Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cerulean


I have been hearing a lot of hype about Cerulean with all the pre-opening dinners they have had around town, and was hoping the food would live up to it. Hubby and I have been anxious to try something new and decided to give it a go on its first weekend officially open.  This isn’t something I normally do because I like to give a place a chance to work out the kinks, but this time I just decided I’d try it and maybe not write about it.  But our dinner was so good; I figured I needed to share.

The first thing you notice about the restaurant is how clean and modern the interior is—there is a giant wooden “nest” in the restaurant which looks pretty cool, but I was kind of glad we weren’t seated in there just yet because it still smelled of pretty fresh timber and of new construction, which I think would have distracted me a bit from the food.  Once it settles in though, it is a nice slightly more private part of the restaurant.  The rest of it is made up simple, streamlined furniture and several banquettes—although I didn’t think it was so modern that it was too cold.  I liked the small vases of flowers on the tables.


The food overall was pretty damn good.  I like the way the menu has very small plates (that range from $3-4 each and are maybe 2-4 bites depending on the size of your bite), medium plates, and entrée plates.  We were intrigued by nearly every one of the smallest plates, so we decided to get all but one of them.  The first two that they brought out were the corn macaroon ($3) and the mushroom custard ($4).  The corn macaroon was great—two corn flavored macaroons sandwiched around a perfect, tender piece of pork belly sitting in a rich smoky cheddar flavored sauce and a smear of what was essentially like arugula pesto on the plate. It all went really well together and I appreciated the creativity of the dish.

The mushroom custard was probably our least favorite dish of the evening.  They presented it in a tall skinny jar with the custard on the bottom and “herb crumble” on top.  Apparently, the idea was that it look a bit like a terrarium. It was nice to look at, but not user friendly in the eating department. The jar was barely big enough for the spoon and it was nearly impossible to mix the two together, meaning the first few bites were pretty much all herb crumble which was a bit dry without the custard.  The custard was served quite cold and that detracted from the flavor for me as well.  Basically, this one was a misfire. I think it could be improved if the custard were warm, it was served in a more shallow dish, and with less of the crumble.  But that would sort of be remaking the entire dish now wouldn’t it?

The other three small plate items we had were the “tator tot” ($4), the marrow fritter ($4), and the rabbit rillettes ($4). All of these were very good—hubby and I disagreed on a favorite, but agreed that we liked the entire lot.  The tator tot was my favorite.  It was a hot, crispy potato pancake topped with a teeny barely cooked quail egg served on top of pepper paste (a lot of “paste” type things going on).  It was super crunchy, like a traditional tator tot, but made of fresh potato and just lightly seasoned. There were several sauces underneath—I am thinking green and red peppers were involved here.  I liked the super crunchy texture of the dish.  The marrow fritter was interesting. It was almost like a beignet—a deep fried dumpling kind of a thing. Because it was served on top of a fairly sweet apple cider sauce (with pecans and a fried sage leaf), it almost came across as a dessert. I could have happily eaten it as a dessert.  The marrow came in the form of powder on top, which was interesting.  Not the rich fatty marrow flavor you are expecting, but it added a subtle marrow flavor. It was good for sure, and well prepared, but wouldn’t say it was my favorite. The rillettes were really well done as well, and were the thing hubby picked as his probably favorite of the small dishes.  Rilletes are meat cooked down with fat so that it becomes a spread of sorts.  This was smooth, and I liked that it was served closer to room temperature rather than really cold.  It had the intense meat flavor and when you took the crispy kale chip and just a little of the horseradish cream along with it, it was a great combination.  The cream gave a little balance to the meat flavor, and the horseradish the touch of heat you wanted.  It was really well done.


At this point, we skipped ahead to the entrée portions and at the suggestion of our server, both got dishes that involved pasta (several of the dishes involve pasta in them).  I had the chicken sausage with red pepper fettuccine ($23).  Hubby had the duck breast with lemon fettuccine ($28). Finally. A restaurant in this town taking care to make their own pasta and not just drench it in a marinara or alfredo sauce.  These dishes took a protein and used the right pastas and other ingredients to make a cohesive, thoughtful and delicious dish.  Mine included the pasta, the chicken sausage, gorgonzola, dried tomatoes and lime. And the whole thing was sitting in the bowl surrounded by creamy cilantro milk.  There was pasta and the salty, rich flavor of the cheese and sausage (but because it was chicken sausage, it wasn’t too heavy), and there was acid! There was acid from the tomatoes, which were rehydrated and super tender and from the lime.  And the cilantro milk added just the right creaminess. This people, this is what I am talking about when it comes to a well executed pasta dish.


