I have been anxious to go back to Cerulean since our first visit, which we really enjoyed. I have heard a lot of differing feedback from different people about it since, so when friends invited us to go out with several people there again, I jumped at it (not to mention, 8 people = even more opportunity to try more things).
Cerulean has recently shifted into their spring menu and that always makes me happy too. I think I have mentioned before that Cerulean’s menu is broken down into 3 parts—small plates, which are just a couple bites, medium plates, which are more like traditional appetizers, and entrées. Hubby and I really liked the very small plates last time, and they tend to be the most appealing to me ingredient-wise here. So we ordered 5 of them, prompting one friend to declare that we “ordered food like drunken sailors.” But she was sharing with us, and they really are only a couple of bites, so it really wasn’t that much.
The first thing I tasted was the pickled Indiana shrimp with lemon and garlic sauce below and a hard boiled egg ($4). I really liked it, although tough to share one shrimp so I only got a little bite. The shrimp had a nice acidity to it without being rubbery, and the lemon and onions on top added to it. I liked the richness of the (exactly perfectly cooked) boiled egg as well. I want to get this again to eat wholly on my own.
Next we tried the cauliflower frites ($4), which sounded very interesting and were easier to share (there were 3 or 4 of them). They were panko breaded and nice and crunchy on the outside and served on top of a slightly sweet golden raisin sauce and more of the garlic sauce. Nice tasty little morsels.
The corvina ($4) was also really well done and I had to grab it away from hubby or he would have eaten it all. The other friend we were sharing with only got a taste I’m afraid (and so did I). The fish was super tender (lightly poached I am guessing?) and served with a celery aioli, and chili oil with a distinct lime flavor. It was delicate but the seasonings were great and well balanced. It’s nice to see something different than what you typically see a lot of places.
The chickpea fritters also were good—easy to share and pretty approachable. You have basically a hush puppy made out of ground chickpeas. I liked that the sauce served underneath was totally different from everything else we had—a yogurt based sauce with cilantro, jalapeno and mint. Yet, you still got a bit of tanginess from the yogurt. I thought the mint was probably the strongest flavor of the others. The fritters were really hot and crunchy.
Finally, at hubby’s insistence we ordered the corn macaroon ($4) again (one of the few hold overs from the last menu). I understand why, because it is very good, but I was totally good trying new things. But you can’t really go wrong with a perfectly cooked corn macaroon stuffed with pork belly and served in cheddar sauce. Although honestly, I think it is best served as a fall dish. Would love to see some kind of a spring version. Lamb maybe? Asparagus macaroon? I don’t know, just thinking out loud (so to speak).
We were sold on a second course by our server who really hyped the beef heart stew. ($14) His description made it sounds great, but honestly this was the biggest disappointment of the evening for me. There were little potato pancakes (he said they were sort of like the “tator tots” from the last menu, bit of the heart and some herb relish served in a broth. The potatoes were sitting in the broth (which tasted mainly of beef stock) so they got soft quickly and the herb relish could not deliver enough freshness to be tasted through the heavy rich broth. The heart itself was a little tough for me as well.
For my entrée, I had the striped bass with linguinette (super thin linguine) with nettle pesto, a big king trumpet mushroom and fava beans ($26). I really enjoyed this. The fish had nice crispy skin, it was well seasoned and went very nicely with the herby tasting pasta. Hubby was disappointed he hadn’t ordered it. He actually ordered the same thing he had last time (he forgot) which was the sous vide duck breast with lemon fettuccine, carbonara sauce with duck crackling ($28). Unfortunately, he ended up with the same complaint—the duck was tasty but a little overcooked. He also didn’t think the pasta had as much of the lemon flavor that he liked from last time. I do appreciate that they make pasta in house.
I am a sucker for rhubarb, and there was a rhubarb dessert ($9), so I had to order it—it was rhubarb fennel compote, rhubarb sorbet, chamomile mascarpone cream, some sliced strawberries and fennel tarragon coulis. It was hard to know exactly what to expect here, and Cerulean is doing beautiful dessert plates. The flavors were good and were a nice fresh, slightly sweet, slightly tart way to end the meal.
So overall food-wise, we were pretty happy. There were certainly highs and lows, but it confirmed my feelings about the food that I had at the first visit—that I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, my feelings about the patchy service were only confirmed even more. Our server was very attentive in the beginning of the meal and enthusiastic about explaining the menu. After the small plates came though, things slowed WAY down and it was difficult to get drinks ordered when we wanted to. Part of the problem may have been that as a large party, we were seated in what was sort of a back room, and were probably easier to forget about (not to mention my theory of the whole automatic gratuity being added making the service not as attentive). But probably the more annoying thing was our run-in with the wine steward. We had ordered a second bottle of wine (different type than the first), which was opened and tasted by a friend who knows a thing or two about wine, as well as several others of our group and it tasted off. These things happen, which is why they give you those little tastings to begin with. So she asked the waiter to have a new bottle brought out but the wine steward came out and told us no, we were wrong and they would not be opening another bottle, but would bring us something else. I was sort of surprised by this—it seemed a little uh, un-customer friendly. Sadly, I have heard of several people having issues with the wine service here (lack of stemmed wine glasses is a big one I hear—at least if you are ordering an expensive bottle of wine.)
Anyhow, I think if Cerulean can get their service issues ironed out a bit, and then polished up, Indy will have a really nice modern fine dining restaurant to add to our ever-growing repertoire of great independent restaurants. They’ve pretty much got the food thing working for them already.
339 South Delaware Street