knew? Not me.) The Tallent version was housemade French Fries (which were crunchy and salty and delicious) topped with goat cheese, a small piece of seared foie gras, a sunny side up quail egg, and covered in a chanterelle and corn gravy. This was my favorite dish of the night. The liver was cooked perfectly and the goat cheese gave that requisite zing that I look for to balance the complete decadence that was the other ingredients in this dish. I really enjoyed the chanterelles in the gravy although the corn overall this night was a little disappointing in its lack of flavor.

Hubby had the BLT risotto as his starter. The risotto itself was very tomato-ey (cooked with a tomato sauce)—and a few bites were a little al dente for our taste, but the drizzle of basil aioli on top was a really nice touch. The best parts for me were the little bits of fried green tomato scattered throughout. They were just little dices that were fried and were a nice textural component. There were also dices of bacon mixed throughout which I would say were probably hubby’s favorite part. All in all this dish was good, but didn’t really wow us.

For my entrée, I had the lobster roll. I am a sucker for a good lobster roll and as soon as I saw it on the menu, I knew there was no other choice for me. The sandwich was served with a side of fried green tomato slices, housemade chips, and an ear of corn on the cob. Sadly, this course just did not come together for me at all. The best things about it were the bread that the lobster roll was in and the chips. The bread was really crunchy and tasted like it had been coated in butter and then toasted. It was really yummy. The chips were just really thin crunchy housemade chips and were tasty too (they have a “snack” featuring these chips and truffle dip which I bet is good—and I bet those chips would be great with the salmon snack we had.) Sadly though, the filling of the lobster roll just didn’t excite me that much. The lobster seemed to be cooked properly, but it just didn’t have a lot of flavor. It just seemed like mayo and lobster and celery. The lobster flavor just didn’t come through that much and there really didn’t seem to be much seasoning. I don’t know, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it was just okay. The fried green tomatoes were cooked well in cornmeal, as fried green tomatoes usually are, but they needed some salt, and really, in my opinion could have used a drizzle of something to go over them (that basil aioli from earlier maybe?). Honestly, I was surprised they were on the side of the sandwich. For some reason, I thought they might actually be a part of the sandwich. The corn on the cob just didn’t taste good to me which is a shame for July in Indiana. And I have been having great corn on the cob from the Farmer’s Market around here. Not sure if it was past its prime or just a little overcooked.

Hubby had the Indiana ribeye with roasted new potatoes, summer vegetable salad and blue cheese. The ribeye was cut into slices on the place over the potatoes that were also sliced and the whole dish was covered in a sort of slaw of veggies mixed with blue cheese. First of all, the portion was very large. Even hubby couldn’t eat it all. He also thought the way it was served (sliced on the plate) he felt like they were trying to make it appear like a filet. The potatoes were nicely flavored and while hubby enjoyed the salad, he would have preferred it on the side—he sort of liked eating it separately. It was all good, but again, just not amazing.

Even though we didn’t finish our entrées, we decided to get a dessert anyway, and we were really glad we did. We split the blueberry tart with sweet corn ice cream. This was outstanding. What a great mix of flavors with the blueberries, the streusel topping and the sweet, yet slightly savory ice cream. This was a beautiful taste of summer.

All in all, we had a nice night away even though our meal didn’t blow us away. When we are in the mood for a road trip again though, Tallent will probably not be our first choice. Tell me, if you were getting a night away and a meal outside of Indy, where would you go?

Restaurant Tallent
208 North Walnut
Bloomington, IN 47404
812/330-9801
www.restauranttallent.com

Restaurant Tallent on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Taste- Revisit

Well, we did it. Well sort of. We managed to go to Taste for lunch and order something different. Ok, so we ordered a BALT too, but we got an entirely new sandwich for us as well, the “Italian Grinder.” If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you know how much I love Taste. And if I had to pick a favorite lunch spot (and the one you will most often see me eating lunch), it would be Taste. I was just trying to explain to a friend about why Taste is better than so many other sandwich type places. It isn’t just that they use really fresh ingredients (which they do), it is the dressings and sauces that they put with the sandwiches that make them really special.

The Grinder, for example, was made up of imported mortadella, coppa, genoa salami, provolone, lettuce and olive tapenade. The meat is top notch yes, and delicious. But what makes this sandwich for me is the olive tapenade. The sandwich without it would be a very good sandwich, but once you add the salty tanginess of the olives, you have something that is truly special. Taste just has a way of knowing this and everything they do seems perfectly balanced.