And hubby’s was just as good.  His had acid flavor in the lemon pasta and salt from pancetta and duck skin cracklings.  The pasta was in a creamy carbonara sauce that was flavored with marjoram as well.  My only complaint was that the duck was a little more toward medium than medium rare, but it was still exceptionally tender and delicious.  I would say it was maybe slightly less complex than mine, but equally as good (well, I liked mine slightly more and hubby liked his slightly more). I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of his before he dug in, but I did include an “after” shot. Yeah, he hated it (he also polished off the rest of mine when I was full).  The other thing I liked is that while they were not skimpy portions at all, they did not serve this completely over the top amount of pasta that puts me off before I even take a bite.  And did I mention they make it in house? (I know I did, I am just really excited.)

Finally, we had the “chocolate and citrus” dessert ($9).  We both thought it was pretty incredible.  There was a little scoop of earl gray chocolate ice cream, little pieces of brown butter cake, and some citrus wedges and citrus flavored foam.  What a great combo once again.  Again, I loved the inventiveness and the fact that a chocolate dessert wasn’t so one dimensional. I know some will say foam is out of fashion in the culinary world, but it was perfect here.

The staff was very enthusiastic—they are clearly excited to be working there. There seems to be a great energy.  I don’t think they have tried a lot of the food yet though—our server was a little hesitant talking about some of the dishes.  I wouldn’t exactly call the service “polished” either, although it was very friendly and down to earth.  Our server seemed a bit nervous, particularly with the wine service. I loved that they asked for feedback on nearly every dish—and they genuinely seemed to want to hear it (little did they know I’d be writing an entire blog post about it). Also, when it took a little longer than they wanted between courses, they brought us a free bowl of the sweet potato soup (it was good, although doesn’t tend to be my favorite thing).  We weren’t even feeling like it was taking too long, but I loved the initiative they took by being aware that things were a little slower than they wanted and doing something to keep the customer happy.

I liked the old world vs. new world wine list too.  It is a decent list but isn’t so overwhelming like some of the ones you see at restaurants.  They have some interesting sounding cocktails as well as beers

Yep, I liked it.  I hope they keep up with the quality that we had. I did notice a TON of people working in the kitchen—hard to say if they were more staffed for the opening week than they might be later, but I look forward to finding out.  I can’t wait to see what they put together for spring.  Parking is a little weird, but if you walk a couple of blocks, street parking is plentiful (see now, this is a place that could use a valet, instead of the north side restaurants with giant parking lots). And hey, if you have been, or go, please let me know how your experience is.  There isn’t a lot out there about it yet as far as people’s opinions.  I for one am excited about this one though.

Cerulean
339 South Delaware Street
Indy  46225
317/870-1320

Cerulean Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 26, 2012

H2O Sushi - Revisit


Ok, so H2O is one of my favorite places. I probably go out to dinner there more than almost anywhere (and carry out, etc).  I was thinking, if you have just started reading my blog, or have a memory like I do, or just don’t know me personally, you may not realize this.  Therefore, I decided it was time for a revisit.  I have also had a couple of great meals the last couple of times I have been, but didn’t take pictures of one, so I decided to make an effort this last time.

We were with my in-laws, who had never been before, and are generally not sushi eaters, but they were game to try any place we liked so much.  We got a bunch of different stuff and shared.  The first thing (as always) was the tuna tartare ($14).  This is a staple for me and I think I would cry if I was told I couldn’t have it. I know I have talked about it before, but it is diced tuna that has been marinated in ginger, soy and lemon and mixed with radish, chives and cilantro and served with masago on the side (mix it in people, it gives a nice little teeny extra texture).  Fried wontons are on the side to scoop it up (I always ask for extra). I love this stuff.

We also got a couple of orders of one of the day’s specials, the pork shumai ($6), which I had seen on the menu before, but had never ordered.  They were outstanding.  They were little dumplings stuffed with pork and seasonings and sitting in a bowl of what they called a sweet and savory sauce. It had soy and I would say some vinegar as well as something making it a little sweet.  Since you generally only get chopsticks at H2O (or a fork if you ask), I was not too proud to put one on my plate and then dump some of the sauce on top. The dumplings were rich and the broth had all the variation in flavors that kicks them up a level—salt, sweet, and acidic. I would easily get these again (and I know hubby would demand it).

