We lost a couple of good restaurants in Indy lately but I have to say, I am relieved to have Black Market, because it looks like we have replaced them with a good new one. Based on my first visit anyway, this one’s a keeper.
I usually don’t try a new restaurant this quickly (it had only been open a week and a half at this point), but it was a friend’s birthday, and his choice, so we happily obliged. As of our visit, Black Market still didn’t have its sign out front, so you sort of feel like you are sneaking into some secret restaurant—it’s tucked away at the end of Mass Ave (near R Bistro) with just a plain black awning out front. And get this; they have their own parking lot—a very nice benefit for a downtown restaurant. There is also a small outdoor eating area. When we walked in, we were warmly welcomed, the door opened for us, and we were told to have a seat wherever we liked. There is a long communal table and then several other tables for 2 or 4. But the main feature of the room is probably the long bar that takes up nearly half of the restaurant. Also the enormous black board just inside the door which lists all the menu items as well as the specials (they also give you a regular menu so you don’t have to read anything off the board except the specials).
There are several small plates and then larger plates and several sides. We started with the ceviche appetizer (a special--$12) and the beef tongue cocktail ($8). The ceviche was delicious even if I would call it more of a seafood tostada perhaps than what I imagine with classic ceviche. It was marinated seafood—chopped shrimp and scallops mixed with cilantro and lime and served over cabbage and on a crispy tortilla. There was also a lovely fresh cilantro crème fraiche/sour cream sauce drizzled on top. All these things were awesome together, but you can see what I mean when I say it was more like a tostado or taco with a crispy shell. Usually ceviche is just the fish and something to scoop it up with; this was much more than that. It was a perfect summer starter.
We also shared the beef tongue cocktail. Not having a ton of experience with eating a lot of tongue (ok, I have re-written that sentence several times and there is just no way to say it that doesn’t come out sounding a little weird), I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect with this one, but it was really good as well. The tongue was cut into little cubes and had a slight crisp edge to them. It was served mixed with cubes of beets and horseradish cream sauce and with several thick fried potato chips alongside for scooping. The beets and cream adding nice variation in flavor and texture to the tongue itself, but the tongue was so good—I went back for several forkfuls of just those little nuggets—in some ways the richness of them reminded me of cubes of pork belly. I was impressed—I have never seen an appetizer like this in Indy, and it was a refreshing change of pace.
For our main dishes, hubby and I agreed to share a couple of things—I ordered the veggie option-- Fried Egg on Toast ($11) and hubby ordered the pork schnitzel ($16). The fried egg dish was also very good (and you know I love a dish with a perfect runny egg). It was thick sliced toast that had been grilled, and therefore had some color to it, topped with melted cheddar cheese and roasted small tomatoes that had that mellow smoothness that roasting gives to veggies (and fruits in this case). There was still the touch of acidity but it was balanced by the roasting. There was also some crispy kale chips (which by the way, I had just made for the first time myself last weekend at my house using Katy She Cooks’ recipe) which were nice to add a slight edge of saltiness and bitterness and crackly crunch. I have to say, my instinct when I see an egg like that is to reach for a salt shaker, and there wasn’t one on the table. So I decided to go with it as is, and it was perfectly seasoned. No additional salt or anything else needed. It was served with lightly dressed greens (ok, my one complaint on the dish is that I would have liked a little more dressing on these). The whole dish was simple, but with some subtle tweaks.
The schnitzel was also very well done. Probably the best schnitzel I have had. Someone had spent some time getting this right. The pork was pounded flat and seasoned with egg and breadcrumbs—and some cheese I am guessing. But the beauty is, it was cooked through, but was also still exceedingly tender with a nicely crispy pan fried crust. It was served with a slaw of cabbage, apples and lemon. The slaw was a great accompaniment because it was a little sweet, but mostly tangy. A bite of the pork with the slaw together let you know someone back in the kitchen had thought about what they were putting together on the plate and had good reasons for it. Again the dish was inherently simple, but so well executed.
We also got a side of the spaetzel and the fries (both $5). The spaetzel was my least favorite thing of the evening. It really had little flavor and just sort of felt like carbs that weren’t worth eating. Our server had told us it was lemony, but I didn’t really get any lemon flavor from it (or really much of any flavor). We also had the fries which were served with a lemon sage aioli. You know how I am always complaining when restaurants (particularly ones that are trying to be more than just your standard restaurant) only serve ketchup with fries? Well, this is the reason why. You get a dip like this, and you realize how lame ketchup is. The fries themselves were tasty—hot and crisp, not exactly mind-blowing on their own, but with that sauce, wow. My only complaint? There were a lot of fries and we could have used another ramekin of sauce.
I only had a couple bites of our friends’ dishes but my quick thoughts are this: the black market burger (made with lamb and beef) ($13) was good. I liked the nice fire roasted flavor in the meat, and that it wasn’t cooked to death. It was quite juicy. I also liked the pickled tomatoes and goat cheese topping giving it the right balance with the rich, smoky meat. What I didn’t like was the bun was a little too big and dense to eat the burger easily—my friend cut it in half to eat it. Our other friend had the herb roasted lamb ($18) which was not exactly what we were expecting either, but was still good. It was sliced and heavily seasoned—almost like fancy gyros meat. It was served with a similar creamy sauce that you would get with gyros too. It was good, but could maybe use a little more description on the menu—as this would not be what I was wanting if I ordered “herb roasted lamb.”
We had a dessert-the banana bread with butterscotch and chocolate whipped cream ($5). This was a dish that didn’t look that good when it was sat down on the table—it was basically a banana muffin with the butterscotch sauce and the whipped cream on the side. I feared the muffin would be dry, but a mix of all the flavors together was terrific. You could taste the banana without being overwhelmed by its sweetness. The desserts may be a little on the small side compared to what we are used to in Indy, but I liked that, although I shared it, I could have eaten the whole thing myself. It was just the right portion.
Overall, this is a place that is certainly going into my regular rotation. I don’t think they take reservations, so at some point, it might be more difficult to get into, but we had no problem. I was also really impressed with how well the front of the house was working. Our service was spot on all night, never a delay in anything. Our server gave us honest and really good recommendations. She knew what she was talking about. I would say this kind of service would be impressive in any Indy restaurant, but particularly one that has only been open just over a week. You really ought to go check it out.
922 Massachusetts Avenue