Monday, November 29, 2010

Road Trip: Joseph Decuis

If you haven’t been here yet, you need to go.  Seriously.  This was one of the best restaurants I have been to in Indiana.  And you know, it took us awhile to get up there because, well, frankly, it is sort of in the middle of nowhere, but a nowhere that is further away than some others.  It is closest to Ft. Wayne, but that is not a place I frequent for any particular reason (I think I have been once in my life) so I hadn’t yet come up with a reason to go up there.  The restaurant is the reason.  You don’t need any others.
We went to celebrate hubby’s birthday and decided to spend the night.  That’s the thing—it is about an hour and a half from Indy, and if you want to have a little wine with your dinner, you sort of need to spend the night I think. Roanoke is a small town, but luckily Joseph Decuis does a nice job of offering accommodations so you can do just that.  Normally they have an inn a few blocks away, but it was closed when we went because they are looking for an innkeeper.  They do however, have two very nice apartments you can rent for the night directly across the street from the restaurant.  Very nice and I thought quite reasonable at $100 a night.
Ok, on to the meal! Joseph Decuis is known for their farm raised Wagyu beef.  If you aren’t familiar, Wagyu is the broader name for what a lot of people know as Kobe beef, but Kobe refers to a particular region in Japan, and only beef from that region is truly Kobe.  Decuis raises their own beef (which is Wagyu cows bred with Angus cows).  Wagyu is much more marbled with fat than traditional beef and is claimed to be exceedingly tender.
So of course we had to try some of the Wagyu as part of our meal, and I started with it as my first course.  They had Wagyu Carpaccio served with potato salad, truffled mayonnaise and pickled celery.  There were some tiny micro greens on top as well.  Wow. This was awesome.  The meat was raw (as it is supposed to be in Carpaccio) but not served in the traditional perfect super-thin round slices of beef.  You could tell that this beef was different because it was so much more marbled.  You could tell they couldn’t slice it that way—it was more like it was shaved.  The meat was fairly plain with just a sprinkle of sea salt on top, but if you put a piece of it in your mouth with nothing else, it really just melted on your tongue, it was so tender.  THIS is the way I personally think a meat like Wagyu is best (more on that later).  Underneath the meat was the wonderful potato salad (looked like it was made with mainly fingerlings to me) which had a wonderful aroma from the truffled mayo, some crisp yet slightly vinegary bites from the celery, and a nice freshness from the greens.
Hubby had the Wagyu “tongue and cheek” tortellini with leeks, Brussels sprouts and a thyme beurre blanc.  These were wonderful as well.  The meat inside was slow cooked to be exceedingly tender with a very rich deep beefy flavor.  The pasta was housemade and the sauce was a perfect compliment—it had a touch of richness, but didn’t overwhelm the flavor of the pasta.  It kept the warm rich theme, but accented the flavors with just a light buttery flavor.  The veggies were a great accompaniment as well, lending that slight crunchiness to break up the pure smooth richness.
We both had a salad as well. I had one that was one of the numerous specials of the day (there were quite a few, so don’t make any decisions about what you’re ordering until you hear the list from your server).  My salad was a warm wild mushroom salad—it was outstanding as well. About 80% of the dish was actually all mushrooms—a wide variety of different types.  There was arugula mixed in—but it was almost more of an herb seasoning than what you might think of as a “salad” because it was quite minimal compared to the mushrooms—and because the mushrooms were hot, it wilted quickly.  But it was perfect together.  There were also sautéed leeks mixed in which broke up the texture a bit.  The salad was tossed in a warm truffle vinaigrette.  Wow.  If this salad was offered the next time I go, I would be hard pressed not to order it.  The earthiness of the mushrooms and truffle with the vinegar in the dressing was perfect.
Hubby had the frissée “Caesar” salad.  It was a great slightly different take on a traditional Caesar.  Instead of the traditional Romaine, they used frissée which was an interesting twist.  Also, it included Gunthrop Farms pork belly cubes, that were almost like little bacon-y croutons.  There was also purple onion and Brioche croutons, as well as their version of a Caesar dressing.   Hubby loved the pork belly cubes and we both thought the dressing had the right zestiness that so many Caesar dressings lack.
For my main, I had one of the daily specials that was actually an appetizer.  It was housemade lobster and ricotta ravioli (they had a lot of lobster in the specials this day, as well as a lot of truffles).  It was served in a leek potato cream and had shaved Oregon white truffles on top.  Again, this dish was really good.  It was quite rich though, even in the smaller appetizer size.  If I was going to complain about anything, I would have liked a few more chunks of lobster in the ravioli, but the bits that were in there were super tender and properly cooked.  Actually my favorite part of the dish was that in the sauce, under the ravioli, there were little dices of potato and more shaved leeks—those bites with the truffle were my favorite ones.  I really liked finding those little surprise tastes underneath the ravioli. 
Hubby had the Wagyu sirloin with Robouchon potatoes, Bordelaise sauce and bone marrow.  Again, we felt like we had to order one of the Wagyu dishes to get the full Joseph Decuis experience.  But honestly, for both of us, this was the biggest disappointment of the meal.  I am not sure if it because of the intense marbling in Wagyu beef, or because this cut was a sirloin, or what, but whenever I have had Wagyu cooked as a steak, my experience is it becomes too chewy and hard to eat.  The best Wagyu I have ever had was when it is served raw (as in my Carpaccio above) or super thinly sliced and seared for a second on a grill (the first time I had Wagyu in San Francisco was at a Japanese restaurant where they served you the super thin sliced raw meat and then you had your own grill at the table and cook it yourself).  Hubby did declare the Bordelaise sauce as the best he has ever had and how could you not like the rich buttery perfectly creamy Robouchon potatoes which are essentially potatoes and butter pressed through a sieve (ok, it is more complicated than this, but it would take awhile to explain the entire process)?
Since we were celebrating hubby’s birthday, he got to choose the dessert.  We started out thinking that we would get a cheese plate for dessert, because they gave a very nice cheese list at the beginning of the meal, but after perusing the sweets menu, hubby had his heart set on the caramel pot de crème.   Wow.  I have never had anything more caramel-ly tasting than this pot de crème.  It was served with a bit of vanilla whipped cream and sliced pears on top—and you could see the little flecks of vanilla in the dollop of cream.  The dessert was simple, but wow, intense is all I can say. And delicious.
Even with the disappointment with the sirloin, this was easily top to bottom the best meal I have had in Indiana, and hubby agreed.  Not only was the rest of the food delicious, and for the most part, perfectly prepared, but the service is spot on and friendly and the rooms are all charming.  We sat in the “Café Creole” room which is the dining room with a view of the small bustling kitchen.  There is also a room called “Club Creole” which includes a lively bar with nice tables (I think it might be fun to sit there next time) as well as a Conservatory room which is all glassed in but lit with lots of little twinkly lights giving it a sweet romantic feel.  Our server gave us a tour of all the different areas, as well as an upstairs private dining room for up to 8 and the “Board room” which could seat a large party.  The restaurant is made up of all these different areas that have been added together to create a cozy yet fine dining feel.  The prices are also pretty reasonable for such a caliber of restaurant (most appetizers are $11-$18, most entrées range from $24-$38).
All of these things, combined with the impeccable food, make this a destination worth getting to.  Every time hubby or I mention this trip, the other one almost immediately says, “When are we going back?” Trust me, it won’t be long.
Joseph Decuis
191 North Main Street
Roanoke, Indiana 46783