My in-laws ordered the shrimp tacos ($10), which we let them eat since they only come 2 to an order and since I have had them many times before.  They are some of the better of the “gourmet” tacos you see on menus around town—tender grilled shrimp, with yuzu adobo sauce (giving a little tartness and a smoky flavor), guacamole and crema (adding to the creaminess) as well as cabbage and radish giving them just a little needed crispness so that they don’t become too soft.  These are on our regular rotation as well (and are on the menu all the time).
We also shared the special noodle dish of the day which was Shanghai noodles with roasted salmon ($27).  Usually their noodle dishes are some of my favorite things, but this one wasn’t as exciting for me, probably because cooked salmon isn’t my favorite fish (I prefer it raw or smoked).  The noodles were a slightly thicker noodle (like linginue) and were in a ginger miso broth. I really enjoyed the flavor of the broth but it was kind of hard to get a lot because I was using chop sticks and we were sharing.
Lastly, we got a couple of rolls because, well, it isn’t a visit to H2O without ordering the crazy ho roll ($14).  We also got the ultimate California ($10).  I love the crazy ho (I mean who doesn’t really?) and this is another thing we almost always get.  It is spicy tuna and wontons inside and is layered on top with avocado, snow crab (real crab, yay!), eel, eel sauce, spicy sauce and masago (the little fish eggs).  Yeah, it’s a lot going on, and yeah, it is everything I like (even the spicy tuna which isn’t that weird tuna salad-ish sstuff  you get a lot of places).  It’s gooey, and it’s good.  A little bit of crunch from the wonton and little spiciness from the spicy sauce and tuna, but a touch of sweetness from the eel sauce. Delish. 
The ultimate California is crab (again, the real stuff), cucumber and avocado inside and the roll is lightly coated in more of the masago.  This is definitely one of the better California rolls I have had, but it is clearly a much simpler thing, and to be quite honest, I love all the stuff that is going on with the crazy ho.
So for dessert, we had an order of “the cookies” ($8.50) which I have had many times and love—they’re like the ultimate oatmeal cookie—chewy and warm and served with espresso cream for dipping (and which we had to get because it was my in-laws first visit).  But hubby and I were excited when they had a couple of other dessert options.  Nicole Anderson, one of the owners (married to the chef Eli Anderson) is a pastry chef and when she does other things, they are just as great as the cookies.  If there is one thing I have learned, when they are offering something else (which they often don’t), just order it. This day’s selection (among others) was a caramel cream pie ($8). Wow, was it good.  It had the deepest caramel flavor and was topped with a ton of fresh whipped cream and little caramel covered rice crispies. Hubby was so happy—caramel is one of his favorite things dessert-wise.  Honestly, I am not sure whether his parents got much of it because the two of us ate it so fast.
So, there’s the update. A few of my classics, a few specials, and an amazing dessert treat.  If you haven’t been to H2O before (and even if sushi isn’t your thing), you are missing out. This place is in my top 5 Indy restaurants.
H2O Sushi
1912 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy 46220
317/254-0677

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Good Morning Mama's - Lunch


Because of the breakfast kick I have been thinking about Good Morning Mama’s lately, but we generally only go out to eat breakfast on the weekends, and the place is crazy on the weekends.  So we decided to try it for lunch instead.  It was definitely not as crazy busy for lunch.

It was a cold day and something hot and melty sounded good—so I ordered the spinach melt ($6.99).  It was exactly what I wanted.  It was spinach and walnut pesto mixed with seasoned cream cheese, Swiss cheese, tomato and bacon all pressed together in a Panini press on wheat bread.  It was really good. Everything inside was warm and I really appreciated the bacon on the sandwich—honestly it made it for me.  I loved the creamy spinach taste which had that earthy flavor from the walnuts, but the saltiness and the denser texture of the bacon was the perfect combo together. It would just be too creamy without the bacon.  I debated on which side to get because I wanted something they were making in house (I wanted the potato pancakes but apparently they are not made there) so I ordered the mac and cheese ($1.99 up charge).  They may be making it there, but it is just noodles and Velveeta (or similar).  I am pretty sure this is prepared with the kid’s menu in mind.  I passed on eating the rest once I had my obligatory bite.  Next time I would try a different side.  But the sandwich was very good.

