Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bu Da Lounge - Lunch - Revist

I was downtown the other day again, back on Mass Ave, but wanting to try something new. Or at least sort of new.  I have been to Bu Da Lounge before for dinner, and honestly didn’t even know they were open for lunch until I checked it out at a friend’s suggestion.  He has also repeatedly told me about how good their shrimp wonton soup is, and it was kind of a grey day, so it seemed a perfect opportunity to give it a try.
They open at noon, and I was a few minutes early, so I ended up spending time browsing (as well as more money than I intended) at Mass Ave Toys.  I know I have mentioned it before, but how cool is it that we still have such a nice independent toy shop?  But then I walked in to Bu Da right at noon, hoping to avoid any potential crowds (really any potential cigar smokers) and succeeded at least at first. I was the only one there for the first little while, and I quickly ordered my soup ($7.95).  It is a large bowl, and it was so hot (as in temperature) that I may have singed my tongue a little on that first bite.  Seriously, it was hot. Once I let it sit a bit (and blew on a few spoonfuls), I got to the flavor and I really enjoyed it.  The base is a flavorful broth, one of the more flavorful Asian broths I have had—it was dark in color and deep in intensity.  In it were not just the 4 or 5 large shrimp-filled wontons, but a bunch of egg noodles as well.  The combo made it more filling than a lot of wonton soups.  There were also several large pieces of pork and some bok choy.  They gave me a little bowl of chili oil to add in for more spicy heat, which I did.  But I appreciated regulating it myself.

My only complaint about the soup was (and I can already hear people gearing up to tell me how to properly eat soup) was that the wontons, the bok choy, and the pork pieces were a little big for me to eat in one bite and since I only had one of those little Chinese restaurant spoons and chopsticks, it was hard to get them into a more manageable size without either taking a bite of only half or attempting to cut things with a spoon that looked like this. So I basically pretty much made a mess.  (Hey you know me, I notice these things).  But the flavor of the soup was really good. I truly enjoyed it.  I would really like it if I were eating it without anyone looking and a knife.  The egg noodles I didn’t mind sort of slurping up, but especially with the heat of the dish, the wontons were more challenging, although quite delicious and packed with shrimp meat.
As I ate though, a few more people came in including one who lit up a cigar (it is a cigar bar after all).  So I quickly finished up and paid.  I did overhear the owner (I am assuming) tell others he was going to be relocating into a much larger space here sometime soon.  I am hoping for a smoking and non-smoking section in the new place—because the food is worth going for, but I hate cigar smoke (or really any smoke, unless it is being used to smoke the food).  But this is a restaurant worth checking out for the food if you can deal with the smoke. And a nice lunch alternative I didn’t know was out there.
Bu Da Lounge
429 Massachusetts Ave
Indy 46204

