Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tiger Lily

It is hard for me to convince hubby to try a new Chinese place because it seems like we are often disappointed—so many of them seem so similarly mediocre. But we were intrigued by some recommendations I have had for Tiger Lily, so we decided to give it a try. And while many of the menu items are fairly standard American/Chinese fare, they also offer several options highlighting other Asian cuisines such as Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese influenced dishes.

The first thing you notice is that, although from the outside, it looks like your basic strip mall restaurant, on the inside it is more modern and warm (lots of dark color inside making it feel like it could be a place you might not mind having dinner as well). The next thing I noticed was how friendly the staff was, at first to us, and then to everyone who came in. And for a restaurant that has only been open a few weeks, there appears to be a crowd of lunchtime regulars that are greeted like old friends.
Hubby was intrigued by one of the specials listed for the day, a seafood pancake. As we looked over the lunch menus, he asked our server about it and she explained that it was their special batter topped with eggs mixed with various seafood and scallions and served with soy vinaigrette on the side. He quickly ordered it as we decided what to get for our main dishes. The seafood pancake was interesting and quite tasty. I have had crunchy green onion pancakes in Chinese restaurants before, but this one was more almost like a frittata. It had a thin pancake type crust, with the eggs and other ingredients on top. The bites with the shrimp were our favorite, the shrimp being tender and flavorful. I had one bite that was a little too fishy for me, but other than that, this dish really grew on me and I probably ended up liking this one the best of everything we had. It is certainly large enough to share, and it was probably a bit much along with a lunch (which come with a spring roll and salad), but we were just in the mood to try something new.

The salad that is served with each lunch entrée is just a chopped iceberg salad with a fairly spicy ginger dressing very lightly drizzled on top. There was no dressing at all on the bottom of the salad, so I just ate a few bites off the top. I was pleasantly surprised by the spiciness of the dressing and was hopeful that the dishes we had would be well seasoned as well.

For my lunch entrée, I had the Tiger Lily beef, which was designated as one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. I thought the quality of the ingredients in every dish we had was very high. The beef in this dish very tender and had clearly been marinated for quite awhile. I found the “sweet soy sauce” a little too sweet and had to add some regular soy sauce to balance it a bit. I had wished I had ordered one of the day’s other specials which was Bulgogi and was similar meat but described as spicy. I think with the quality of meat and a different sauce, it could have been quite good. The broccoli surrounding the beef was way too underdone to be enjoyable (not being a huge fan of raw broccoli). The lunches come with either fried or steamed rice (I got steamed) and I really enjoyed the rice. It was just the right amount of sticky that I enjoy. The little spring roll that came along with was a little underdone inside and thus, a bit gummy. I did appreciate the fact that they brought you bottles of the housemade sweet and sour sauce and hot mustard for use on the spring rolls. Because I am not a fan of sweet and sour sauce, I liked not having to see a dish of it go to waste.

Hubby had the Szechuan Chicken which was designated as one of the spicy items on the menu. This entrée was disappointing. It was white meat chicken with a lot of onions, celery, carrots and mushrooms that were stir fried in a “Szechuan chili sauce.” Again, the ingredients were high quality, but there was hardly any flavor to it and by no means would I call it anything close to spicy. We added soy sauce just to give it some flavor and that is not a sign of a good dish to me.

There are a lot of things to like about Tiger Lily as far as the atmosphere and the quality and freshness of ingredients being used. Unfortunately, the finished dishes were not one of the things sticking out to me in this regard. This is a place that I will probably try again however, if for no other reason than to see if all these glowing reviews I keep hearing and reading can be substantiated. But next time I will certainly order differently and try more of the “spicy” items.

Tiger Lily Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 27, 2010

Matteo's Ristorante Italiano

With all the ringing endorsements for Matteo's the other day here on my blog, how could I not get over there and give it a try? As I often do with Italian, I invited several of my family members to go with us so I could try lots of things and because they tend not to be as jaded as I am about Italian food in Indy.

Matteo’s is in Noblesville right on the square—it is a very quaint and attractive location both outside and in. The interior feels warm and like it has been there a long time, although not in a cheesy kind of way. The room is much larger than I would expect from the outside and features tin ceilings and décor that makes you feel like you are in a nice restaurant, but not so nice that anyone would feel uncomfortable regardless of what they are wearing. Our server was exceptionally friendly and helpful, and although told us at one point she was one of the newer servers there, she seemed confident in her job, yet still easy going with us.

We started with several appetizers to share, the fried calamari, the pizza margherita, and the olive “all’ascolana.” The calamari was your typical fried calamari with both rings and leggy pieces and was served with marinara for dipping. I found the rings to be too chewy to be enjoyable, but the leggy bits were better. Overall though, this is not something I would order again.