Hubby had the Reuben ($7.49) (which is one of his favorite sandwiches) with a side of fries ($1.99).  This was also really good and hit the spot on cold day.  Normally I am not a big fan of Reubens because the proportions are too out of whack for me (way too much meat, not enough other stuff). This one was really good though. They do their own corned beef and it was all kind of mixed together making for a creamy, cheesy mix of the meat, the Swiss, the Thousand Island dressing, and the sauerkraut.  I liked the way you got a taste of all the ingredients in every bite. Hubby always asks for extra Thousand Island dressing with a Reuben, but this one didn’t need it.  He got fries as his side ($1.99) but they were just your standard foodservice fries. Nothing special. As far as what we had for sides, I would take a skip on the extra 2 bucks (anyone had any of their sides that are really good?)

All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience and we sussed out from the server what are the least busy times on the weekend to go for breakfast or lunch so we can take the kids next time. I think they will like it—the sandwiches were good and the whole kitschy diner thing are right up their alley.

Good Morning Mama’s
1001 East 54th Street
Indy 46220
317/255-3800


Monday, November 19, 2012

Panchero's Mexican Grill


A couple of people had asked me about or mentioned this place to me, and it is really close to my house, so we thought we’d give it a try with the kids for lunch.  It is a taqueria, so you go up and order what you want, and they pretty much fill it however you like (extra charge for guacamole and queso).  The thing that makes this place stand out from the standard quick service Mexican place is the fact that they press fresh flour tortillas to order.  You go up and pick your vehicle (burrito, taco, etc) and they get out an appropriately sized dough ball, press it, and fill it.  The meat choices were chicken, beef, carnitas or you could have a veggies.

I had the taco option ($4.75) which comes with 2 tacos. I had one chicken and one carnitas (the beef was a little too gray and cubed looking for me).  They took smaller discs of dough and pressed them into the right size for tacos.  I had mine filled with the meat, cheese, salsa and pico de gallo.   Surprisingly, I liked the chicken version the best.  The carnitas meat was sitting in a liquidy broth that made the meat literally drip with the broth.  It kind of killed the tortilla because it soaked it so much.  It was a bummer because the tortilla, as I said, it what makes this place stand out from other similar places.  The fillings are pretty standard.  The chicken was pretty good—not as dry and flavorless as it often can be. It was hard to tell with the carnitas—they had a bit of an almost cinnamon flavor or something but because it was so soggy, I didn’t even end up finishing the taco.

My daughter and hubby split a burrito ($6.25 + $1 for guac) which she filled exactly as she wanted it—with black beans, rice, carnitas, guacamole and sour cream.  This was a much better vehicle for the pork, because it didn’t suffer from the extra moisture of the meat---in fact, it was helpful to make the entire burrito quite juicy.  Again, it was all wrapped up in an even bigger tortilla and overall, I would say was the better choice over tacos. They were both quite happy and are ready to go back for another one.

My son had a cheese quesadilla ($3.95 for cheese only) which was one of the giant burrito sized tortillas folded and stuffed with cheese (of course you can fill them with whatever you want). It was fine, but he was not a big fan a declared that he does not like Mexican food (other than La Hacienda). That was his verdict.

Honestly, even though my daughter is jazzed to go back (and I think hubby would go if she asked), I didn’t find anything that exciting about it besides the tortillas—and they are pretty good.  There is no salsa bar type thing, or salsa on the table, so it is hard to know what kind you want without trying them all. Not sure I have ever been in a taqueria that didn’t offer additional salsa to finish up your food (there are bottles of hot sauce).  The chips didn’t seem fresh which was kind of surprising what with the whole fresh tortilla thing, although since they are corn chips, and they don’t make corn tortillas, maybe it isn’t that surprising.  The chips just ok—the mild salsa we got with them was pretty fresh and tasty though.  The people were super nice, although I was surprised by all the up charges for things (especially since the amount of guac you get for $1 is pretty minimal).

Obviously these types of Mexican restaurants are becoming more and more popular around town, as they seem to be springing up all over the place.  Unfortunately, I think like anything, the more mass produced, the more generic the food becomes.  This one has a hook with the tortillas, but for me, that’s about it.  So, which one is your favorite?

Panchero’s
4335 East 82nd Street
Indy 46250
317/288-2677
Pancheros Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 15, 2012

iSushi

I told you I was on a breakfast and sushi kick, and here’s the next sushi venture. I met my friend @IndyFoodSwap for lunch at isushi in Carmel the other day—she and I have enjoyed our share of sushi together and are pretty compatible in what we like (for instance, we are both big fans of the Crazy Ho at H2O—possibly one of my favorite rolls ever).  The menu at isushi is quite large as far as rolls go and there are some interesting combos that I haven’t seen before.  Quite a few of them involve krab stick and/or cream cheese though which are generally non starters for me.