We still got a BALT which is bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato sandwich too. The bacon is warm, the rest of the ingredients are cold, and it is a perfect combo. They add their basil aioli (which is the same thing they serve with the frites) and it sort of melts in with the bacon. Again, you get the richness of the avocado, the saltiness of the bacon, and the tanginess of the aioli and tomato. Still my favorite sandwich ever.

We also had the pomme frites because it seems as if I can no longer go in there without getting them. They are also some of my favorite French Fries in the City. They are the thinner variety, nice and crisp, served simply with salt and a bit of parsley and with a side of the basil aioli for dipping. It is a very generous portion, enough for at least 2 people to share.

I mentioned in a recent post that I also love their deviled eggs and often get one of them as well. I think they have basically mixed more of that yummy aioli in with the egg yolk. They don’t have the sweetness that maybe traditional deviled eggs have from sweet relish, they are more of a salty take on them including capers in the mix.

If you haven’t been to Taste, you are missing out. This is what a sandwich should be.
Taste Cafe & Marketplace
5164 N College Ave
Indy 46205
317-925-2233
http://www.tastecafeandmarketplace.com/  

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Blog Policies - Revisit

I try not to write too many of these kinds of posts—my blog is about restaurant reviews and that is what I love to do. However, every once in awhile it seems like a good idea to reiterate my policies, both the ones that apply to me, and the ones that apply to comments I post (or don’t post).

My review policy is pretty simple. I go to a restaurant and I write a review. Because no one pays for my meals but me, I usually only go to a place once before writing a review. I don’t do reviews for free food or anything else. I am totally open to being asked to review a restaurant either by people in the restaurant industry or by my readers. I always take these suggestions seriously and I almost always add them to my list to try. However, I never announce my visits in any way and I try to be as anonymous as possible.

One of the best things about my blog, in my opinion, is the interaction I have with people from Indy about restaurants and food (and even with people from out of town who often email me and ask for suggestions). I love hearing from you all, whether you agree or disagree with me. In fact, this great open dialogue is one of the main reasons I continue to do this blog (that and my passion for food and my love of Indianapolis). However, I have to have certain rules for commenting and they are posted, as always, on the home page of my blog. They are:
1. No personal attacks;
2. No advertisements;
3. No offensive language;
4. No legal allegations against anyone (i.e. labor, health regulations, etc.) unless you have a link to back it up (i.e. to a pending suit, health violation, etc.).

The “no personal attack” rule applies to attacks on me or anyone else. So if you want to write a comment or send me an email calling names, feel free. Express yourself. Please just don’t be surprised when I don’t publish it. Also, if you post a comment about something like a restaurant making you sick, or an employee doing some illegal activity, I probably won’t publish that either, except under very special circumstances (see above).

I love hearing from all of you, and I love what this blog has become. I am proud of it, and I hope many of you continue to participate in whatever way feels good to you and that you continue to enjoy reading my very personal take on restaurants around our fine City.

Cheers,
Erin

Monday, July 19, 2010

Keltie's

Dinner at Keltie’s started out in a very positive way—with a hostess who was almost giddy with excitement that we had never been there before. She told us, “I love first timers!” I have to say her enthusiasm, and the fact that the restaurant was quite busy at fairly early hour midweek, made me optimistic that this could be a great meal.

We waited a bit to get our drink orders taken, and then when the drinks were delivered, our server quickly rushed through the specials, and explained, “There is no catch of the day. The fish didn’t come in. But there is salmon and other stuff on the menu.” Probably not what you would call the most polished service for sure. There were several delays, including one that annoyed me most, waiting until I was almost done with my entrée to be brought my second glass of wine.

Anyway, as for the food, like I said, there were some high points (and some not so high points). We both ordered a salad to start—I just went with the toss salad which was greens with shredded cheddar cheese, tomatoes and croutons. (We just went for salads instead of appetizers because the server informed us in advance that the desserts were made in house and were all really good.) All the dressings were house made, and I chose the blue cheese. The dressing was served on the side and was really good—had nice crumbles of blue cheese throughout—and not just like 2 giant chunks like you get sometimes. They flavor was very good. Hubby thought the same, as he had the wedge salad, although he had to ask for some extra dressing because there was so little actually on the salad. The croutons on my salad were kind of tasty—sort of like deep fried croutons. Darker than normal and really extra crunchy. I liked them. The shredded cheddar did nothing for the salad, but the worst thing about both of our salads was the tomato wedges served on both. Half of the tomato was pure white. No one should have sent those out the door. Especially in the summer in Indiana.