The pizza was pretty good—everyone at the table seemed to enjoy it. Everyone also commented on how large it was (it was really like a regular pizza size and it had quite a bit of cheese and sauce). I don’t think anyone ate more than one piece though, because if you did, you very well might not want anything else. There were six of us so it was a great thing to try with that large of a group, but for fewer people, unless you want to make it your meal with a salad, it would probably be too much. It was a homemade thin crust pizza that had been grilled and topped with marinara, cheese and a bit of basil. The crust was nice and crunchy. There was more cheese on there than I expected, but again, it was quite enjoyable.

Finally we had the olive “all’ascolana” which were large green olives stuffed with ground veal and deep fried and served with Alfredo sauce. My Dad and I were both intrigued with these (I get my love of green olives from him, and my love of black olives from Mom) because we both love olives so much and this was an unusual preparation. The thing I liked about them is they were almost like a meatball in some ways, but the olive kept them a bit moister and gave them the salty/tangy kick you get from an olive. If I am not mistaken, there was a bit of cheese stuffed in there with the veal as well. You definitely needed something to dip them in, but I am not sure if the Alfredo was the right choice. A little too rich for me. These were overall quite interesting, and I enjoyed them because they were different, but would I order them again? I am not sure.

We all got different entrées, and I tried as many of them as I could. I had the seafood special which was Corvina fish served over seasoned rice with a light cream sauce, artichokes, olives and tomatoes. Corvina is a fairly firm white fish. In this presentation it was pan seared and was cooked very well. It was tender and flaky and I really enjoyed it. The cream sauce was light and buttery and not over the top—I loved the flavor of the artichokes and olives and tomatoes to get that acidic kick that I always enjoy, but it was all well balanced with the slight richness of the sauce. I liked that large high quality olives were used in the sauce, not just green and black salad olives. These were large kalamatas and maybe cerignolas? Anyway, they were large enough; they had to be cut in half in the preparation, which I also liked because you got just the right amount in each bite. I didn’t eat a lot of the rice (I am not a huge rice pilaf person) but what I did have was nice and tender and mildly seasoned.

Hubby had the “Tortellini Matteo’s” which apparently has won some local awards throughout the years for best pasta in Indy. These were your classic tortellini stuffed with cheese, and covered in a light cream sauce with ham, mushrooms, onion and parmesan cheese. Hubby was very pleased with these and found them very tasty. I had several bites of his as well and liked the ham and onion flavor imparted in the sauce, and the fact that the sauce just lightly coated all the pasta, and that it wasn’t totally swimming in it. Just enough to give it a nice flavor and texture, but not overwhelm the cheese flavor in the pasta. It was hearty and good. Hubby thought it was one of the best tortellini dishes he has had in Indy, but I don’t know that I would say it was the best pasta in Indy.

My sister, who was sitting on the opposite side of me, had the filet mignon baked in puff pastry and served with a garlic, roasted pine nut and gorgonzola cream sauce. The steak was cooked very nicely medium rare, although she ordered it medium. She didn’t care, because she likes both (and I was happy because I prefer medium rare). The steak was nice. I liked the puff pastry as well, the bite I had had a decent crispiness to it. The sauce being served on the side was probably for the best, or the whole thing would have gotten too soggy. I only got a bit of the sauce on my bite, but my sister said it had a decent garlic and gorgonzola flavor to it.

My Mom had another one of the day’s specials that sounded very intriguing and I was glad she got it. It was crepes stuffed with pears and asiago cheese and covered in a very light cheese sauce. It was very unique, and while at first it almost sounded like a dessert to me, once I tasted it, it still had a soft savory flavor to it. It was quite delicate, but really quite good. I don’t know if I could have eaten a whole order of it myself, but I certainly enjoyed the bites I had.

My Dad had the veal picatta which I probably had the least amount of. He enjoyed it and said he thought the portion was very generous and that the lemon sauce was nice. We both right away missed the capers that were not present, and I think they would have made this dish better. The bite I had was okay, but probably my least favorite thing on the table. The sauce had the right buttery/lemony flavor, but some capers would have brought it together.

Of course, even though we had had way too much food, we had to try dessert, mainly because we had seen other servers making bananas foster tableside and we all agreed we needed to try it. The lady who made it (the hostess maybe?) was quite charming and explained that she had only lit one person on fire the entire time she had done it. And as it happened, that man was sitting at the table next to us, so obviously having his shoe set on fire did not deter him from returning. She first made caramel sauce, then sautéed the bananas in it and flambéed it all with several types of liqueur and served it over vanilla ice cream. I appreciated the fact that they made what was meant to be a serving for two people into a small individual serving for each of us. The one universal thing that everyone commented on was that they liked this dish (Dad said he only wished they kept the ice cream cold while cooking he rest because it was kind of mushy by the time we got it).

So in conclusion, I thank you guys who have been telling me to go to Matteo’s, as we had a nice meal. Matteo’s does a great job with ambiance and service for sure and that alone would likely lure me back. Food-wise, I would say it is certainly better than a lot of the Italian places in Indy that I have been. However, I still think based on my experiences to date; Indy is lacking a truly outstanding Italian place.