Bu Da Lounge on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 26, 2011

Taste Café and Marketplace- Revisit - Dinner

For some reason I always forget about Taste as an option for dinner—I guess because it is only open a couple of nights a week  (Wednesdays and Thursdays I believe) because I never forget about it as a lunch option. It is one of my favorites for lunch for sure. (Check out my other reviews of both lunch and dinner here.)  Hubby and I had a babysitter on a Thursday the other day and actually remembered it.  It was also a beautiful night so we thought it would be nice to sit outside. 
I think the food hits a spot that Indy is lacking in though---good but not overly fancy, small plates.  (They do have entrées, but we always get small plates when we go).  The menu is quite extensive though, so it always takes us awhile to decide. And then when the server told us the specials, it was almost overwhelming.  There were probably 10, each with about 10 different ingredients. It took quite awhile for him to read them all off to us.  I am thinking it may be a lot easier (and less time consuming) to either print up some daily specials sheets or else just update the regular menu more often. 
We shared several items—the panzanella salad ($8) was the first thing delivered and it was very good.  Hubby had just been complaining about one we had elsewhere, and declared this one to be superb.  It was a spinach base, with giant white beans, nice hunks of bread, tomatoes, capers and red onion served with Champagne vinaigrette.  There was feta sprinkled on top.  I liked the variation on a traditional panzanella which often is focused more around just the bread, tomatoes and basil, and I have most often had it served with mozzarella.  This one was nice with the spinach and the texture variation from the beans, and the salty flavor of the feta.  The salad was dressed perfectly, and we both really enjoyed it. My only complaint is that I would have loved it on a slightly bigger plate—it was mounded so high, it was actually hard to eat it without making a mess. But we managed.
We also got the special antipasto platter of the day which is somewhat similar in accoutrements to the regular one on the menu, but included just speck as the meat. If you aren’t familiar, speck is very similar to prosciutto in appearance, but is smoked as well as seasoned and has a much more distinctive flavor.  They served it with marinated artichokes, some roasted seasoned tomatoes with a slice of fresh mozzarella, and a couple of boiled eggs.  There were a couple of slices of wheat baguette alongside as well.  We both enjoyed eating this dish out there in the open air.  Just a pure flavor of summer.
Finally, we shared the rare roast beef tartine with blue cheese, horseradish and balsamic onion marmalade ($12).  A tartine is basically an open-faced sandwich and taste does them very well.  The beef is actually rare, and tender, and the blue cheese combined with the onion marmalade really complement each other as well—the salty distinct blue cheese with the sweet, slightly tangy marmalade. One of my favorite combos. The horseradish was just lightly grated across the top, giving it just the right amount of horseradish-type heat.  Of course, we also had a side of the frites ($6), which are some of my favorite in town, mainly because of the basil aioli on the side.  I always get these for lunch and dinner.  The fries are light and crunchy and topped with salt and some parsley. But it is the slightly tangy aioli that is the reason I keep ordering them.  They were also offering a chipotle aioli this night, so we tried a side of it is well.  It was good too, but I am still partial to the basil.
Taste is a good casual place to go for a dinner sized exactly the way you want—you can make a nice light meal out of just a couple of the smaller plates, or you can go the traditional route and order an entrée.  I still prefer it for lunch, but it is a good change of pace for dinner as well.
Aftertaste (Taste Café and Marketplace)
5164 N College Ave
Indy 46205

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Taste Cafe and Marketplace on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Places: Kincaid's Meat Market

Another place that I really love in this town is Kincaid’s Meat Market.  This place has been around forever, and is my favorite place to go for serious red meat.  It is an old fashioned butcher shop and they have pretty much everything from deli meats to beef and chicken, as well as lots of exotic things that they usually have on hand in the freezer.  So if you are looking for ostrich, wild game, duck, foie gras or whatever, you can get them all here.  But probably my favorite thing to get there is beef.  (And I generally skip the seafood.)
They have all grades—choice and prime (as well as one lower than choice I believe) and their ribeyes are awesome.  My 6 year old loves going in there and picking out steaks for his favorite meal (ribeyes).  I also like that they still focus on customer service and will cut and prepare whatever you want to order.  I usually go in once or twice a month, pick out a ton of stuff and take it home and pop it in the freezer.  I always have them cut fresh beef tenderloin filets (one cannot live on ribeye alone) for me in exactly the size (and meat grade) that I want for the exact portion for our family.

My daughter’s all time favorite meal is turkey saltimbocca which involves thin sliced turkey cutlets (and prosciutto and sage).  First, I have found it nearly impossible to find turkey cutlets anywhere in Indy, and they just pull a fresh breast out of the case and cut me perfect cutlets.  Depending on who is doing the cutting, sometimes I don’t even have to pound them they are already so thin.  So this is also an item that I stock up on at Kincaid’s.  Of course, for the quality and service received, it is more expensive than your local grocery, but trust me when I say you can taste the difference.
They also carry a lot of local and regional products like Joseph Decuis soups, Graeter’s ice cream, Cook’s Ranch bison, and various dairy products from Trader’s Point Creamery.  And my favorite thing is in the spring when they have lots and lots of morels. I took a picture of their stash last year. Check them out! And hey, just a couple doors down is the Flying Cupcake. Not a bad little combination shopping trip.