Suzanne had the salad to start and I had miso soup.  The ginger dressing on the salad was your standard Japanese restaurant version—leaning more toward the tangy gingery side than the creamier type that you sometimes see (and which Suzanne is now spoiled for from Sushi Bar). It was basic iceberg and dressing. The miso soup was pretty standard too. Honestly, I don’t think you can vary it that much and pretty much all of them taste similar to me. It tasted good though because it was warm and the restaurant was chilly.

Tampa (left), Mikimoto and Graduation Rolls

Emperor Roll


We ordered three different rolls, and ended up getting one that wasn’t what we ordered, so we actually ended up trying 4.  My favorite was the Tampa roll ($5).  It was stuffed with tempura fried red snapper and chives and then topped with spicy mayo.  I like snapper and this was a fun way to eat it in a sushi roll—we both love chives which was one of the things that drew us both to it.  The tempura was nice and crunchy and the roll itself was nice and bite-sized.  It was straight forward, but had the crunch I like and the little extra kick from the mayo.

I also liked the Mikimoto roll ($12.59) which was filled with shrimp tempura and avocado and topped with eel and eel sauce.  This roll was wrapped in soy paper.  The rolls were getting progressively larger though and this one was borderline too big.  The other thing I noticed, particularly about the larger rolls was they weren’t rolled very tightly and had a tendency to kind of fall apart while you were eating them.  The eel on top was pretty big pieces as well. The flavor of the fillings and topping were good on this one—the shrimp with the requisite crunch, and I always like avocado in my rolls.

So the roll that we actually ordered, but which we didn’t get until we pointed out the mistake, was the Emperor roll ($12.75).  I did not care for this one and probably should have taken it as a sign when they didn’t bring it the first time.  It was filled with salmon and avocado and topped with tuna, yellowtail and seaweed salad.  Oof, I am not sure what it was about this one, or if it was just a combination of a lot of things, but I could barely stomach it. First of all, it was huge and really hard to eat.  The fish that was layered on top was cut in very thick pieces and was so cold it was almost like it had just been taken out of a freezer not long before.  The seaweed seemed quite cold as well.  I mean, obviously you want your raw fish cold, but this was too cold, and the roll was totally unmanageable and falling apart—and the fish pieces were so big they were hard to chew (and made the fish completely dominate the flavor). Maybe some of the problems came because they made it really fast after giving us the wrong thing, but I would take a skip on this one.

Actually, the roll that they brought us that wasn’t what we ordered, was probably better than the one we did order, even though it contained both cream cheese AND krab stick (they kindly left it for us after they realized the mistake). It was the graduation roll ($12.75) and was stuffed with krab stick, cucumber, avocado and cream cheese and was topped with scallop, salmon, spicy krab stick and spicy mayo.  There was a lot going on in this roll and it was hard to kind of differentiate the flavors, but the fish on top was slightly more thinly sliced at least, even though it was still challenging to eat. It isn’t something I would order again either.

I appreciated that the service was very attentive and they were right on top of it when they realized they had made a mistake and brought us the new roll quickly (possibly too quickly though).  The restaurant itself opens directly into the outside though making it very chilly on a cold day, although they were doing a pretty good business at lunch.  Once the rolls got past pretty simple though, they fell apart (literally and figuratively).  Sushi often seems so artful in the way it is made and this just lacked that quality.

isushi
820 East 116th Street
Carmel, 46032
317/569-1997


iSushi Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thr3e Wise Men - Revisit


We met up with some friends of ours and their kids the other night at Thr3e Wise Men (I still have a really hard time typing that name).  I have only eaten in the place once before, and it was outside and quite awhile ago, so I figured a revisit was in order (we have ordered carry out several times before).

The place was very busy and I didn’t think we would get seated right away until we saw there is a small back room as well—it feels a little removed from the restaurant, but was probably for the best given that my son and his best friend were there together.  I like how kid friendly they are at Thr3e Wisemen as well—they give them crayons as well as a little dough ball to play with, which seemed to make them all happy.  There is also fresh popcorn delivered right away which the kids love as well. The adults were happy because we had a long table and could sit down at the other end and have some adult conversation.

We started with some loaded potato chips ($6.50) which are housemade potato chips that are seasoned and topped with Maytag blue cheese cream sauce and bacon.  I was not a huge fan of these.  I don’t know if it was the seasoning on the chips, or the blue cheese sauce, but something was making the roof of my mouth burn—it just wasn’t enjoyable to me.  I also appreciate the housemade chips, but these were a little too thick for me—I prefer a thinner potato chip.  Although you certainly didn’t have to worry about them breaking under the weight of the toppings.  The kids got breadsticks and were happy.