Matteo’s Ristorante Italiano
40 North 9th Street
Noblesville, IN 46060

Thursday, September 23, 2010

La Mie Emilie

Remember how I was asking about French Bistros the other day? Well, I found one. And not just did I find one, but I really liked this one. This was a meal that caused me to be in a good mood all day because I love knowing that yes, there are still hidden gems to be found around town. For me, the only downside is the restaurant is in downtown Carmel, which means a little hike for me, but I’ll manage.

La Mie Emile is mainly a lunch spot, but they also serve dinner (with a more limited menu) three nights a week. As a lunch spot though, this place was doing a booming business (apparently a lot of people have discovered this gem before I did) and when we left, I think every table was full, including the ones outside. They have quite an extensive dessert and specifically, pie list. In fact, the entire backside of the menu is desserts.

First of all, they had buckwheat crepes! I have loved buckwheat crepes ever since I lived in California, and worked in Oakland, we had a little crepe place run by a charming Frenchman from Brittany (open only for a couple of years sadly until he returned to France) who made wonderful savory buckwheat crepes that I have been trying to duplicate at home for the last 10 years or so. The crepe here was as close as I have come. I ordered the Galette avec Jambon et Fromage which is ham, Gruyere cheese, and an over easy egg, all wrapped in the buckwheat crepe. Because I wanted to see how close it would be to the one I always used to order, and because I just like to be difficult, I substituted mushrooms for the ham (which they did without even a blink of an eye).

The crepe was delicious. The crepe itself was light and was filled with just the right amount of cheese and mushrooms, and the one, perfectly cooked, and nicely seasoned egg. I do not like crepes that are overstuffed to the point of being more like an omelet wrapped in a crust of crepe. This is light, tasty and just the right amount of food for a nice light, healthy lunch. I am quite sure the version with ham is good as well, but if they will continue to make it for me, I will likely continue to order my version. They served it with fruit on the side.

Hubby had the Croque Madame which is a French version of a hot ham and cheese sandwich (well if it is just ham and cheese, it is a Croque Monsieur; the egg on top makes it a “madame”). It is slices of French bread, with ham in between, Gruyere cheese melted on top, and another beautifully cooked over easy egg on top. This was very tasty as well, and was more filling than mine because of the two hearty slices of bread. Hubby quite enjoyed it as well.

I had to try a sweet crepe as well, just because I was so excited about my first course. I just wanted something simple so I ordered the crepe with chocolate ganache. There were three of them in my dessert order neatly folded and served with the chocolate sauce inside and out. It was good—not overly sweet, but the sauce tasted like it was made with decent quality chocolate. It probably needed a scoop of ice cream or some whipped cream maybe to finish it, but I was the one who chose what I had. They had several dessert crepe combos with varying ingredients which I am sure are very good.

I am just thrilled to find a place with buckwheat crepes being done so well—and I have heard from family members that the quiche here is delicious as well. I really look forward to my next visit, which hopefully, will be in the very near future.

La Mie Emilie
15 West Main Street
Carmel, IN 46032

La Mie Emilie on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 20, 2010

McCormick and Schmick's

The last time we went to McCormick and Schmicks, we were sort of impressed by how much we liked the food we had. We hadn’t been back though, and after perusing various menus online, I was convinced by this picture. It was also the last weekend of Devour Downtown, although we were never offered the menu. That was fine with us because we wanted to order from the regular menu, but I think when Devour Downtown is going on, the menu should be offered from the start.

We had an exceptionally friendly server who was very attentive for at least the first half of the meal, until things really starting picking up and everyone seemed to get a little harried. But we had our wine, and some nice chewy light sourdough bread to munch on. I got the tower I showed you before, the Dungeness crab with mango, avocado and orange vinaigrette. I love love love Dungeness crab and when I lived in San Francisco, a whole crab was frequently our Sunday meal. It is very challenging to find it here and I almost always order it if I see it. Of course, once I had ordered it, and started talking to hubby, I realized that it wasn’t actually Dungeness crab season (fall-winter) and I could be in trouble. Well, it was disappointing. First of all, look at my picture compared to the one on the website (and I apologize for how dark they are). Where were my big hunks of leg meat? That was a serious let down. The crab meat tasted ok, but there were no large pieces that made you feel like you were getting something really special. Furthermore, while the avocado was perfectly ripe and soft (and plentiful), the mango was not very ripe and therefore, hard and with a dull flavor. The vinaigrette was on the bottom of the tower, and there wasn’t enough to balance out the large amounts of the other ingredients. I was a little bummed with this appetizer.

Hubby had the oyster po boy which was much better than my crab tower. It was served open-faced which made it a little challenging to eat (had to be eaten with a knife and fork pretty much) but the flavors were nice. It was a nice grilled piece of bread with several perfectly fried medium sized oysters on top and the whole thing was drizzled with a pleasantly spicy remoulade. He definitely won on the appetizer that is for sure. I had several bites and while my dish wasn’t worth ordering again, this one was. I also liked the fact that they have several “small plates” that are very reasonably priced that you could get as appetizers or out of which you could make a nice tapas meal.