the back door

L.E. Kincaid & Sons Meat Market
5605 North Illinois Street
Indy, 46208

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Naisa -- Revisit

Recently I stopped into Naisa for a follow up lunch. I couldn’t believe how long it had been since my last visit.  I hadn’t been to Fountain Square in awhile, and I really like this part of the City.  Recently, I have also been reading articles about Fountain Square’s struggles with the construction in the area and I wanted to make sure to support the area.  Indy has a lot of really great restaurants in this area and I would hate to see any of them lost because of the hassle of the parking and traffic in the area.  Getting over there was a bit of a challenge because at the time, there were several roads closed into Fountain Square (which look like they have since re-opened), and you just have to plan on parking off the main streets, but if you go in knowing that, it isn’t a really big deal to just park on a side street.  Wow, though, you had to feel for Naisa, they don’t even have a sidewalk in front right now, just a bunch of crushed gravel right up to the door.  But once I was in, I was happy to see that pretty much every table was full. I also saw a lot of people coming and going in Siam Square across the street. These are two of my favorite Fountain Square places so I was glad they seemed to be doing okay.
Anyway, I wanted to get something different than I got the first time we were there, so I started with the hot and sour soup this time.  I quite enjoyed it. It was your traditional hot and sour soup with lots of stuff in it—bits of egg, tofu, and bamboo shoots.  The broth was a little thicker than is my personal preference, but I thought it was good. It wasn’t super spicy (some I have had other places gets me in the back of the throat) but it had a nice peppery flavor.  I also always like the little fried wontons on the side to throw in and add a little crunch.
For my entrée, I tried the chicken with garden veggies.  It was all white meat chicken pieces sautéed with lots of different veggies—broccoli, snow peas, mushrooms, cabbage and carrots.  On both my visits, I found the chicken to be well cooked—nice and tender.  The veggies were nice—still crisp and fresh, but still cooked enough that you don’t just feel like they are raw.  The soy-based sauce was pleasant, although I can’t say the dish overall had a ton of flavor.  There was a little seafood fried wonton on the side.  It wasn’t overly cream cheesy, and was a nice variation of flavor.  These in general don’t tend to be my favorite thing but I enjoy one or two with a dish.  The meal for lunch (including the soup) is around $7.50 (sorry I lost my receipt).
Overall, this is a place I enjoy. I don’t find it amazing, but compared to a lot of casual Chinese lunch places, the food is much fresher.  It tastes like they are making an effort in the kitchen to put out high quality, fresh dishes. If I was downtown a lot, I would probably frequent this place.  But now that I think about it, are there other good Chinese places for lunch downtown? I am down there about once a week for lunch, and I would be curious to know if you can recommend other downtown Chinese places.
1025 Virginia Avenue
Indy 46203

Naisa Pan-Asian Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 19, 2011

Road Trip: Boca--Cincinnati

Wow. So, you know how I am always bitching about how Indy has no good Italian places?  Well, this restaurant, this one right here, is the reason why.  What I wouldn’t give to have this restaurant, or one like it, in Indy. And it is in Cincinnati people, it isn’t some fancy East coast or West coast spot, so it is possible to pull it off in the Midwest. 

We were visiting friends in Cincinnati and decided to pick one of the many places on my “list” to try—there are so many places in Cincinnati that I want to go to.  We had a hard time narrowing it down, but ended up choosing Boca.  On the weekends they have a prix fixe menu where you get 2 courses plus dessert for $57 or 3 courses plus dessert for $69.  I really wanted to try several of the lighter first and second course items though, but thought I might be getting ripped off since I wasn’t getting the bigger main dishes.  I asked the waiter and he said they would happily just charge me the a la carte prices for whatever I wanted (which is how they charge during the week).

So I started with the wild striped bass crudo which was amazing ($14 a la carte). The raw fish was thinly sliced and so delicate in flavor. It was topped with some quartered cherry tomatoes, a bit of cantaloupe and pickled eggplant and just a tiny bit of heat from some chilies. The eggplant was understated, but balanced the sweetness of the fruit. It was drizzled with olive oil.  Seriously, it tasted as good as it was lovely.  It wasn’t a huge portion, but just the right amount for a first course.

My second course is something I have been dreaming about ever since I ate it. It was “capalleacci di mais tartufo nero” ($12).  Holy moly was it good. It was housemade pasta stuffed with sweet corn and mascarpone (think sort of like flat tortellini) and topped with a brown butter sauce and shaved summer truffles.  That’s what I’m talking about.  It was rich, but with a sweet, slightly tangy taste from the mascarpone (and intense creaminess) but the pasta wasn’t so full that you only tasted the insides.  The sauce was light, with deep earthy flavor from the browned butter and the truffles.  I seriously wanted to order another dish of it for my dessert.  Again, the portion was not large, but just enough to leave you wanting just a tad more. And looking forward to what was next.

For me, that was a seared day boat scallop with caramelized Brussels sprouts, a brown butter truffle vinaigrette and shaved Parmigiano reggiano on top ($16).  This dish fairly blew my mind as well—I loved the combination of the brown butter with a vinaigrette—tasted like aged balsamic vinaigrette—I mean the Brussels sprouts were so caramelized with such a distinct balsamic flavor, at first you almost forgot what they were. But the vinegar taste with the sweet, buttery scallop and a nice slice of Parmigiano on top, and just a hint of truffles…well, it was seriously delicious.