We ordered a pizza for the kids and the Moms split a special pizza—it was a veggie pizza with white sauce, and a bunch of veggie toppings-tomatoes, spinach, onions, green peppers and mushrooms (I actually asked for ½ of it to be without green peppers, but they only gave me about 2 pieces without them).  The pizza was good though.  The crust was nice and crispy and there were a decent amount of veggies.  I enjoyed the variation from the regular red sauce (although I do like their red sauce).  The white sauce had a decent amount of garlic flavor.  I like their cheese blend as well—it isn’t rubbery they way pizza cheese can often be.

The menfolk had a pepperoni and mushroom pizza ($12) and seemed to enjoy it as well.  I was happy to see they were really on their game with getting the crust right. Occasionally the kitchen seems to have problems with consistency based on our carry out experiences—it seems like sometimes they don’t stretch it enough or something and it is too dense and the pizza is much smaller than normal.
We also shared an elephant ear ($4.50) which I really enjoyed. They take their pizza dough, deep fry it, and coat it with cinnamon and sugar. Simple, and really tasty—and I enjoy the slightly sour taste of the dough that comes from the crust (and I am guessing the beer that goes into it).  Everyone at the table, adults and kids alike, agreed on this one.

The atmosphere is totally casual and just noisy enough that it isn’t annoying, but that slightly drowns out your own loud son’s voice so he isn’t annoying others.  I liked our server, especially since she carded all of us, which I always appreciate. All in all, it’s a good option for pizza and kids, although I am still looking for my ideal pizza in this town. 

Thr3e Wise Men
1021 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy 46220
317/255-5151
www.thr3ewisemen.com 



Thursday, November 8, 2012

Steer In - Revisit


If you read my blog regularly, you know I get into food kicks that have me craving certain types of food. Fried chicken, burgers, whatever. Right now I am on a sushi binge as well as a breakfast search.  I have always loved breakfast food, but we seem to be trying a lot of places lately with the kids on the weekends.  I am realizing that even when you order pretty much the same thing breakfast-wise, the quality varies greatly.

The other day we decided to head to Steer In for a lunch/breakfast combo. I have been there once before but I was by myself, and hubby has always wanted to try it too.  We got there around noon and I was a little nervous that it would be packed—I was happy to see that while it was busy, it wasn’t so packed that we couldn’t get seated immediately.

Hubby and I made our usual negotiations, and I got breakfast ($5.79) and he got a pork tenderloin sandwich ($7.29).  We agreed to share.  The kids got French toast from the kids menu ($3.99) and a side of tater tots ($1.79).  So the highlight here was definitely the pork tenderloin sandwich—it was one of the best I have had. And it was unfortunate that it was placed in front of hubby because I certainly did not get my fair share of it before it disappeared.  It didn’t need a single thing.  Soft, not too big, toasted bun with a thicker cut, extremely tender, breaded and fried tenderloin.  It wasn’t pounded so thin that it lost its juiciness and it was perfectly cooked. It was topped with just the right amount of shredded lettuce, a very thin slice of tomato and mayo (and usually I like onions, but it didn’t need them).  The lettuce gave it the right extra crispy veggie crunch without being too much. Seriously, they know how to make a tenderloin.  It came with potato chips that were standard.  My son had a bite of it and loved it and now wants to order them everywhere—it’s hard to explain to him how greatly the quality varies from place to place.

My breakfast was eggs, bacon, toast and a side of potatoes—I upgraded to the cheesy potato casserole that is only available on the weekends (I think it was a $.80 upgrade).  The eggs were cooked exactly over easy and the bacon wasn’t bad.  Not as bad as some I have had recently, but nothing great about it either—your basic slightly softer than I would like bacon.  I had hopes that the cheesy potatoes would be like this cheesy potato casserole that hubby’s family makes, but it wasn’t.  It is basically shredded potatoes that tasted like they were cooked with some sort of creamy soup and a bit of cheese.  Honestly, they didn’t seem that cheesy to me. Maybe just because I had something in mind, and this wasn’t it, I was just going to be disappointed.  You know what potatoes I did like though? The kids’ tater tots.  Man, they have those down. I mean, I know if you are getting tater tots, they’re coming from food service, but they were super crunchy and just really hit the spot. If you are a tater tot fan, these are some of the best (what? They can really vary).