We shared a salad, the same salad we had last time, which is very nice. It is the house salad, and is made up of lettuce, candied walnuts and blue cheese with a nice tangy vinaigrette. We both really enjoyed this salad again (and had more than enough even with a half portion). The balance between the vinaigrette and the sweet nuts is a combination that I love, and one that I duplicate at home quite a bit.

For our main dish, we shared the phyllo wrapped halibut which was baked, and topped with a lemon butter sauce with chives. I enjoyed this dish as well. The fish may have been a teeny bit overcooked if I am being really particular, but not enough to make a huge difference. I know it can be hard to tell exactly when something is done when it is wrapped up in phyllo and baked. The fish was still fairly tender and the sauce added a nice flavor to go along with the soft interior and the crunchy phyllo, even if I would have liked a touch more of the sauce. This is another place where the sides are being phoned in I think—everyone is getting the same sides and they aren’t really that great. Very plain. I said it in my last review of this restaurant, and I have said about other places. I don’t get when restaurants put mediocre sides on a plate just to fill it up. It annoys me because I am guessing most of the time the food just ends up in the garbage which is a complete waste.

Simply because we saw this dessert walk by earlier in our meal (and hey, we split an entrée right?) we split the s’mores sundae. This was one of the bigger and more expensive desserts on the menu. And for sure, it is large enough to share. It was made up of a large brownie with rocky road ice cream on top, and marshmallow cream which was then lightly burnt on top to give it that taste of roasted marshmallows. I loved the singed marshmallow topping with the ice cream. The brownie itself wasn’t overly spectacular-- it was a little dry-- but served as a decent base on which to pile all the other stuff.

After having such a surprisingly good meal the first time I went, I was kind of let down with McCormick and Schmick’s. I do appreciate their portion sizes compared to a lot of places around town (they are much more moderately sized and priced), but I wish there was a little more attention to detail going into the food as well.

McCormick and Schmick’s
110 North Illinois Street
Indy 46204

McCormick & Schmick's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Good Morning Mama's

We were in a rare situation where we were looking for a late breakfast to prepare for a very early dinner (some days you just have to plan everything around the meals you know?), so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to try Good Morning Mama’s. This is the latest venture (I know it has been open awhile) of the Mama Corolla’s owners and appears to have just as much popularity as the casual Italian eatery a couple doors down the street.

This is the best re-use of a gas station for sure. The atmosphere of Good Morning Mama’s is extremely bright and cheery and retro. They have taken an old gas station with great lines and followed that theme with the décor of diner-ish tables and chairs and 50s characters painted on the walls. The place is cute, although I am guessing if it were full would be quite noisy, as when we were there it was only half full, and it was quite loud already.

We both wanted full-on breakfast, so I ordered the “Mama’s” and hubby ordered the “Papa’s.” Seemed appropriate. The “Mama’s” is your classic, two eggs any style, fried potatoes, toast and meat. I got my eggs over medium, exchanged my toast for a biscuit and ordered the bacon. Whenever I eat breakfast out, especially somewhere for the first time, I always worry about how to order my eggs. I like them runny in the yolks, but not in the whites. In my opinion, that is “over medium.” A lot of times apparently cooks do not agree with me and sometimes I need to order them “over easy” to get the yolks runny. These were perfect. One hurdle was crossed. The bacon was also very good, crispy, but not too crispy and still flavorful. I hate bacon that looks good and has no flavor. There is just no point in that. The potatoes were the sliced and fried variety. They were not bad, but my favorites are hash browns that are crispy. These had some crispy parts, and I enjoyed the ones that were. The softer ones I just skipped. The biggest disappointment for me was the biscuit. It looked good but didn’t have that rich buttery flavor that you want in a biscuit. It just didn’t have much flavor at all to me. I had some of hubby’s toast and it was better. Next time, toast is the way to go. Nice, thick and buttery.

Hubby’s “Papa’s” was corned beef hash with two eggs and toast. He was very happy. He is a lover of corned beef hash but is also particular in how he likes it (no peppers). This was house made corned beef sautéed with shredded potatoes with two more perfectly cooked eggs (he likes them over easy). He was very happy with the flavor of the beef and the portion size as well. It wasn’t so ridiculously big that he felt guilty eating every bite. And again, it came with a generous helping of the hot buttery toast.

Good Morning Mama’s is doing a quality job with breakfast foods and will likely go on the regular rotation for us. And I know the kids will like it too if for no other reason than the décor (although the simple food will probably appeal to them as well). There is a fairly extensive lunch menu as well with several good sounding sandwiches. The food isn’t fancy, but the quality is there, the service was good, and they know how to cook an egg.