Just to quickly hit on hubby’s dishes, his panzanella was the only thing that was a little disappointing throughout the evening. The bread tasted a bit like croutons, not the ripped up pieces we both like.  But his second course, the “Bavette con Bottargo” was really good. And another really good example of something different done with pasta in a classic Italian style that ISN’T MARINARA OR CREAM SAUCE.  (It really does exist).  So it was linguine pasta mixed with some roasted tomatoes and little bit of chili oil and topped with breadcrumbs and cured tuna roe. Bottarga is basically the roe pouch of a fish (tuna here) that is cured and then grated over the top.  The flavor is of the sea, but not super fishy.  The bottarga was mixed with breadcrumbs adding to the texture.  Hubby had seen Anthony Bourdain rave about it at some point and couldn’t wait to order it.  He loved it.  His sous vide wild salmon was also perfectly prepared.  Sous vide” means the fish was slow cooked sealed in a plastic bag at very low temperatures.  Everything I have ever had cooked this way (will never forget the lamb at The Fat Duck in England. Never.) has been so good—super tender and even though it is cooked for a long time, remains rare in appearance, but the same from the outside in.  This salmon was super tender and I loved the sherry vinaigrette over it and the accompanying beets and haricot vert (fancy French word for green beans).  There were some bits of hazelnut throughout as well adding a nice little crunch.  Salmon is not my favorite fish in the world, but I would eat this again in a minute.

We also got our desserts as part of the prix fixe dinner (although by the time we got there, we could have easily skipped it). I had a perfectly nice cheese board with the right simply toasted bread, and the perfect accompaniment of quince and melon (I love some sweet with my blue cheese).  Hubby had the dark chocolate pot de crème which I thought was well done for what it was, but he was just so-so on it (he isn’t a big dessert person).  But overall I left this meal with mixed emotions. I was really happy because we had an amazing meal with good friends.  The staff is also really down to earth and friendly and the restaurant has a nice buzz to it without being too noisy.  I was a little sad though that it seems impossible for Indy to pull off an Italian place like this.  But I can keep hoping….

3200 Madison Road
Cincinnati, OH  45209

Boca on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Taqueria Guanajuato

This place is pretty cool. I had never even realized that such a cool little piece of Mexico existed in Indy.  The taqueria is set inside a huge Mexican market.  When you walk in, you really feel transported. I loved looking at all the meat in the meat counter—so many things you don’t often see in the regular grocery stores—pigs’ feet, tripe, and tons and tons of everything offered. I have never seen so much meat in one place.  Seriously, this place is worth it just to wander the aisles and look at all the products.  But inside, in one corner, there is a little taqueria set up.  It isn’t the kind of taqueria I am familiar with, where you walk down and tell them how to make your burrito.  In this case, you basically line up, pick your form (taco, torta or burrito) and tell them what meat you want.  They take it from there.  There is a huge flattop where they are constantly grilling some type of meat and then they call your number when your order is ready.
I was with a friend who really likes this place and gave me some recommendations.  He ordered a carne asada burrito and I ordered two tacos—one with beef encebollado (I went out on my own with that one) and one al pastor.  I am not exactly sure what the prices were as my friend paid, but all those items plus 2 sodas was just under $10).  I would say I really enjoyed my bites of his burrito the best.  The carne asada is grilled beef that tasted like it was lightly marinated and then grilled.  The burritos are made with lettuce, avocado and sour cream (but not your typical American sour cream).  But the biggest thing you get ingredient-wise is clearly the meat.  I would say the meat easily  makes up ¾ of the burrito filling. (Apparently there is also a bit of refried beans, but I didn't taste it in my bites.) I liked the burrito because I liked the texture and flavor variation that came from the other ingredients besides the meat.  My next favorite thing was my beef encebollado taco—it was beef tenderloin according to the menu that was grilled with onions.  The meat was very tender and again, you got a really nice amount of meat—almost so much that you couldn’t pick it up.  It had a very nice grilled flavor. Okay, so the al pastor is meat that comes off a big revolving spit sort of like gyro meat. It was probably my least favorite because it was a tad dry and the hunks were a little big for my mouth. It was well seasoned though.  Both tacos came topped with lots of cilantro and chopped onions on top and limes for squeezing across them.  Then you could doctor them up with either the red sauce or green sauce that is served in squeeze bottles on the bars and tables.  The red sauce was good and packed some heat (and was my friend’s favorite) but I really liked the fresh (and less hot) flavor of the green sauce. 
This is a cool place and I would venture to say is pretty authentic considering the setting and the people that were there.  I have been to Mexico several times, and have had some great tacos—but they were usually fish or shrimp because we have always been near the water.  These tacos (and the burrito) are really highlighting the flavor of the meat, with just a bit of other seasoning.  I enjoyed everything, although I didn’t find any of it life-changing.  I am intrigued to go again and take hubby as I think he would really enjoy it—and I think we will split a burrito.  Seriously, if I ate an entire one of these, I don’t think I would eat for the rest of the day.  I love discovering cool new places (new to me) like this in Indy though, where you can literally feel like you are in a different country for a minute.