Friday, November 26, 2010

Road Trip (ok, well, really a plane): Mad Hatter - Sanibel Island, FL

So I know this is more than a road trip, but I just thought it would be fun to do a little post about our recent trip to Florida.  We have repeatedly visited Captiva Island in Florida (on the Gulf Coast) with our kids.  I really like this place because it is a small place, and while it is somewhat commercialized, it still retains that small town feel that so many places in Florida do not.  There are several restaurants that have been there for many years, and the beaches are my favorite.  Tons of shelling, dolphin sightings almost every day, gorgeous sunsets, and lots of stuff for kids to do.
The other reason I like Captiva so much is because when you get sick of eating the peel and eat or fried shrimp (best fried shrimp in my opinion comes from the Mucky Duck) or grouper (which I don’t think even comes from Florida anymore), they have a great adult chef-owned restaurant right on the beach with very good food. 
Every trip hubby and I look forward to our visit to the Mad Hatter, because we know the food will be good and the atmosphere will be soothing.  We always book our dinner with sunset in mind, because the views are spectacular (nothing like looking up the sunset chart as part of making your dinner reservation. But I am thorough!). They have set up the rectangular room with huge mirrors on one side, so that even if your back is to the window (as mine was on our most recent trip), you still get a full view of the sunset.  I also found it quite charming that right at the moment the sun set, the entire wait staff paused to watch it themselves.  Anyway, while they do highlight some of the local seafood at Mad Hatter, they also just produce quality items, even if you want some red meat for a change of pace.
Our sunset that night
The menu changes slightly from year to year, with certain items that have been maintained for the 3 years or so that we have been going.  We got a little amuse bouche of blue crab claws in a truffle vinaigrette. One little bite of deliciousness.   Then for starters, I ordered the Hudson Valley foie gras, because I was in the mood for something rich and decadent after many days of eating mainly seafood.  Hubby ordered the truffled oysters.
The foie gras was pan seared (is there really any other way to eat it?) with ciabatta French toast and a mixed berry sauce.  It was perfectly cooked, with those yummy caramelized edges which are my favorite part, but still super tender and juicy and amazing inside.  I like foie gras to be served with a little bread of some sort and something sweet, because it is such a perfect balance of the richness with sweet and a tiny bit of tartness from the fruit.  It was a generous portion and was delicious.
Hubby’s oysters were the other highlight of the meal.  The oysters were roasted in their shells with a truffle, lemon and thyme beurre blanc sauce and some panko bread crumbs on top.  I loved this dish as well—maybe even slightly more than my own.  The oysters tasted impeccably fresh and I like the little bit of crunch with the silky oysters.  I also liked the fact that the sauce and flavors were unique—so often you just see a version of oysters Rockefeller which I like too, but it is nice to get something new. 
We split a salad (they split it for us). I won’t go into great detail; it was mixed greens with pear, candied walnuts and a shallot vinaigrette. It was good, but the best thing about it was the tempura gorgonzola on top.  That was awesome. I only wished I had more than one of these little tempura balls of deliciousness, they were the best part of the salad.  But the flavors were all great complements to each other.
I had a special of the day for my main—and it was actually an appetizer.  They called it “lobster cargot” and it was medallions of lobsters cut and then served escargot style—in a super hot escargot dish with a classic garlic butter with lots of parsley.  The sauce was very good—rich and garlicky, but sadly the lobster was totally overcooked.  Really, with as hot as the dish was, there was no way it wouldn’t be unless maybe they heated the dish and sauce up and literally dropped the lobster in raw.  I liked the idea, but unfortunately the execution was lacking.
Hubby had the pan seared black grouper with lemon caper butter and asparagus risotto.  He was also a bit disappointed in his dish.  The fish was a little overcooked and the risotto a bit undercooked.  I think (and I am pretty sure hubby and I have discussed this before) that appetizers are the way to go here, even with my lobster cargot mishap.
But the beauty of Mad Hatter is you can get interesting things that are different from most of the Island fare.  The atmosphere is adult (although you can bring children) and warm.  The sunset is amazing.  I know this is one place we will always visit whenever we go to Captiva (although the restaurant is technically just on the border in Sanibel).  We look forward to it every year even though not everything is always perfect.
If this is an area you visit, or plan to visit, please share.  I would be happy to give you my rundown on all the local restaurants, and I would love to hear yours if you have been there.
The Mad Hatter
6467 Sanibel-Captiva Road
Sanibel, FL 33957