Good Morning Mama’s
1001 East 54th Street
Indy 46220

Good Morning Mama's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Rathskeller

It is hard to believe I know, but I had never been to the Rathskeller before this review. It has been on the list since the beginning, but I don’t know, it just never seemed to happen. Recently, during Devour Downtown, it seemed like an excellent time to give it a try because their Devour menu had some nice sounding choices. I really liked the way Rathskeller let you make a mixed plate with several of their special items (you could choose 2 things from a list of 4-5) and then add two sides (out of many many choices).

We sort of decided to get one of the Devour menus and then also order a straight off the menu entrée and just share the appetizer and dessert. This turned out to be a good plan, because the Devour items were large (I don’t think they reduce portions here during Devour Downtown like many restaurants do). So we started with the onion dill bread for our appetizer. It was a large sized piece of bread with lots of dill flavor, garlic, provolone and Parmesan cheese. It was cut into strips and was a great thing to share. No way would I want to eat this whole thing myself (well, I might want to, but I wouldn’t want to eat anything else.) This was one of my favorite parts of the meal. The bread was quite hearty and the dill seasoning was unique and went well with the mild cheese. It was served with Ranch dressing on the side, as well as a pickle spear, which I thought was kind of odd, but actually, I really enjoyed dipping the bread in the dressing and eating the pickle to give a little sour flavor along with the rich bread (have I mentioned, I love pickles, so anytime I see a dill pickle with something, it makes me happy).

Our appetizer was served quite promptly, but after eating it, we had a few minutes to really look around. I really enjoy the atmosphere at the Rathskeller. It is clearly quite old, and has kept lots of the charm that comes with being in an historic (19th Century) building. It is a rather large place as well, but it was pleasingly full of people while we were there. The staff is also extremely professional and attentive. As soon as your water glass gets low, it is refilled. And when your beer stein needs a refill, you will be quickly asked if you would like to order another. I found this quite refreshing.

Next we were brought out a delicious basket of various breads—although I sort of got hooked on the warm soft pretzel and ate that mainly. They served it with a mustard dip that is so full of horseradish, the server warns you before you eat it. I thought it was over the top, and it would have been nice to have an alternative offered, because mustard and pretzels are such good friends.

For our main dishes, we got a regular order of schnitzel. Regular entrees came with a side salad as well as two side dishes. With the schnitzel we had potato pancakes and spaetzle noodles (nothing like a bit of starch with your meal). We also had a Devour Downtown combo with Jaegerschnitzel and Kielbasse with sides of red cabbage and German potato salad (no salad with the Devour Downtown special).

Sadly, the schnitzel was not good (which was particularly bad since we had two schnitzel based dishes). Schnitzel is just pounded pork tenderloin that is breaded and pan fried. The regular schnitzel was served with some lemon slices on top as well as a lemon sauce on the side for dipping. It was strangely really pink in color but at the same time really tough. The dipping sauce was pretty thin and didn’t have enough flavor for me. The sides on this dish didn’t fare much better. Both starches were pretty bland, and the potato pancake was kind of tough. The noodles had a sauce on top that was slightly sweet, but not really imparting anything beneficial in my mind.

The Jaegerschnitzel was the same schnitzel as above (with the same inherent problems) covered with a sauce of mushrooms, shallots, garlic, red wine and herbs. Because the meat was so tough, the sauce could not really do anything to save it. The cabbage was pretty sweet (to be fair, our server informed us of this when we ordered). I didn’t mind it so much, but hubby really didn’t care for it and was annoyed when any portion of it came into contact with his other items. The German potato salad was the best side dish we had by far. It is a warm potato salad and had a slight tangy and sweet flavor to it (because it is made with vinegar and sugar instead of mayo) which was really nice.

The best part of our main dishes though, was clearly the kielbasse. It was a very flavorful sausage. Simple and plain, but with great smoky flavor. Hubby loved it, and because of it alone, is already planning our next trip back.

We also shared a dessert—for Devour Downtown, they gave you a huge list to choose from. We went with the soft pretzel with chocolate sauce. It was the same pretzel from earlier (which was fine because it was delicious) served with a little dip of chocolate. The dip was really quite good. I am not sure what kind of chocolate it was, but it had a very rich chocolate-y flavor. And I tend to like salty things with chocolate. My only complaint was the container they chocolate came in was disposable plastic, obviously then heated, and the plastic itself was a little melty. That sort of freaked me out. A ceramic dish would be much nicer.

This was an interesting experience, because even though we didn’t really care for much of the food we had on this night, we both discussed that we would like to return. The menu is large, and who knows, maybe you would be better off with just one of the steak or pasta dishes (even though they aren’t really German). I think the service and atmosphere won us over a bit. I think this was an example of when really good service can make a dinner better even when the food wasn’t that great. So I would like to hear from you all about what you think—a lot of you have recommended the Rathskeller. What are your favorite things food-wise, and/or is it something besides the food that keeps you coming back? After all, this place has been around forever, so they have got to be on to something.