The kids French toast looked a little weak, but I didn’t try it so I can’t really comment on it.  They seemed happy enough.  My daughter would probably tell you she would have liked more powdered sugar.

Our server was mainly business-like, but did her job with little fuss.  The lady at the register is really friendly—I remembered that from my last visit. The atmosphere is friendly dive, and I love the map on the wall with pins and notes from where their patrons hail from.  My guess is that map has gotten a lot more action since their appearance on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives awhile back.  The food is solid, and that tenderloin is top notch.  But….since we’re talking about breakfast (and I am thinking about it a lot lately), any suggestions for me?


Steer-In
5130 East 10th Street
Indy  46219
317/356-0996

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sabbatical


Hubby and I intended to go to Sabbatical the other night when we ended up at the Sushi Bar, and have been determined to go ever since.  We ended up meeting some friends the other night for dinner—I always like having a few extra people to try tapas (which is generally what makes up the menu at Sabbatical) so I can try lots of things.  I am looking back though and thinking maybe this is not as good idea as it sounds because it means I have a lot of items to remember when I go to write it up.

My first reaction to the place is that the interior is really more of a bar feel than a restaurant feel.  Honestly, I haven’t been in the building in many, many years and I am not sure what the different incarnations have been like, but the interior is a little cold.  I think when the patio is open; this restaurant will visually have more appeal.

Hubby and I got there first and ordered a glass of wine and a couple of small things that we thought most people would like—the bread and butter plate ($5) and the roasted garlic ($4).  The butter is very soft and mixed with herbs and truffle—could taste the herbs for sure, not as much the truffle.  It was served with a small sliced loaf of pretty soft French bread and Naan.  Honestly, I am not sure how I feel about $5 for bread and butter, but it seems to be more common these days.  I enjoyed the roasted garlic—it was a whole head of garlic that was roasted giving you several cloves of soft, sweet, nutty garlic.  I love roasted garlic in general so I liked it—it isn’t really something overly easy to share in a group though unless you don’t mind everyone’s fingers on your food—you really had to pick up the whole head to squeeze the cloves out. It was served with thin-sliced toasted French bread which I liked—it had some oil on it and was nice and crisp.

We had lots of other things and I am just going to discuss them in no particular order other than they what springs to mind as I write.  The Stella blue cheese dip ($7) was a warm dip that was very creamy and had a nice blue cheese flavor, but that wasn’t so overwhelming that it offended anyone.  I thought it was interesting that they served it mainly with sliced fruit and veggies (apples, squash and peppers) and then a bit of Naan type bread (the menu said French bread crostini, but it wasn’t).  I liked the apples dipped in the blue cheese—I’ve always been a fan of blue cheese and fruit, but the raw veggies didn’t do much more me, and I would have preferred something a little firmer bread-wise than the Naan. But the dip itself was worth ordering.

We also had the seared scallop wonton tulips ($9) which were little fried wontons that were filled with a seared scallop and topped with mango, red onion and wasabi cilantro cream.  I liked the crunchy wonton for a good texture variation from the scallop, but flavor-wise, this dish was lacking.  I think the mango was there for a little sweetness and acidity, but it wasn’t enough and I didn’t get wasabi or cilantro out of the teeny bit of cream that was on top.  I honestly sort of expected it to me more of a chopped filling that was mixed with other things—this tasted mostly like a seared scallop in a fried wonton and that’s it (to be fair, the scallop was cooked decently, which can be a challenge at many restaurants).

The table also ordered the brie stuffed turkey meatballs ($8) with cranberry chutney.  Ok, I didn’t choose these, and am probably not the fairest person to review the dish because generally, meatballs rarely impress me, and these were certainly not ones that were changing my mind.  The meat was fairly tender (it sort of completely fell apart as soon as you touched one) but didn’t seem overly seasoned.  The chutney was sweet and the brie not overly melty.  I don’t know, these just didn’t really come together in any special way for me.

I did enjoy the flavor of the adobo battered mushroom skewers ($6) even if they weren’t quite as crunchy as I would have liked.  The whole mushrooms were battered with adobo-flavored batter and fried.  The adobo flavor is one hubby and I quite like, and it was quite dominant.  The whole thing was drizzled with more of the wasabi cilantro cream, which had a nice balancing effect (this time there was enough of it to really taste it a bit).  If the batter had been really crisp, these would have been outstanding. As it was, they were one of our favorites.