We went with what the server described as the signature dishes of the place. Hubby with the Beef Wellington and I had the “Beggars Purse.” I liked the Beggar’s Purse. It was basically puff pastry that was filled with what they called chicken salad. It was tender chunks of chicken in a thick chicken-y gravy kind of sauce (according to the menu with blue cheese as well although I didn’t taste it). It was served with a mustard sweet chile sauce on top and cranberry compote around the edge of the plate. The puff pastry was nice and flaky and I enjoyed a bit of the mustard sauce with it. I think the cranberry compote pushed the sweet factor over the edge a bit though and I didn’t really eat much of it. Maybe if it was indeed more blue cheesy, that would have cut the sweetness more. But all in all, I enjoyed this dish, even if it sort of reminded me of what you might be served in a country club in the 80s.

Hubby’s Beef Wellington did not fare as well. For some reason, his puff pastry wrapping the beef was very soft and didn’t have the flaky crispness that my dish had. There was also an onion marmalade on top that was also a little on the sweet side for us. Actually, hubby ended up just pulling the meat out of the shell and eating it. On the bright side, it was cooked nicely medium rare.

We went with the bread pudding for dessert. It was very tasty and aptly described by our server as being like a free form cinnamon roll with whipped cream and caramel sauce. It was nice and soft and we really enjoyed it. The desserts were certainly big enough to share.

Sadly, while the food had its high points, the service the rest of the evening left us with a less than enthusiastic feeling about Keltie’s when we left. I appreciate the fact that they are going out of their way to make everything in house, but there seems to be a lot less attention spent on some items versus others. However, the interior is warm, and sometimes it is nice to order some old school dishes like these (although I would be interested to see what the seafood specials would be if they had them). If they can get the service issues worked out, and maybe just give the food going out a little more attention, this could be a worthwhile stop when you’re in the mood for a little drive and something a little old school.

Keltie’s
110 South Union Street
Westfield, IN 46074
317/867-3525
www.kelties.com

Kelties on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mudbug’s Cajun Café

I think I have mentioned that hubby went to college in New Orleans, so whenever he hears about a Cajun style restaurant, he gets all antsy to try it. Mudbug’s was no exception. And again, a beautiful day, outside seating, and we were there.

They have quite a few things on the menu (and will happily give you free samples) so I was really glad to see the “pick 3 combo” for lunch priced at $8.95. I ordered the shrimp po’boy sandwich, the shrimp étouffée and the Chicken Courtbouillon with a side of potato salad. Hubby ordered the shrimp po’boy as well, and the red beans and rice and crawfish casserole.

They really give you quite a bit of food for the money. The po’boy option is half a sandwich. I enjoyed the sandwich quite a bit, mainly because of the remoulade sauce. It was pleasantly spicy with a tangy flavor that was nice with the deep fried shrimp. The shrimp were breaded and fried. They were not bad, but I can’t say they tasted as fresh as the ones I have had elsewhere. Apparently po’boys are also all about the bread in New Orleans, and hubby said while he thought the bread was good, it wasn’t really authentic—it was too dense he said. It was like a toasted hoagie bun, which I thought was good, but then again I have sadly never had a po’boy in New Orleans (yet).

They actually brought me the crawfish casserole the first time (which is pictured to the right in my combo). I switched it out for the shrimp étouffée I had originally ordered. I was really glad I did because I think the shrimp étouffée was my favorite thing (pictured below). Étouffée is sort of like a seafood (or meat) stew that is traditionally made with a roux base, which is flour cooked with fat (butter or oil) until it browns. This dish was a nice reddish brown color and had a very buttery flavor. You could see various veggies in there (celery, onion) and the shrimp, which were of the very small variety. I would have appreciated some nice big chunks of perfect shrimp, but the flavor of this was so yummy, I was still happy. And the shrimp, although little, were not tough at all. It was all served over rice.

I also had the Chicken Courtbouillon which is also a stew containing similar ingredients veggie wise, but with chunks of chicken, and the stew was a tomato base (and again over rice). I liked that you could really taste the freshness of the tomato flavor, but the chicken tended to be a bit tough and this one just didn’t do it for me as much.