NOTE: I went back after writing this post with hubby to try a burrito just as I wanted to and they were out of burritos.  Seriously. That was kind of weird for a place that only offers three items.  So we tried a torta (3.50) with the same beef encebollado and it was pretty tasty. Sort of like a burrito in that is also has the avocado, sour cream and lettuce.  They also add some shredded cheese and a tomato slice to it. The bun was nothing really special, but was toasted, which was nice.  The combo of the flavors was good, but you didn't get the meat flavor as much because of everything else going on.  We also had a couple of tacos ($1.75 each) and tried the chicken--it was probably my least favorite because the meat was very dry.  Interestingly, I really liked the red sauce better this time--the green sauce was much spicier than last time. I think they must make it fresh and it must just depend on who is making it.  My experience was similar to the first though--good, but not amazing.  Cheap as chips though.

Taqueria Gianajuato
3110 N. Shadeland Ave
Indy 46226

Carniceria Guanajuato II on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 12, 2011

Athens on 86th

Every once in awhile I get in the mood for Greek food, mainly because I have a thing for phyllo dough, and recently a friend told me that she liked this place because the food is good and the waiters are cute. So of course, I had to check it out.  It is one of those strip mall restaurants that are so prevalent in Indy that sort of take you by surprise because their interiors are nicer than what you might think.  It had a nice little outdoor seating area too, although they had just resurfaced the parking lot and the smell would have ruined my meal.  There were a couple of brave souls out there though.
So, as I mentioned, I love phyllo, so often appetizers are some of my favorite items in a Greek place. I also love hummus in general, so again, my favorite part of the menu is the top part.  Hubby and I have often wanted to get the saganaki, or flaming cheese, and have never seemed to make it happen because we are always so busy ordering other things.  This time, we decided to go hog wild with the appetizers and split an entrée.
So we started with the saganaki ($6.99), which is kasseri cheese which is lit on fire at your table and doused with lemon.  (Opa!)  The cheese itself a fairly hard salty cheese that is made all melty and a little crispy on the edges with the whole lighting on fire thing. But I especially liked the squeeze of lemon juice used to put out the flames because it gave it a real tangy flavor that was really nice with rich melty caramelized cheese.  They gave us some toasty warm pita to put it on.  How could you really go wrong?
So we also ordered a sampler platter of their cold spreads (a la hummus) ($12.49)  because they had several that sounded unique as well as good.  I mean, you see hummus and tzatziki most everywhere, but here while those were on the platter, so were several other things.  Honestly, the hummus was one of my least favorites.  It was a little thicker and less pureed than I like, and didn’t have a lot of flavor, especially compared to the others.  We enjoyed the taramosalata, which was a new one to me, and was a smoother spread made with lemon juice, olive oil and caviar as well as other things—pretty sure it was probably a chickpea base as well. It looked a lot like hummus, but was quite intensely salty from the caviar.  I enjoyed eating it along with the other dips, but a whole dish of it may have been too much.  Probably our other favorite spread was the scordalia, which was also one I don’t think I have had before. It was a potato base, with quite a bit of lemon, as well as olive oil and garlic.  Again, it was a nice fresh flavor—very lemony, but not sure if I could eat an entire dish of it. A little of the two mixed together (or with the hummus) were kind of nice because you got a little of both kinds of flavors.  There was also melitzanosalata which is an eggplant based spread with roasted eggplant, garlic, onion, olive oil and lemon blended into a spread. This one had a bit of heat to it—mainly from a lot of garlic I think.  It was a nice texture variation though as it had more of the vegetable consistency than the beans/potato type consistency.  Tzatziki (which is a sour cream/yogurt sauce with heavy cucumber flavor) is fine with me, but more as a condiment to other things, and less of a dip on its own.  Ok, I have seriously talked about dips for far too long.
Before we got our main dish to split—another sampler of sorts, hubby got the Greek salad that came with and so I ordered a cup of the avgolemeno ($3.69) which was described as an velvety egg-lemon chicken soup with orzo.  The soup didn’t really do anything for me.  I sort of expected it to be more eggy somehow, and it was more like a slightly thickened chicken broth with orzo (the large pasta shaped like rice).  The salad was good though—lots of feta and a nice tangy vinaigrette.
So my biggest disappointment came with the main dish which was the “Pikilia Taste of Athens” ($20.89).  It had lots of different things including what is often my favorite thing, spanikopita, or spinach pie (phyllo!) and  tyropita which is basically just a cheese version made with feta and herbs.  The spanikopita tasted like frozen spinach to me, which is not a flavor I care for at all (and I really like spinach).  It was mixed with cheese and wrapped in the phyllo, but it couldn’t win me over. I preferred the cheese pie, but it was a middle of the pack of other versions I have had.  The mousaka wasn’t bad—it is layers of eggplant, ground beef and potato that is topped with béchamel and baked—sort of like a Greek version of lasagna.  It was probably one of my favorite items on this dish, but while I am pretty sure cinnamon is generally an ingredient in the dish, it seemed a little too cinnamon-y for me. Started crossing the line between savory and sweet for me. Hubby’s favorite was the pastichio which is macaroni mixed with ground beef, topped with more of the béchamel and baked.  Again, sort of like a slightly different version of lasagna as well. Similar flavors to the mousaka, but not as cinnamon-y. There was also gyros meat, which tasted, well, like gyros meat, which hubby is a better judge of, and he thought it was too dry.  Honestly, I didn’t get to the dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) because I had had enough at this point, and they are never my favorite.  They certainly give you a lot of food on this plate and it is certainly enough to share (there was also green beans and roasted potato).
Our service was extremely friendly, and the restaurant had a nice business of what appeared to be a fair amount of regulars.  I know I say this all the time, but if it were in my neighborhood, I might be inclined to visit every so often. I would certainly stick to appetizers though.
And yes, the waiters were indeed cute.
Athens on 86th
2284 West 86th Street
Indy  46260