The group ordered a couple orders of the seafood skewers which each had a scallop, a large shrimp and a piece of salmon that were seasoned and grilled.  Another thing I didn’t personally order, and which I normally wouldn’t, because I find “meat on a stick” often to be dried out.  I was actually pleasantly surprised by this—at least the salmon, which was the only part I tried.  It was pretty heavily seasoned but at least it wasn’t just completely bland and dried out, which is what I normally would fear in a dish like this.

We tried the pulled pork sliders as well (I think they were $4 each) from the specials menu—I thought they were one of the better things we had—the pork was nice and tender—but wow, were they spicy, as in way too much heat.  I appreciate them having a bit of heat, but this was just a little too far.

We also got several desserts (after I tried to order one recommended by our server and was told they were out of it after I ordered it), but the only one I tried was the peach and cranberry shortcake dumplings ($5).  They tasted very dense and somewhat dry (like shortcake) and almost like they were made with some cornmeal. They were covered in what was described as a caramel sauce on the menu, but it was almost like a caramel flavored cream sauce.  They also brought some ice cream on the side.  I only had a couple of bites of these—they just weren’t really doing it for me and honestly, that was about all I could handle they were so dense. 


I had hope for this place, and there are certain items that are pretty good.  Unfortunately, there is just some lack of finesse in almost every dish that just doesn’t get me excited to go back.  There is an effort being made in the kitchen to make something interesting, but it just isn’t totally coming together somehow.  The service was very friendly, and like I said, the outdoor space will be nice when it is warm, but I will be interested to see how this place does in the meantime. Who’s been?

Sabbatical
921 E. Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy  46220
317/253-5252


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ichiban Noodles


Hubby and I have this conversation fairly often about grabbing a quick lunch near our house. Something local, something near the Castleton area (where we live), and if possible, something new. It’s a tall order.  We remembered Ichiban Noodles, and it is a place several of you have told me about and recommended. Honestly, we had been there once before, but quite awhile ago, pre-blog days.

First of all, there is something about the kind of run down hack exterior of the place that makes you feel hopeful about the food. I’m not sure what it is, and hubby and I kind of disagree about this.  He also doesn’t like that the place is kind of cold inside, which he says he remembers from our first visit.

One of the things I like about the menu is that they have a lot of noodles on it (hence the name right?).  They have the more common udon and soba noodles in broth that you see in a lot of Japanese places, but they also have ramen, which I think is less common in Indy.  So we got an order of the ramen yaki with pork ($7.05) and split a couple of rolls—the Hoosier roll ($5.10) and the softshell crab roll ($8.35).

The ramen noodles are served stir fried, and not in a bowl of broth--they were really good and had a nice distinct flavor without being overly greasy.  There were probably almost as many veggies mixed in with the noodles and I loved that they were cut almost the same size as the noodles.  One of my pet peeves with noodles dishes (and others) is when there is a giant vegetable in the middle that is way too big to eat in a bite (or 6) but you just have chop sticks to eat it with.   Anyhow, this was not a problem here at all—there were onions, bok choy, zucchini and carrots and they were all sliced up just about as thick as the noodles.  We chose the option with a breaded pork cutlet on top—and it was quite good as well. Not tough at all and had a nice crunch and seasoning that went really well with the noodles.  I would get this one again for sure.

The rolls were good as well.  Not the tidiest or prettiest rolls I have ever seen, but the ingredients were good and they were a nice bite size (well, the soft shell crab was piled pretty high).   The Hoosier roll contained tuna, avocado and a drizzle of spicy mayo inside (and I had them add a little tempura crunch).  The tuna was fresh (although somewhat random in its size in each piece), and I liked the bit of flavor from the spicy mayo, but it wasn’t that weird chopped up “spicy tuna” that often seems a little too mystery-meat to me. I liked the crunch from the little bit of tempura they put in (again, at my request).  The soft shell crab roll was pretty good too—the crab was chopped up and mixed with the spicy mayo—and a bunch of it was piled on top. Not my favorite in the world, but we certainly managed to eat it all. 

The interior is small and certainly not fancy. The people working there are really nice—both the sushi chef who welcomed us and said goodbye as we left, and the server who was exceptionally friendly throughout the entire meal. I also liked the hot towels they brought you for your hands when you sit down. They obviously have a large group of regulars who come in for lunch, and if I worked in the area, I can see why. It’s nice to have found a reasonably priced and good quality independent restaurant in the Castleton area. 

But please feel free to help hubby and me out for the next time. Any more recommendations for that area?

Ichiban Noodles
8355 Bash Street
Indy 46250
317/841-0484
(No website, boo!)

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