The potato salad was just too bland—I was hoping for a more refreshing side dish knowing that all the things on my plate would be so rich, but I would take a pass on this next time. It did seem homemade, but it was just missing something for me.

Hubby also had the Crawfish casserole which was a creamy rice casserole with some bits of crawfish mixed into it along with veggies and cheese. I tasted comforting and homey, but it was so rich I couldn’t really eat more than a couple of forkfuls. They also serve a nice buttered piece of French bread across the top to eat along with the stews.
The red beans and rice was the last item, and I actually didn’t get any of these. Hubby said they were good. Nothing amazing, but gave you what you needed for a red beans and rice fix.

As we ate, as we often do, we discussed what we would order again on a next visit. About this time, one of the servers came out and told us that on Mondays and Thursdays at lunch they offer a “pick 2” lunch. That would be ideal for me size-wise. And I think we agreed we would both get the same thing. Half of a shrimp po’boy and the shrimp étouffée. And next time, we hope to have room to try the beignets.

Mudbug’s Cajun Café
20 west Main Street
Carmel, IN 46032
www.mudbugscajuncafe.com

Kelties on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 12, 2010

Recess- Revisit

You know I like Recess, I have written it up already a couple of times before. I love the fact that they change the menu every day and highlight what is really fresh and seasonal. We were celebrating a sort of personal milestone and it was hubby’s choice. He wanted to be guaranteed a good meal so Recess it was. And I figured since they change the menu every day, every review is a new one right?

As usual, I really enjoyed the meal, although this time there was a course that I didn’t care for—the salad course. This is sort of unusual for me because unique salads are something I think Recess excels at, and something that usually makes me really happy. And actually I can’t say it wasn’t unusual, I just didn’t like it. It was broccoli and cauliflower florets which were raw, a bit of tomato and onion all tossed with a ginger cilantro vinaigrette. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the ingredients inherently, I am just not a fan of raw broccoli and cauliflower. It was just was a little too crunchy for me—especially the cauliflower which were even larger pieces. More of the tomato would have helped I think, but all in all, it just wasn’t my fave (and the course I didn’t get a picture of either).

The next course was amazing. It was house made pasta (fettuccine size) with chanterelle and oyster mushrooms, fava beans, and peas in a thyme nage. It was a rich dish, and the mushrooms were wonderfully flavored with the nage (think light butter sauce). The peas and favas gave a nice snap to the dish and the pasta was perfectly prepared. It was sprinkled with a bit of parmesan. (My picture was after a bite or so, so that is why the plate does not look perfect). The one downside, even for me, was that it was a small portion—just enough to give you a taste for it, and want more. But I have to say, this was another example of a local chef making fresh pasta with interesting ingredients that puts to shame a lot of the local Italian places.

The next course was either wild king salmon or local beef tenderloin (Fisher Farms) served with a corn cake, collard greens, and bacon zucchini relish. Wow, this one was great as well. Hubby had the salmon and I had the beef so we could try both. I would be hard pressed to pick which one was better. The steak was perfectly prepared and tender, and the salmon was crispy on the edges and perfectly cooked as well. I loved the sides also; the collards had a great flavor, especially mixed with the bacony zucchini. All the veggies were also beautifully cooked and flavored. And the corn cake. It was my favorite accompaniment. Sweet with nice pieces of fresh corn. And corn so far this season has been out of the world for me. There was a nice drizzle of a savory vinaigrette around the plate that just perfectly blended the sweetness of the corn, the saltiness of the bacon flavor and the slight bitterness of the greens, with its touch of acidity.

The dessert course was called a goat cheese croquette—it was sort of like a square of a firm goat cheese flavor panna cotta that was coated in crushed pistachios and served with marinated cherries and blueberries. I loved this course too. The pistachios added a nice crunchy texture to the silky smooth cheese and the fruit, while sweet, was not overly so. Now I love cheese as a dessert in itself, but this was a dessert that could make a cheese lover or a sweets lover happy.

I also really enjoy the low key, yet extremely professional service at Recess. Everyone is laid back, but they know what they are talking about and bring your wine before your food, change your silverware as needed and just generally do the job of a restaurant with ease. It makes you feel like you are amongst professionals, and I really appreciate this.