Athens on 86th on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 8, 2011

City Café

I randomly stopped at City Café when I was downtown the other day.  I remember a couple of people recommending it to me and looking at the menu, it looked very appealing.  I walked in a little after noon on a weekday, and while it is a fairly small place (probably 12-15 tables), all but one were full (and it was being cleared).  The place stayed full the entire time I was there, which always (ok, usually) is a good sign for me.
So they have a homemade soup of the day (well, they call it “yesterday’s soup, because we all know it’s better the next day”) and on the day I was there it was chicken and rice, which is always one of my favorites.  So I ordered “the tenderloin” sandwich and substituted a cup of the soup for my chips.  (Sandwich is $9.50, sub soup +$2.75).  The soup was not what I was expecting, but it was very good.  The server told me it was a little on the spicy side, and I was sort of imagining you classic heat.  But actually, it was spicy, as in had a lot of unique and different spices from what I was expecting.  It had a kind of almost Indian flavor to it—tasted like it had curry as well as turmeric in there as well (and based on the color).  There were some pieces of chicken and lots of soft rice as well as some veggies—I noticed mainly carrot and some mushrooms.  So, it did have a fair amount of spice, although not in the heat way you normally think of “spicy” and the more I ate it, the more I wanted.  I really liked it.
The sandwich was one of the best I have had in awhile, and probably one of the best steak sandwiches I have ever had.  It was grilled roast beef, most of it very rare, with caramelized onions, bacon, and blue cheese on sourdough that was buttered and toasted.   It was a perfect sandwich.  The meat was so tender, it practically melted in your mouth, and there was a fair amount of super soft (actually caramelized) onions with lots of black pepper flavor.  The bacon was good, although was probably a bit unnecessary, but who is going to argue about gilding the lily with a little bacon?  And it was all balanced with just the right amount of blue cheese to cut the over the top rich meatiness.  And it was evenly spread across the bread, giving you a bit of the blue cheese in every bite of the sandwich.  And they even went the extra mile to make sure the bread was great too by taking the time to butter and toast it.  So, I only ate half since I had eaten the soup and was getting full, and also because I am the nicest wife in the world and wanted hubby to try it.  I rushed it home to him for him to try, and he promptly declared it “freakin’ awesome.”  He had already eaten his lunch but said no way would he let this sandwich go to waste and ate every bite.
The other thing that impressed me was that while the menu said each sandwich comes with a dill pickle spear (which it did), they didn’t mention the lovely slice of a beautiful meaty orange tomato.  Usually I completely ignore tomatoes as garnishes on plates because they are usually crappy, but this one looked really good, and tasted really good.  
The service was a touch slow for me, although they were quite busy, so I assume maybe this was the problem. I don’t think it was just me though as I watched several other people wait awhile for service.  However, after eating the food, I think it is worth the wait and I am excited to try other items on the menu (they also do breakfast, which is always a challenge around town).  They state on the menu that they use local ingredients from local farms, which of course is always a good thing as well.  It’s funny.  Obviously people know about this place based on the crowd, but I haven’t heard a lot of people talk about it.  So, have you ever been there?
City Café
443 North Pennsylvania Street
Indy 46204
(they’re on facebook)

City Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


The View

Every so often I let hubby convince me to try Italian again.  This time it was because he had a fairly late meeting and so we wanted to go somewhere close to home because I knew I would be hungry by the time we got to dinner.  So we decided to return to Sangiovese which is very near our house.  We went once before, right after we moved here, and while we didn’t hate it, weren’t overly impressed with certain things (the mussels) and just never seemed to get around to going back.  So it had been about five years.  Sangiovese always has coupons in some of the local books, so we also finally decided to use one of them as well (and I see they are also going to be part of the “Northside Nights” restaurant week which starts this week). (P.S. there is also a "Savor the Southside" event going on at the same time on the southside.)
The other reason I let myself be convinced to give Sangiovese another try is because they have a very nice deck overlooking the river in the rear of the building.  It is one of those random strip mall restaurants that are very deceiving looking from the outside (particularly right now with a ton of construction going on there).  But the deck is lovely and actually I really like the warmth of the interior of the restaurant as well.
So we got a nice table out there with on a night when it was breezy enough that it was actually cool out there (shocking!) but still not as cold as it was inside the restaurant. Anyway, the menu was quite different from the last time we were there and we were disappointed to see the Carpaccio that used to be on the menu no longer there (although it is still on the online menu).  There was an interesting sounding calamari appetizer though—it was described as a calamari steak stacked on field greens and tomatoes with a garlic, caper, caramelized onion, and Pinot Grigio sauce ($8).  Sounds good huh?  Well unfortunately, the waiter told us it wasn’t actually being served as a steak but as rings and tentacles.  But at least it wasn’t deep fried, so we went with it anyway.  Turns out it was just rings, and they were only okay.  They were borderline chewy as calamari rings can so often be.  I really liked the sauce though—especially the caramelized onions with the sauce. I would have liked a bit more of the greens (I think there were probably only 6-8 leaves there) and the tomatoes were a disappointment (which is bad when it is August in Indiana).  The sauce was spicy with the garlic and the capers and it was a shame it didn’t all come together.
When trying to decide whether to order one of the several specials, I asked the server about the mushroom ravioli special which sounded intriguing.  I point blank asked if the ravioli was made in house and he said no.  I appreciated his honesty, but I thought that the fact that they are using frozen food service ravioli just demonstrates the problem with most Italian food in Indy.  Seriously, if someone made some from scratch, people would be blown away. And come on, it isn’t that hard. Anyway, I went with the penne alla Medici ($15) which was penne pasta with an olive oil based sauce, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers, crushed red pepper and marinated chicken breast slices based on our server’s recommendation.  You know, it tasted pretty good, because I like all those things a lot, but when you really thought about it, it would be insanely easy to make at home since most of the ingredients were jarred.  The chicken, which I am sure they cooked there, was the most disappointing part of the dish because it was dry.
Hubby ordered one of the day’s specials which was the Osso Bucco ($28) and came highly recommended as well.  And hubby loves a good Osso Bucco.  Sadly for hubby, this was not a good one.  While the meat was slow cooked and fairly tender, it had very little flavor to it.  It was interesting because it was served with a side of risotto that looked bad because it was all white and looked like it didn’t have any flavor, but in fact, it was pretty tasty and perfectly cooked.  They must have used some nice wine and stock to make it because it was delicious.
Finally we tried one of the two housemade desserts (several were not and again, it was nice that the server was on top of this issue and answered me honestly)—the tiramisu ($7).  It was quite light and had all the flavors you want in a tiramisu. You could taste the coffee, but not too much and the mascarpone.  And it had just a touch of chocolate. I would have preferred the chocolate to be powdered though, as the syrup they were using tasted suspiciously like the kind my kids make their chocolate milk with at home.
So sadly, while the service was good, and the view lovely, the food just reminded me why I rarely eat Italian food out in this City.  It just isn’t that good.  It just seems like people are lazy when it comes to making Italian food in restaurants.  Hardly anyone makes their own pasta and corners seem to be cut a little too often for my taste.  The restaurant did have a fair amount of people in it which was impressive given it was mid-week and the construction made it quite difficult to even see the restaurant is there (not to mention the fact that several of the entrances to the strip mall were closed the day we went).
But I continue to search….