Mad Hatter Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Options

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...Image via Wikipedia
I have heard there may be some of you looking for a Thanksgiving option out... here's a list of the downtown restaurants offering dinner Thursday. (Thanks to Indianapolis Downtown for this list. If you know of other places that are open (maybe not downtown) post a comment and let everyone know! I will kick it off and let you know they offer a Thanksgiving buffet at the West Baden resort that I have heard is pretty good.

And from me to you, wherever you are this Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful meal.  I am thankful for all of you!

Happy Thanksgiving!
 The following restaurants are open for business Nov. 25:

120 West at the Hilton (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.) 120 W. Market St. 972.0600
Bella Vita (11 a.m. – 10 p.m.) Circle Centre 822.9840
Buca di Beppo (11a.m. – 8 p.m.) 35 N. Illinois St. 632.2822
Champps (11 a.m. – 6 p.m.) Circle Centre 951.0033
Circle City Bar and Grill (6:30- 11 a.m. breakfast; 5 – 10 p.m. dinner) 350 W. Maryland St. 405.6100
Claddagh Irish Pub (11 a.m. – close) 234 S. Meridian St. 822.6274
Conrad Indianapolis (Noon – 3 p.m.) 40 W. Washington St. 524.2574
Ethan’s at the Sheraton (6:30 – 11 p.m.) 31 W. Ohio St. 635.2000
Great American Grill at the Hilton Garden Inn (7 a.m. – Noon) 10 E. Market St. 955.9700
Hilton Indianapolis Hotel and Suites (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.) 120 W. Market St. 822.5914
Jillian’s ( 6 p.m. – midnight) 141 S. Meridian St. 822.9300
McCormick and Schmick’s (Noon – 8 p.m.) 110 N. Illinois St. 631.9500
One South at the Hyatt (Noon – 3 p.m.) 1 S. Capitol Ave. 632.1234
Palomino (Noon – 7 p.m.) 49 W. Maryland St. 974.0400
The Propylaeum (12:00p.m., 12:45p.m., 2:30p.m. & 3:15p.m.) 1410 North Delaware Street 638.7881
Pullman’s at Crowne Plaza (11 a.m. – 7 p.m.) 123 W. Louisiana St. 236.7470
Severin Bar & Grill restaurant - Omni Severin Hotel (11 a.m., 1 & 3 p.m.) 40 W. Jackson Place 396.3623
Shula’s Steak House in Westin (Noon – 8 p.m.) 50 S. Capitol Ave. 231.3962
Slippery Noodle (opens 7 p.m.) 372 S. Meridian St. 631.6974
The Capital Grille (11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.) 40 W. Washington St. 423.8790
Turner’s Restaurant at the Canterbury Hotel (10 a.m. – 3 p.m. brunch; 5 – 7 p.m. dinner) 123 S. Illinois St. 634.3000
Weber Grill Restaurant (Noon – 8 p.m.) 10 N. Illinois St. 636.7600

and here's a few more that I have heard about from my friends on twitter:

Rick's Cafe Boatyard (11 am- 9 pm) 4050 Dandy Trail, Indy 290-9300
Jonathan Byrd's (10:30-7:00) 100 Byrd Way, Greenwood, 881-8888

A Turkey.Image via Wikipedia
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Brad Gates Catering- the Next Dinner Party

It was my BFF’s birthday, and we wanted to do something special, and I had been itching to hire Brad Gates to cater another dinner for us.  So I talked to my friend about putting some items on the menu that she would really enjoy, and planned a dinner.  It is really easy to work with Brad—we tend to communicate via email and sort out a dinner.  This time my friend had requested a couple of things, and then I let Brad come up with the rest (subject to my approval). 
One of the great things about Brad’s business is his enormous love and stock of cheese.  We started with a cheese plate for our hors d’oeuvres.  He does a fabulous job with cheese.  He served us Beehive Barely Buzzed, Mont Enebro, Colston Bassett Stilton, and Forsterkase.  The cheeses were served with wafer thin crackers and fig jam.  It was a great selection of cheeses, and all 7 at the dinner commented on how much they enjoyed them.  The “Barely Buzzed” cheese is a fairly firm cheese with quite a deep flavor. The rind is rubbed with a combination of coffee and lavender which gives the cheese an even nuttier flavor.  It was unique and quite tasty. 
The Mont Enebro was a nice fairly soft goat cheese with the characteristic tanginess that so often goes along with goats.  The Stilton was our blue cheese of the evening, and had the characteristic veining and sharp flavor of a blue.  Stiltons are dryer blues than most.  It tasted amazing with the fig jam.  Finally the Forsterkase is a Swiss cow’s milk cheese that is wrapped in bark—this gave the creamy, slightly stinky cheese a  bit of a woody flavor.  It was also really good.  Ok, I am trying not to go on and on about cheese, because I could, but I want to get to the next parts of the meal.
For our first sit down course, we had one of our (and the BFF’s) perennial Brad favorites, the tuna tartare.  Seriously, I can think of only maybe one other place that can do it as well (although with completely different seasoning). Why is this so hard?  Anyway, he served nice individual portions of the layers of tuna, finely diced sweet onion and tomato, avocado and horseradish-Dijon vinaigrette. The thing is, the layers were layed out individually, but even if you just picked up a couple of pieces of the tuna without the rest, you could taste that it had been nicely seasoned with lemon and salt.  Of course, once you mixed it all together, it was even better.  The only disappointment was that this time it was served with warm pita. I really missed the crunchy seeded wontons we have had in the past. (Hey, I saw some yummy looking seeded crackers at Zest a couple days later that looked like they would be delicious with the tuna).

The next course, and the other one requested by the birthday girl, was something we had had at Euphoria together when Brad was the chef there.  It was sweet potato gnocchi with shaved Brussels sprouts, braised pork shoulder and Parmigiano Reggiano.  This was probably the favorite course of the evening for most.  Little pillows of sweet potato gnocchi (but not overpoweringly sweet) with super tender rich slivers of pork and the Brussels sprouts giving it a little crunch.  And the portion was not overwhelmingly  large, which I appreciated.

The last savory course was tender, juicy wonderful Cook’s Farm bison tenderloin served with caramelized Cipollinis, 3-Grain rice pilaf and pomegranate coulis.  I liked the sweet and tangy nature of the coulis, although others at the table felt it may have been a little too sweet.  The little onions were soft and tasty and while maybe slightly less of the coulis would have been perfect for me (and for others), I thought the flavors were nice together.
Finally, we were served a little warm chocolate-anise truffle cake with candied Anjou pears and Crème Anglaise.  I didn’t get the anise that much, but the little molten chocolate cakes were delicious and rich, and the perfect dessert for the BFF, who LOVES a chocolate molten cake.
The service (which was Brad’s lovely wife Meggin) was stellar.  I love that they work together so well and are efficient and on top of everything, but unobtrusive.  And they are very friendly and fun to have in your house.  And when an issue arose with one of our guests, who as it turns out didn’t eat pork or red meat (bad hostess for not asking!), Brad quickly whipped up a portion of the gnocchi without the pork, and served her a lovely piece of seared tuna in place of the bison.  I was impressed since he obviously wasn’t prepared in advance for this situation (again, bad hostess!).  All in all, it was a top notch meal, and I am so glad we still have Brad available to cook for us, even if he isn’t in a restaurant.   
Brad Gates Catering & Events