Recess
4907 N. College Ave
Indy 46205
317/925-7529
www.recessindy.com

Recess on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 9, 2010

Keystone Deli

When I asked everyone for suggestions in Indy for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, a couple of you suggested the Keystone Deli. Going over there, I had no idea what to expect based on the sign out front of a strip mall off Keystone and 54th which simply reads, “Deli.” When I walked in, I remembered I had been here once before, a long, long time ago, right after I had moved to California and was back for a visit. Like, nearly 20 years ago I think. Anyhow, the first thing you notice on the inside is the wear and tear on the place lets you know it has been around for at least that long… Let’s just say, it probably would be a good fit for the “dive” part of that show. The next thing I noticed was there was a small cafeteria line up at the front, so I assumed that was what you do, get your tray, go through the line and order your food. Which is what we did. At the end of the line I noticed menus though with a wider selection of items (including a lot of breakfast items) and as I sat down with my tray, I saw people come in and sit down with menus and get waited on. So, you can go either way at this place I guess.

Anyway, we went through the line and got what looked best, which turned out to be fried chicken (seriously, I didn’t know going in that this was going to be a fried chicken review). So I went with white meat and hubby did dark. I got mashed potatoes and fried cabbage as my sides and hubby got mashed potatoes with gravy and spinach. They had what looked like it could be decent mac and cheese but I didn’t want so much starch on this particular day. Anyhow, the chicken had a nice crispy, somewhat flavorful exterior, but the breast was too dry. This is often the case and I tend to order thighs instead because of this problem, but they were low on them so I went with the breast. The wing was better because it wasn’t so dried out. Although the chicken suffered from a common problem of cafeteria food---it had been sitting a bit, so it wasn’t all that warm either. The potatoes were fine, nothing really bad or good about them. I think my favorite part of the meal was the fried cabbage. It was tender but had a great flavor to it (I think those big hunks of bacon helped in this aspect). I have had several examples of watery bland cooked cabbage lately. This was the best I have had to date. Oh, I also picked up a deviled egg near the check out (another weakness I have—really good deviled eggs. Man, you can tell I am from the Midwest huh?) Sadly, the deviled egg was not for me. Way too much sweet relish in there. I like mine more salty I guess. (Taste has some kick butt deviled eggs by the way).

Hubby echoed my sentiments on his dishes—he thought everything was ok, but that there were better options for fried chicken. And his spinach tasted remarkably like frozen. Nothing special going on there. I was sort of bummed that I didn’t know about the menu ordering. Some of the food coming out looked pretty good (particularly the breakfast items). So I think if I go back, it will be for breakfast and not for fried chicken.

Keystone Deli
2344 East 53rd Street
Indy 46220
317/255-2288

Monday, July 5, 2010

Buda Lounge

**THIS RESTAURANT HAS MOVED**
This place is a cigar bar. That is the first thing you should know about it because when you step inside (as I did for about 15 seconds) that is what you smell. Now I am sure some of you may be into cigars, but I am not. Not only does the smell give me a near instant headache, but it would certainly ruin the flavors of any food for me after any length of time. So, luckily they have a teeny outside seating area at the Buda Lounge, or this review might never have come to pass. (My brief look inside showed a cute little bar with a warm interior though). And I think they will reserve a table for you outside if you call and ask for one.

So the BFF and I sat out on the sidewalk on what was possibly one of the nicest nights of the summer to date (no humidity). The menu includes lots of appetizer type items as well as sushi rolls. We sort of planned on doing a tapas style meal, ordering several of the appetizers to share for our dinner. The portions here are very generous, so it is very easy to share things.
We ordered everything at the same time, but the staff did a good job of staggering the items at a good pace which was nice, especially since the outdoor tables are small, and the plates are generally on the large side. The service in general, was exceptionally friendly and perfectly attentive—they were there when we needed them, but not annoying us.

The first thing that was delivered was the Buda salad with seared Ahi tuna. The salad was mixed greens with a creamy ginger dressing, with Ahi tuna that was seared with a sesame crust. It was still basically raw in the middle (which is what I was expecting). It was topped with tempura coated strings of what appeared to be carrot and onions. The salad was really tasty and quite a large portion. We were splitting it between the two of us, but it could easily go further. The tuna was good quality and I liked the crunchy flavor of the seared edges which had the flavor of the sesame seeds as well as a salty kick. The leaves were well dressed and I really liked the crunchy strings on top. They made me regret that we hadn’t ordered the shrimp and lobster tempura that is on the menu. The tempura was perfectly light and crunchy and added a nice texture to the salad.

