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.