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Left Bank Café

The other night my daughter and I decided to try something new for Mommy/daughter night out and were downtown, so we thought we would hit Left Bank.  I have read a few things about it and knew they had crepes, which always intrigues me.  It is a little café right on the canal at Michigan and Indiana.
Left Bank is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner I believe, and my guess from our visit is that dinner is not their big money maker because we were the only ones in there. A couple of people stopped in for coffee or a pastry, but no one else sat down the whole time we were there.  It was quite chilly the night we ate here, so we opted to sit inside which is very small and simple—my guess is the real appeal is sitting out along the canal during nice weather.  They have a lovely outdoor seating area with quite a bit of seating.
I ordered the apple and leek crepe with walnuts, clover honey and a gorgonzola cream sauce that was served on the side. I also ordered a cup of French onion soup because it was so cold outside!  The soup came out first and was extremely hot.  Once it cooled down a bit, I enjoyed it. It was chock full of onions in the classic broth and had a round of toast and cheese on top, in classic French onion soup style.  I liked the cheesy bread—it was nice and melty and tasted good with the rich beefy broth.

While I enjoyed the soup, I was let down with the crepe.  I thought the flavor combination sounded quite intriguing because it was unique and because I love fruit with blue cheese. And of course, I am always a fan of leeks.  The crepe looked like it had some buckwheat flour in it (it wasn’t totally white) which I generally like, but honestly, the crepe was so stuffed with the ingredients, you couldn’t even taste the crepe much.  This is an example of the type of crepes I don’t like, and why I don’t order them very often.  I like to be able to really taste the flavor of the crepe itself and have much less of the ingredients inside—I like them to be almost flat, and this one was as fat as a giant burrito.  And while I liked all the ingredients in it, there was just too much of them.  The gorgonzola cream sauce was nice, but could have used a little more of the blue cheese flavor in it to make it really stand out against the sweetness of the fruit.  There was also a side of very cold pasta salad that didn't really excite me, particularly with how cold it was outside.  It had a pesto-ish flavor once it warmed up a bit.
Our server was quite friendly and joked around with my daughter (who had a grilled cheese with a lovely fruit salad on the side) and was literally, right there when we needed something (remember, there was no one else there).  However, at one point, my daughter came and whispered in my ear, “Mommy, this place is kind of slow!”  And she was right.  It took quite a long time to get our food.  I am pretty sure there was only one person cooking in the kitchen, but really, with just two of us, I was surprised it took as long as it did.
I have seen a fair amount of press about this place, and most of it has been fairly positive—so of course I want to hear from you guys about it. And I am wondering if they get a decent crowd at lunchtime.  Anyone else been there?
Left Bank Café
310 West Michigan Street
Indy  46202

Left Bank Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 15, 2010

Road Trip: Sinclair's at West Baden Springs - Revisit

We snuck off the other day mid week with my sister and brother-in-law because everyone was off work.  We were talking about how it would be fun for all of us to go to French Lick (well West Baden really), eat a good meal, do a little gambling, and get away from the day to day.
I was really looking forward to a return visit to Sinclair’s, the more formal restaurant at West Baden, because we had had such a nice meal there the last time we went.  We had told my sister and her husband how much we enjoyed it, so they were excited as well.
Because it was midweek, the room was nearly empty when we got there, which is a little off putting in a dining room this big, but people continued to come in throughout the meal, although it was never very full.  The hostess and the server were very friendly and our server seemed quite knowledgeable about the menu, like she had actually tried everything on it, which I appreciate.
The list of starters is still very small, and since I enjoyed the carpaccio so much last time, I ordered it again.  It was still quite good, extremely thinly sliced rare to raw beef (I think maybe it was seared on the edge before being sliced) with olive oil, thinly sliced shallots, fried capers, fleur de sel (chunky sea salt) and a few greens.  Again, it was simple but extremely well executed.  The crunchy bits of the shallot and capers accenting the smooth silky meat perfectly.  And you need the bites of salt to cut the richness of the beef and olive oil.  Everyone at the table had some, and everyone liked it.  My only complaint was that it could have been a little bigger portion.
Hubby had the Romaine salad which was served with hearts of Romaine, shaved Pecorino, a crispy piece of pancetta, a crostini with olive tapenade and a creamy garlic/black pepper dressing.  He was disappointed with the salad, as he thought it was underdressed and lacking in flavor.  He liked the tapenade with the crostini because it had some flavor, but it was really more of an accent to the salad.
My sister had the baby spinach salad which was much better than hubby’s salad.  It was baby spinach leaves with roasted pistachios, little fried Boursin “croutons” and a strawberry vinaigrette.  The slight sweetness of the dressing was nice with the slight tanginess of the cheese (which is similar in flavor to a seasoned cream cheese).  The spinach was a nice hearty base for it all.  This was certainly the better salad.
Hubby and I could not agree on which one of us should get the fish dish that was highly recommended by the server, the sea bass wrapped in Serrano ham and served with a ragout made of fingerling potatoes and melted leeks.  You can always get me with “melted leeks.”  Anyway, we rarely order the same main dish because for one, we like to try as many things as possible, and also, because if it is bad, we have two bad dishes.  Well, we learned our lesson.  It wasn’t very good.  The fish itself was ok, pretty tender (although I thought mine was maybe a little overcooked, hubby said his piece seemed almost a little undercooked.  His piece was bigger than mine).  The Serrano ham was so tough from being cooked for quite awhile, I could barely cut it to get a bite with the fish.  The leeks were fine, but were mixed with a bunch of completely undercooked and hard fingerlings.  Luckily, my brother-in-law’s steak and my sister’s scallops were much better.  They both thoroughly enjoyed their meals.  And hubby and I, like I said, learned our lesson.
We did share several desserts—the white chocolate crème brulee, the carrot cake and the “chocolate dome” (in honor of the dome of West Baden.  I had some of the “dome” and it was just okay.  It was layers of chocolate mousse and cake covered in a layer of hardened chocolate.  I tell you what though, the best things about the desserts, in my opinion, were the berries served alongside.  Some seriously yummy raspberries and blackberries.  The carrot cake was good, my brother-in-law loves carrot cake and really liked this one.
I don’t know, I didn’t enjoy my meal nearly as much as I did my last one, but I really like West Baden.  And we were lucky enough to enjoy a really cool thunderstorm while were staying there.  Sitting in that massive lobby listening to the sound of the heavy rain on the dome was awesome.  If you haven’t been to French Lick/West Baden, you should, if not for the food, for the awesome building at West Baden. 
West Baden Springs Resort
8538 West Baden Ave.
West Baden Springs, IN 47469