Next we were brought the crab cakes. The crab cakes are certainly very unique. I have never had any like them. They are fried rice cakes, with some crab mixed in, that are then tempura fried and served with some lump crab on top as well as a bit of fish roe. There was a red sauce drizzled across the top which was a little bit spicy, but was overall more on the sweet side. Almost like an Asian inspired barbeque sauce. It was served atop a mango and pepper relish. This dish was almost too sticky and sweet for me, but it was a beautiful presentation. Actually, all of the dishes were visually very attractive.

At the same time, we were also served the lobster and shrimp spring rolls. There were actually four in an order (we each had taken one before I snapped the picture). The rolls were nice and crispy, but the filling was a mince of the seafood, and I guess I was sort of expecting large chunks. They were also served with the typical sweet and sour sauce that is often served with crispy spring rolls, and this may have just been a little too much sweet for me all at once (again, I wished I had gone for the shrimp and lobster tempura).

The final dish was probably our favorite. It was described as Chinese dumplings and they were filled with a pork mixture and served with a soy based dipping sauce. Maybe it was just the fact that I was a little “sweeted” out, but these tasted really good to me and had the savory balance I was craving. When we ordered them, I was expecting steamed dumplings, or sautéed ones anyway, but our very friendly server suggested we get them “extra crispy,” as she thought they were best that way. We went for it and they were very good, and crispy.

All in all, I don’t think Buda Lounge expects people to eat the way we did, ordering apps as tapas. They are quite large to do this, and the middle two had such similar flavors, that I had wished I had gotten something different. But the food is beautiful, and certainly unique in Indy to a certain extent, and hey if you are into cigars, this may be a great spot for you.

Buda Lounge
429 Massachusetts Ave
Indy 46204
317/602-3643
www.budalounge.com

Thursday, July 1, 2010

96th Street Steakburgers

Ok, so the other day when I posted my review on Five Guys, and several of you commented that you thought that it was actually 96 Street Steakburgers that was more like In ‘n Out Burger, hubby declared that that was where we were going for lunch. So who was I to argue?

Well, there are certainly similarities in the way things are done there to In ‘n Out Burger. You order at the register, your food is made to order, and they call your number when it is ready. They serve their burgers in the little paper wrapper just like In ‘n Out (although without the Bible verses), and the fries are fresh cut potatoes which are served in nearly identically shaped containers. The menu is simple—burgers, a grilled cheese, a hot dog and I think chicken fingers (which is actually twice the stuff they have on the In ‘n Out menu) and they serve their burgers (singles or doubles) with a set grouping of toppings (lettuce, tomato, pickle, special sauce), although you are free to change and add things if you want. The burgers are made from fresh, never frozen, beef. They do, however, serve beer at 96th Street, which is something I don’t think you will ever find at an In ‘n Out. Actually it is kind of funny that the California chain is the one with the Bible verses and the Indiana restaurant in the one with beer, but hey, I am not complaining.

So as for the burgers, they are good (that one on the left is my son's plain cheeseburger with his first bite taken out--he asked me to take that picture). The meat is high quality and so are the toppings. They do have a similarity to In ‘n Out, more so than Five Guys, and I preferred the size of the 96th Street burger. It was smaller and thinner and had the crispy edges that I like on a burger. The buns are nice and soft. The “special sauce” tasted similar to thousand island dressing. I think I have told you all before that I have a preference for the thinner type burger in general, so this would be more up my alley than Five Guys.

The fries at 96th Street are also freshly made, and are thinner than the ones at Five Guys, they are cooked darker, but they are not overly crispy (and full disclosure we got this to go, just as we did with Five Guys). I tend to like thin fries, but I like them to be real crispy because they tend to go soft a lot faster than fatter fries. So on the fries aspect, I think I would choose Five Guys. They both have the fresh potato-ey taste from being freshly made, but the Five Guys fries traveled better. At some point, I need to do an in store taste of both. I think though, I would be more likely to return to 96th Street based on the burgers—even though I like the fries better elsewhere, I don’t think fries alone will get me in somewhere when the burger didn’t wow me. I don’t know that the fries particularly remind me of In ‘n Out though, other than the container that they are served in. They are lighter and a little bit fatter than 96th Street.

Overall though, 96th Street is a good find for me, and a decent alternative to my favorite burgers at Workingman’s Friend and Steak n Shake. And hey, they have beer!

96th Street Steakburgers
4715 East 96th Street
Indy, 46240
317/844.6351
www.96thstreetsteakburgers.com