The Rathskeller
401 East Michigan
Indy 46204

The Rathskeller on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 9, 2010



“A place where ladies lunch” was my thought as we stepped into the door of Serendipity in downtown Carmel. We had intended on going to another restaurant that was not open and so we decided to try this instead. Hubby felt a little awkward in the décor of glass top tables and tea pots in what used to be a bank (they have a private table set up back in the vault). I have to admit the atmosphere of the place almost didn’t feel like a restaurant, but like a set of a restaurant in a tv show or something. (And from the outside, it is very non-descript---you probably wouldn’t guess there was a restaurant in there). Apparently the chandeliers are restored from the L.S. Ayres tea room downtown and they also serve a version of the famous chicken velvet soup. They serve lunch and have afternoon tea service.

I don’t think there is a large kitchen here as the menu is limited to a lot of paninis and salad type items. But the mix of ingredients was intriguing and luckily, our server was a guy who was dressed a lot like hubby (very casually in shorts) so that made him feel a little more at ease.

I ordered the “Serendipity chicken broccoli strata” which was a combination of broccoli, a bit of chicken, whipping cream and eggs on a bready crust. Sort of reminded me of a savory bread pudding, except that the bread was all at the bottom more like a crust. The first thing I noticed was that it was really hot. It took awhile for it to cool enough that I could eat it. But the flavors were nice—a very comforting combination of familiar ingredients. It (as was hubby’s) was served with a little side salad that was drizzled with raspberry dressing. The dressing wasn’t bad—it had a nice tangy, not ridiculously sweet flavor, but the greens would have been nicer if they were actually tossed in it (but you know that is one of my pet peeves). They also served a nice bowl of mixed fruit (blueberries, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, and pineapple) as well as a small scone for dessert (again both our dishes had all the same accompaniments). Hubby got to his scone first and said he was just going to have a bite to try it. He really liked it. It wasn’t quite as dense as most scones I have had, and it was very good. It was chock full of all kinds of sweet treats, from chocolate chips to white chocolate chips, and every bite was a little different. It sort of crumbled in your hands as you ate it, but it was a really nice ending to a nice meal. I always like a little something sweet at the end of a meal, but usually skip dessert at lunch. This was a nice touch.

Hubby had the “Serendipity Panini” which looked like your typical grilled panini sandwich filled with turkey, bacon, tomato, spinach and cheese with their “special sauce.” I am pretty sure that sauce was some form of balsamic dressing. This sandwich was really really good. Overall, because of the balance of all the flavors, I may have liked it a bit more than mine. And I like a panini because it is pressed flat because it makes it easy to eat. I really don’t like super thick sandwiches. I would certainly order this sandwich again myself. He also had iced tea, which he said was some of the best he has had anywhere, which I thought was a good sign of a place that also has a full tea service.

All in all, although the atmosphere is a little strange to me (it would probably be good for a baby or bridal shower or something like that), the food is very good and well thought out. Apparently, the people who run it also have a couple of other similar restaurants with different themes. I would be interested in trying some of the other locations to see what they are like. Have you guys ever been to any of them?

2 West Main Street
Carmel, IN 46032

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Road Trip: Proof on Main - Lousiville, KY

Antsy to get out of town, and childless for a few days, we headed to Louisville for a little getaway. It really is not that far, and with a perfect lunch stop at Brozinni’s right on the way, and a massive outlet mall halfway there, you can’t really go wrong.

Our main reason for going though was to stay and eat at the 21C Hotel which is a fairly small boutique hotel combined with a modern art museum. They have art throughout and a couple of nice gallery rooms as well. And we happened to end up there on their First Friday, when all the local art galleries (conveniently located around the hotel) are open late. They have a great little trolley that will take you on the circle with stops near the galleries and shops. It was a lot of fun and we even ended up buying a little art.

Anyway, like I said, most of my trips are planned around food, and I have heard that the restaurant at 21C, Proof on Main, was good. So in between gallery hopping, we had a leisurely dinner as well. The space at Proof is great—lots of art on the walls, and best of all, lots of people. It is so nice to see a City embracing a modern non-chain restaurant. The place had quite a buzz, but with the help of sound absorbing, and really cool looking light fixtures, it was still possible to carry on a conversation. We were seated at a long banquette (if you were a party of two, this is what you got) and the tables were a little close for me, so unfortunately, actually, you could carry on a conversation with your own dining companion as well as those next to you.

The menu is quite extensive and it took us awhile to go through it all, ask the questions we wanted and make our decisions. Unfortunately this seemed to annoy our server, who actually seemed a little bored to be there altogether. So after not ordering right away, she disappeared for some fairly extended periods of time. But finally we figured it out, got her attention, and ordered. We were brought a half loaf of very crusty French bread. It was delicious. We asked where it was made, and were told it was from Blue Dog Bakery, which is a local bakery. This bread was so good, I went and bought a loaf the next day on the way home and built my entire dinner around it. Supposedly they also have a restaurant which I would love to try some time.