Sinclair's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Siam Square- Revisit

We have been wanting to go back to Siam Square since our first visit for lunch several months ago.  We headed over there for dinner the other night to explore the menu a little deeper.  For lunch they have nice selections, but the regular menu is much larger than the lunch selections (although you can order off the regular menu anytime I think, it is just more expensive).  And they have beer and wine as well.
We wanted to get an appetizer and I was first drawn to the veggie tempura because it included broccoli and eggplant, two of my favorite veggies to be deep fried, but which you rarely see on a menu as a tempura selection—at least around here.  But then as we looked further, and I saw my favorite eggplant stir fry dish as a dinner option, we veered away from getting eggplant in two courses.  We shifted to the seafood tempura instead which included calamari, shrimp and broccoli.  The shrimp was quite good and I was impressed at the size and quality of it.  They weren’t overcooked and the tempura was light.  I also really liked the broccoli—the florets were cut into just the right size that the broccoli was cooked through, but not too much (although there were only two pieces of broccoli).  The calamari was the most disappointing part of this dish (and was unfortunately the most plentiful as well).  It suffered from the all too frequent problem of being overcooked and thus, rubbery.  I really like the Thai sauce provided with fried food, which I believe is made with vinegar, chili sauce and a bit of sugar. Slightly sweet, slightly tangy and slightly hot.

As I mentioned, for my main dish, I ordered the stir fried eggplant with chicken (you can choose your meat).  It was stir fried with red bell peppers, basil and onions.  As for my spice level, I ordered it medium.  This dish was really good.  The ingredients are super fresh and perfectly cooked.  The eggplant was cut into large slices and the chicken was all white meat, sliced thinly, and not overcooked.  This is one of my favorite dishes and this is one of the best versions of it I have had in Indy (the other probably being Jasmine).  It was nice and spicy and I would say properly “medium” as far as I was concerned.

Hubby ordered the chicken Pad Thai which is thin rice noodles that are quickly fried with egg, scallions, bean sprouts and a little pile of crushed peanuts to the side of the dish.  This is kind of a classic Thai dish, and I really liked this version of it, even though there seemed to be perhaps more noodles than anything else.  The bean sprouts were mixed in with the noodles and gave a nice crunch among the softness of the noodles. I like the way the bean sprouts are similar in size but surprise you with the little fresh crispy bites.  I liked the peanuts sprinkled on top as well for the same reason (texture variation) as well as for a little nutty flavor.  Hubby isn’t as big a fan of the nuts on top (and was happy they were to the side), and overall preferred my dish to his (and preferred his Pad Seuw from the first time as well). 
We also had a dessert which was really good—it was called Roti Rolls and was pastry (they call it flatbread), topped in cream sauce and sugar and rolled up.  It was light and flaky and quite delicious.  Normally I am not a huge fan of desserts at Asian restaurants, but this was yummy—and certainly enough to share.  Hubby claimed it was his favorite part of the meal.
The service started out efficient and friendly, but as the place filled up, it took a bit of a turn.  We waited awhile for drinks and quite awhile for our dessert to be served (it was eventually served by one of the hostesses).  Most of the beer and wine appears to be kept in the basement too, so it meant a bit of a delay when something to drink was ordered. 
Although I still think Siam Square is my favorite Thai place in Indy, I think hubby is slightly less convinced.  And you guys have been giving me some good ideas for new Thai places to try—I am going to have to get out there and see.  And if you haven’t already told me (or even if you have), will you let me know what are your faves? 
Siam Square
936 Virginia Ave
Indy 46203