P.S. Let me know if you plan on taking advantage of the north and south side restaurant weeks and how your meals are.
Sangiovese Ristorante
4110 East 82nd Street
Indy 46240

The Deck

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Black Diamond BBQ

Fresh on the high of a great set of ribs from Squealers not long ago, hubby has become slightly obsessed with barbeque.  He wants to try them all, like tomorrow, so he can compare and contrast them all while it is still fresh in his head.  So we invited friends over the other night to finally get around to trying Black Diamond which is like 5 minutes from our house, and which we have never tried.  It is a pretty small place, and there isn’t a lot of ambiance there, and since it is so close, we figured it probably wouldn’t lose much in the 5 minute drive from there to our house.  Not to mention, barbeque is inherently slow cooked anyway right?  The people working in there are really nice and they put together your order super fast.

They do a lot of barbeque chicken at Black Diamond which I like, although the more I eat, the more I realize it is tough to do it well.  But I still decided to go with the half chicken anyway, figuring that at least the dark meat would be tender.  So my meal was a half barbeque chicken dinner which comes with two sides—I had the mac and cheese and the greens ($9.75).  So unfortunately, the chicken was quite dry really and even the leg meat suffered from that fate.  Extra sauce helped, but not enough.  The sauce choices are sweet, mild, and spicy. I got the mild, thinking, well it wouldn’t be sweet since they actually have a separate sauce that is sweet, but I still found it a little too sweet.  If I went again, I would certainly go for the spicy, as one friend who had it at the table did not think it was really spicy at all. The mac and cheese was fine—it was your standard noodles in cheese product—you know, like Velveeta-esque.  Didn’t taste bad, but wasn’t wowing anyone for sure.  The greens weren’t bad, but honestly weren’t my first choice.  I always want to try the potato salad at barbeque places, and when I asked for that as my side, I was told they were out of it (I was also told if we wanted hot dog kids meals that they had on the menu it would be a 30-40 minute wait which was weird I thought. What kind of hot dog takes that long to cook?).  Anyway, I was kind of bummed about the potato salad thing, but I can adapt.

Hubby got the large rib dinner ($12.95) with cole slaw and baked beans.  So these are not baby back ribs, they are the spare rib style—meaning they are larger bones with more meat and fat.  The baby back ribs come from the top of the rib cage (or the back of the pig) whereas the spare ribs come from along the sides of the rib cage.  Obviously, this is a matter of preference, as both are very popular, but hubby (and I) prefer the baby back ribs.  To me, I prefer the smaller size and the less fatty texture of the meat.   I have to say though, they give you a very nice portion of them for the money.  The thing that disappointed me the most about them though was the lack of any smoky flavor at all.  Overall, these ribs were pretty much the reason I rarely order ribs.  They were a bit tough, too fatty for me, and lacked any smoke.  Hubby’s cole slaw was also pretty bad.  It was just cut cabbage and had no creaminess to it, which is fine in theory—I thought maybe it was a vinaigrette kind of thing.  But it actually was just purely sweet.  The baked beans were pretty standard.  Definitely better than the slaw.

The kids shared some pulled pork and a bunch of the macaroni and cheese. The pulled pork on a bun is $7.95 for an adult portion and $3.99 for a kid’s portion (the adult portion is pictured).  I would say the pulled pork was the best of the things we had, and they gave you a fair amount of sauce.  Inherently though the meat was a tad dry as well (seemed to be a theme running through everything).  The kids were happy with it though, and were really into the mac and cheese (go figure).
I don’t know, I have heard so many good things about this place, but compared to what I have had locally, I would put this in the very average category.  Luckily for us (and hubby is already planning the next place), we have lots of barbeque choices around town.  Of course, I always want to hear which one you think is the best and why.
Black Diamond Barbecue
6404 Rucker Road, Suite 5
Indianapolis  46220
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