I ordered the sweet corn and garlic soup as my starter. It was garnished with some cream and served with a crostini with double smoked ham. The soup was good. It was a puree, but you could still get the texture from the corn in it (almost like grits). The ham “toast” as they called it really made it special though. It was a nicely toasted crostini with a topping of a ham heavy spread. It was highly seasoned and added the salty kick that you wanted with the soup. The soup on its own wouldn’t have excited me that much, but together with the toast, it made a nice dish.

Hubby was very excited to see they offered roasted bison marrow bones as a starter as well. Nothing makes him happier than bone marrow. They served the bones with what they called apple pear mustard and some frisee. The “mustard” was more like an apple and pear chutney. Hubby thought it was a little sweet, but he loved the little frisee salad that was perfectly dressed and wished he had more. I had a couple of bites of the marrow on bread and frisee on top, and it was all very nice. I am not one to just eat marrow on its own in general, as it is (obviously) a little over the top rich—it really is just spreadable fat. Hubby’s only complaint was they didn’t serve it with a marrow spoon (a teeny spoon that makes it easy to scoop it out) so it was hard to wedge the knife in there that they served with it.

For my main, I pulled one of my favorite moves and got an appetizer for my main dish. They had a section on the menu featuring items made with local farm items, and a wonderful sounding raviolo caught my eye. A raviolo is just one big ravioli (I guess technically the plural is ravioli, so if there is only one, it is a raviolo right?) and this one was described as a “farm egg raviolo.” So I thought they used egg in the pasta right? Oh no, there was an entire egg yolk in the pasta that burst when you cut into it. Oh my, when I heard that, I knew it was a must have for me. It was topped with eggplant confit and sesame seeds. Well, unfortunately, I have a feeling my dish befell a fate that occasionally happens when you order an app for your main. I think it got cooked by the apps crew in the kitchen really fast and then sat for awhile. While the yolk was still fairly runny, the edges of the pasta were a little too hard. The eggplant added a nice varying flavor and the sesame seeds a needed textural contrast, but I don’t think this dish was served to me as good as it could have been. We also shared a side dish of the grilled corn on the cob with smoked aioli, pecorino cheese and lime. Sounded really good and was by far the worst thing on the table. Again, it seemed to have suffered from sitting for awhile. The corn was completely cold and the aioli looked like it was starting to form a crust on top. I sunk my teeth into it, and promptly removed my mouth from it and didn’t even swallow a bite. I set it down and neither of us touched it again. Really unappealing.

Hubby had gnocchi with braised pork, shaved celery and horseradish. The gnocchi was great. Super fresh tasting, and tender. The pork had a great smoky, hearty flavor, but there wasn’t so much of it that it overwhelmed the gnocchi. The celery was really thinly sliced on top, almost like a garnish, and then lightly dusted with fresh horseradish. The horseradish was just a little flavor bite, and in no way overwhelmed the other flavors either. It was a very well done dish. So yeah, hubby totally out-ordered me.

One of the signature things at Proof is that they bring you a little bowl of cotton candy with your check. I have to say, seeing other people get this, I was really excited. I have a weakness for cotton candy. When it was delivered, our server said something like, “this is the chef’s take on an after dinner mint.” As soon as I ate it, I was disappointed. It actually had mint flavor mixed in which to me, just wasn’t right. And I noticed several uneaten bowls around the room as the night went on. I don’t know if this is always the flavor, but I didn’t care for it.

But we had a great time in Louisville. It is a great easy drive to a really nice, friendly City. The gallery hop was fun and dinner was enjoyable, even if my dinner didn’t end up being a highlight of my trip. And I would love to go back, so if you have suggestions for other great places to eat there, please let me know!

Proof on Main
702 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Proof on Main on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 3, 2010

Brozinni Pizzeria

Having discussed New York style pizza several times here on my blog, and after reading the very positive review from Would I Buy It Again, I knew I needed to try Brozzini’s. We were on our way south the other day on 65, and I realized this was the perfect opportunity—it is right off 65 at County Line Road.

At lunch they offer all kinds of slices. And these are the kind of slices that you can make a meal out of. They are at least the size of two pieces of pizza elsewhere. Now, I am not saying there was not an urge to order more than one slice, but seriously, one is enough. Hubby had pepperoni and sausage—the classic combo right? And I wanted a veggie combo. I asked what they had, and there were only a couple, but they told me they can make any combo I wanted with the cheese pizza base. So I went with my perfect, favorite pizza flavor—mushroom and red onion. They take your slice and heat it up in the big pizza oven and then bring it to your table.

Let me just cut to the chase. This is one of the best pieces of pizza I have had since I have lived in Indiana. It isn’t fancy, but it is delicious. The crust is really really good—although the pieces are so big, I have to say the first few bites are the best. By the time you get to the edge of the crust, it isn’t as crispy (I told you these things are big) so savor those first few bites. They are pizza perfection. The crust has a great flavor, slightly salty, and the toppings were great too. Lots of sliced fresh mushrooms and an even covering of diced red onions. Hubby was also quite pleased with the sausage and pepperoni. The sauce is mild and savory and not overwhelming the crust (I hate saucy pizza) This is as close to reliving my all time favorite New York style pizza from San Francisco as it gets.