Siam Square on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 8, 2010


I have been excited to give Mesh on Mass Avenue a try ever since I heard it had opened (a couple months ago now I think).  I was glad to see a new option offered along Mass Ave and so far have been hearing fairly favorable comments about it.  I have heard the chef from 14 West had moved there, and I really enjoyed the last meal I had at 14 West when he was still there.
To start with we were greeted by a very friendly hostess who seated us at a table upstairs.  The remodel of the interior (formerly Si) is nice.  It still feels like a nice restaurant but with a casual edge to it.  And apparently Mesh prides themselves on welcoming customers no matter what they are wearing. 
Our server was quite attentive to us, but there were a few issues around the timing of the food.  We ordered a couple of appetizers to share and each couple split a salad.  Our server specifically said she would space them out and time them, but just after our second appetizer was delivered, they also brought the salads.  It was a little annoying because we had just started the apps.  We sent the salads back (honestly there wasn’t even room for the plates on the table) and asked them to bring them when we were done with our starters.  (I would also prefer them to split the salad for you, which they did not do, because one person always gets less dressing and stuff and it is just a pain to split salads at the table).
Anyway, for our starters, we shared the rock shrimp which were served in spicy garlic butter on top of grilled slices of a baguette.  The shrimp were very good.  They were quite plentiful and well cooked (read, not overcooked).  The somewhat creamy garlic sauce had a nice garlic-y flavor and the crunch of the baguette was a great texture variation.  It was a fancy version of bruschetta and it was tasty.  I like rock shrimp because it seems like it is rarer for a restaurant to overcook them, and they are nice and bite sized.
We also made a “cheese and smear” plate which you can pick 3 items from for $12 or 6 for $20.  There are a lot of yummy sounding items and we chose Humboldt Fog cheese, white bean hummus and arugula pistachio pesto.  This was really good as well.  Humboldt Fog, if you aren’t familiar is a wonderful creamy goat cheese that has both the tangy goat cheese edge, without being as dry as many goat cheeses are.  There is a line of ash running through it which I think also enhances the flavor.  And get this, THE CHEESE WAS AT ROOM TEMPERATURE!  I was so happy because I firmly believe that cheese should be allowed to come to room temperature before being served in order to really get all the depth of the flavors.  And the cheese was great.  The hummus was tasty as well, I was worried it would be bland and it wasn’t.  It was well seasoned and went nicely with the mix of breads served alongside.  Probably my favorite thing, and the surprise standout though, was the arugula pesto.  It was delicious.  It was really fresh tasty, and I enjoyed the somewhat unique take using a different green and nut in a pesto.  Instead of being more of a garnish, this was a dip you could really happily eat on its own.  I would be hard pressed not to order the exact same plate next time.
Hubby and I shared the Mesh salad which was Bibb lettuce, arugula and Belgian endive with hearts of palm, watercress puree and a tarragon mustard vinaigrette.  Like I said, we had to split it ourselves which is not my favorite thing (and I am always very grateful when they do it for you).  I had the extra plate and dished some on to it, and while the bites I had that were dressed tasted quite good, I did not think I had enough of the dressing on my greens.  Maybe if you were eating it as they served it, it was better, I don’t know.  But all the ingredients were fresh and I liked the flavors, I just wish there was a bit more of them with the greens.
For my main, I went with the grilled shrimp.  The shrimp were quite large and the portion was as well (I didn’t finish it).  They were cooked nicely, maybe just a tad bit too far, but you know how picky I am.  It was served over fried pork belly corn grits which were really quite tasty.  I think that corn/grit flavor goes really well with shrimp and they had a very pleasant smoky flavor from the pork belly.  There was also braised Belgian endive which was a nice counter balance texture wise.   There was a also a lobster cream which just kept everything moist.  Overall this dish was pretty successful.  Hubby really liked the grits and they were probably the most unique thing about the dish.
Hubby had the pork belly entrée which he thoroughly enjoyed.  It was served with white bean Cassoulet, more braised endive and a balsamic reduction.  The pork belly was nice and crispy on the edges and was very tasty.  I mean, what is not to like about what is essentially a bacon steak?  And the sweet and tangy taste of the balsamic was a great compliment to the meat.
I had a bit of each of our friends’ dishes as well, and honestly, I was impressed with pretty much everything I ate.  One friend had the chicken scaloppini with was served with blue cheese mashed potatoes and a Sherry cream.  I was surprised at how moist the chicken was.  It was very good.  My other friend had a tuna special and my bite of it was tasty as well and the fish was cooked perfectly—just lightly seared on the outside.
We also had dessert and the meal continued its course of being very good.  We had the “mud napoleon” which was layers of yummy things. It was chocaltely, had vanilla and mocha ice cream and a really really yummy warm peanut butter caramel sauce.  Ok, the details are a little foggy because I had had a good amount of wine, but I really liked this dessert.  I mean, what is not to like?  We also had a special which was a warm apple pie with blackberry ice cream.  It was good, but not as good as the tower of chocolaty richness.  But still, well done.

 Overall, we were impressed with what was a very well prepared and tasty meal.  Even with the minor service issues, this place could become a great regular spot if it can keep up its consistency.  What about you guys? Have you been?  What’s been good? What’s been not so good?  Any must order items?
Mesh on Mass Ave.
725 Massachusetts Avenue
Indy 46204

Thursday, November 4, 2010

West Coast Tacos

Ok, I know I am late in reviewing West Coast Tacos, but sometimes things take awhile.  The concept of the food truck is obviously gaining popularity across the country, what with entire television shows being dedicated to it, but hubby and I were a little surprised by it, I guess because food trucks (at least in San Fran) have been around a long time. (San Francisco’s are usually burrito trucks vs. taco trucks, but same idea).  I do find it interesting though, with the advent of things like Twitter, how a food truck can really move around and serve lots of people.  Usually food trucks in San Francisco stayed in one place and when one occasionally had to move, it was a crisis trying to figure out where it had gone.  Now, West Coast Tacos has taken full advantage of social media and moves all over town both for lunch and dinner.  I am sure this is a great boom for them because they can serve so many varying groups of people.
After checking Twitter, the first time we went, we headed to the east side to catch up with the truck.  It was fairly early in their service hours (I think they usually serve 11:00-1:00 or so) but there was already a line.  The choices on this day were chicken or steak with red sauce or green sauce.  We got three of each, the chicken with green sauce and the beef with red. 

Steak with red salsa
When I made it back to the car with my half of the order, hubby had already eaten one of the chicken ones (hence the picture missing a taco) and was declaring it, “frickin’ awesome.”  I started with a beef, and while it was not bad, I wasn’t seeing what the fuss was about really.  The meat was thinly sliced and covered with a mix of onion and cilantro and then covered in the red sauce.  The sauce wasn’t very spicy—I enjoyed the onion and cilantro mix more I think.  And considering every other review I have read talks about how spicy the red sauce is, I am starting to wonder if maybe they forgot a couple of ingredients on this day or something.  All the tacos are served on doubled up soft corn tortillas.  After hubby finished his first chicken taco, he had a beef and promptly agreed with me that he thought the beef was just okay.
Chicken with green salsa

Next I tried the chicken taco and could understand what hubby had been excited about.  This one was darn good.  The chicken was lightly seasoned and cut into cubes; there was more of the cilantro/onion mix and a wonderful green salsa that had so much more flavor than the red.  We regretted not getting one of the steak tacos with green to see if that would have changed our opinion of it.  The chicken ones were good enough that I can see why people crave them. 

Pork tacos

So, since it seemed like maybe it was an off day with the red salsa, I decided to do a second trip before finalizing this review.  On the second trip, the choices were steak, pork or chicken teriyaki tacos.  Red salsa was your only choice on the pork or steak.  We tried them all.  The red salsa definitely had a lot more flavor this time, which was interesting because there was less of it on the taco than there was the first time we went. It was much spicier—but not so spicy that it was overwhelming.   I think between the steak and the pork though, the pork was definitely better.  It was much more flavorful and had some nice caramelized edges to it.  The chicken teriyaki sounded intriguing, but it was my least favorite of all the tacos I have had from West Coast Tacos. The chicken tasted like it had been marinated a bit in teriyaki sauce, and had a slightly darker color to it than plain grilled chicken, but there was not a lot of teriyaki flavor to me.  And the taco was drizzled with what I assume was Sriracha, an Asian hot sauce.  I don’t know, those are not two flavors I would normally put together.  There also was none of the onion/cilantro mix, just a bit of green onion, and I missed it. I think the freshness of these flavors is one of my favorite parts of the tacos.  And the Sriracha made it so hot, that you couldn’t taste any other flavor nuances with the chicken.
Chicken Teriyaki & 2 Steak

I also know a lot of people have complained about the size of the tacos, and that they aren’t very filling, but I was pleasantly filled when I ate three full ones (the second time I didn’t finish the third one, the chicken teriyaki).  I tend to have a lighter appetite than most though, so I can understand the argument.  You can order them individually, but they are more expensive that way (generally they are 3 for $5 or $2 each).  I did see people ordering 4 to make a meal.
You have to be prepared to make do with wherever you are to eat them—in our case, the first time, this was on the truck of hubby’s car in a very hot parking lot.  The second time we took them home to eat them when the truck was located very near to our house.  I think I personally would choose the location somewhat carefully on any future visits and go somewhere where there might be somewhere to sit down (or to bring them home again).  I am not a fan of eating on the fly (or standing up for that matter), so this dulls a food experience for me, but what the hell, it’s coming out of a truck right?
West Coast Tacos
(various locations throughout the city, check twitter to find out where) @WestCoastTacos

West Coast Tacos (Mobile Food) on Urbanspoon