I didn’t see them when I ordered but they also have these great looking “knuckles” that I noticed several people got with their slice for lunch. They are described as “Brozinni’s famous dough, twisted smothered and then baked in a dripping garlic butter sauce.” So even though one slice of pizza was really enough, I would have to give one of these a try next time with my slice.

There are lots more things on the menu (calzones, pasta and sandwiches) but there is no way I would ever get anything but pizza here. Seriously, if this place was anywhere near me (sadly it is a good 35 minute drive), it would be my regular pizza place.

Brozzini Pizzeria
8810 S. Emerson Avenue
Indy 46237

Brozinni Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Euphoria - Revisit

***As of June 5, 2011, Euphoria is closed as a restaurant and is only open for private events. The chef has also left the restaurant.****

How much does service play into what a good meal is for you? Unfortunately, my boundary lines were put to the test the other night at Euphoria. I have been excited to go back since I went last winter to try the new menu (new Chef) at Euphoria. It was an unseasonably mild night and the perfect one for the patio. We were with friends who had also enjoyed a very good meal awhile back at Euphoria and were looking forward to a return visit.

The menu was quite interesting, and I enjoy that it is not the same menu you see everywhere—there is creativity going into the planning. I started with the scallops that were being served with duck confit, sour cherries, arugula and walnuts. First of all, I just liked the sound of all these things—you can tell there will be a good mix of textures and flavors. The 2 scallops (which in my mind is a proper appetizer portion) were well seared, but not overdone in the middle and served with the other items. My favorite thing with the rich, buttery scallops was the sour cherries. Unfortunately there were only 3 of the little cherries and I would have liked one with every bite. They added a real tartness that I really liked with the scallops and walnuts. There were only a few little pieces of the duck on the plate, and honestly, I didn’t think they added that much.

Hubby had a fairly simple salad of greens and grilled veggies—asparagus, squash and radishes with a balsamic vinaigrette. It was good, and the veggies had a nice grilled flavor, but it was nothing overly exciting. One of our friends had the smoked salmon appetizer which was quite tasty and interesting. There were little pieces of the salmon topped with matchsticks of jicama in a coriander crème and pickled pearl onion on the side. There were also a few pieces of fried rice (as in deep fried crunchy rice) and watercress scattered throughout. I liked this unique take on smoked salmon. It was one of the favorites at the table.

For my main dish, I had the halibut with golden beet and snap pea salad with watercress and pine nut vinaigrette. The fish was well cooked—very tender and moist, and my first bite was great—I had a bit of the salad and vinaigrette and could really taste the vinaigrette. Unfortunately, I must have gotten most of it in that first bite because I couldn’t taste the vinaigrette much after that and I really missed it. Again, much like the scallops, the flavors were well thought out and good, I just felt like there wasn’t quite enough of the seasoning aspect of the dishes.

Hubby had the Barramundi with parsley pesto and smashed potatoes, pancetta and green beans. Again, the fish was cooked really well and was exceptionally tender and moist. The pesto was nice as well. Hubby seemed to enjoy it but someone else at our table that had it was not as impressed. Also pictured is the pork dish offered this night—I took a picture because it was so pretty but I never actually tasted it. It was pork tenderloin with raisin glaze, feta and fingerlings.
We had a nice cheese plate for dessert which was tasty—we sampled all five of the cheese they were offering. I think they push cheese plates as an appetizer course though (our waiter did) because half of the crackers served were black pepper flavored. I know I have said this before, but I don’t really like heavily seasoned crackers with cheese because you really start to lose the flavor nuances in the cheese.

The food was all good—not quite as good as the last time we were there, but still very good. The real bummer of the night though was the service. When we got there, it was not yet crowded, although the bar was closed for a private event. At first our server was quite attentive to us and we were generally served our drinks fairly promptly. However, as we were talking and looking over the menu, we did not order immediately. The patio began to fill up quickly and when we left there was not an empty table. I am not sure, but my guess would be that maybe they were not expecting such a crowd and were not staffed for it. We had a hard time getting attention when we needed it—we waited for flatware for quite a bit after our entrées were served, were never given bread until we asked for it in the middle of the meal (although others were) and when we ordered a couple of glasses of wine with dessert, it took a very long time to get them (and only after quite a delay when our first selection was not available). There were long delays between courses and if we had not been enjoying our conversation with our friends so much, it would have likely ruined the meal.

Euphoria is notorious with its service issues. The food has always been good and I like the interior and patio. But I am almost to my breaking point with the service there. I would be interested to hear from any of you who have eaten there lately about what you have found while dining there. I am not sure exactly what is going on, but I would love to see the service match up to the quality of food that has always been served there.

337 West 11th Street
Indy, 46202