Thursday, September 5, 2013

Plum's Upper Room

I had high hopes for this one. The chef has some fairly impressive credentials and the online (sample) menu was intriguing. Online reviews were very mixed both high and low, but I was anxious to try it myself and was hoping for the highs to be our experience.

First thing, I love the interior—it is upstairs in a building in downtown Zionsville and is full of lots of wood, twinkly lights, and art. We had a lovely table for two in front of one of the windows overlooking the street. In the beginning, our server was very attentive. We had our wine quickly and perused the rest of the menu (which is strangely set out in reverse order—entrées first, then apps, then soups and salads). Sadly, the server, while very friendly, didn’t know much about the menu items which made it difficult to decide what to order. It’s too bad the servers are more versed in the menu.

We started out with the soup du jour, which was a corn puree with a bit of crispy bacon ($7). This was easily the best thing we had all night. The soup tasted wonderfully of fresh corn and was drizzled with a bit of what I think was basil oil giving it an even fresher summery taste. The soup was very smooth, and when you got a bite of the bacon with it, it was perfect. 

The other appetizer we ordered, the fried green tomatoes ($10) were not as successful, although they weren’t bad. I liked the super crispy fried exterior—it was nicely seasoned with peppercorns—but it could have used some sort of sauce with it other than the flavored oil underneath.  Also, they were a little thickly cut for me—a little too much tomato to crust ratio, particularly without anything to dip it into. Hubby and I resorted to dipping them in the soup and they were tasty that way. 

It was about this point of the meal where things started going south. The restaurant began really filling up (good for them), including a party of 10-12 people that our server was also waiting on (as well as many other tables). There were only 2 servers I could see in the entire place. Let’s just say, it was a struggle to get anyone’s attention for the rest of the night. Luckily, we had placed our order just before the large party was seated, so we knew we were at least ahead of them.

Hubby had the salmon pasta special ($30) and I had the mussels ($12) with a side of frites ($7). First of all, the salmon special was on a blackboard and no price was mentioned.  When he got the food, due to the size, hubby thought he had ordered an appetizer. Which would be fine, as we often do that purposefully, but the $30 price tag we saw when we got the bill was a little steep. And sadly, it was not very good. Again, much like the tomatoes, there seemed to be something missing—moisture. These angnolotti were more like dumplings than they were stuffed pasta—and the ramp butter that was listed on the menu was not really evident in any quantity. One thing I did really like were the ground cherries, which are a type of little fruit that looks (and tastes) a bit like a teeny tiny tomato. I can’t remember ever having them before. Honestly, I thought the menu listing meant “ground” cherries as in, ground up cherries, when I read it, which sounded a bit weird, and was happy to find these instead.

My mussels were fine—the mariniere broth they were cooked in had a great flavor—wine, shallots and herbs. Sadly, there was not enough of it, and it seemed that the mussels had not been steamed with enough of it either, because they seemed a bit chewy and overcooked as well.  The thing that really annoyed with this part of the meal was the “frites” though. They were food service fries that were barely dusted with salt (and of course there was no salt on the table, and no way we were ever going to get someone’s attention to get any). And they were $7. I don’t complain about prices very often, but this and the salmon were out of line. 

At this point, hubby was ready to get out of there. The server was obviously completely overwhelmed (as was the rest of the staff). I had intended to try dessert because I had read several people say that is was worthwhile here, but when we finally got our server’s attention to ask for the menu, she said they were written on the blackboard and maybe we could just get up and go read them ourselves. To be fair, she did say if she had more time, she would’ve gone over them with us. We decided to cut our losses and leave. 

So all in all, it was a bit of a disaster. I felt bad for our server though, because honestly none of it was her fault. They were sorely understaffed. Obviously they knew they had a fair number of reservations (the tables were marked with the last names, which I thought was kind of nice), but there weren’t enough people there to take care of everyone. I also think the servers should be more trained on the

It’s really too bad too, because I really loved the ambiance and the menu sounded appealing and there was some creativity in the food. But sadly, between the service and a lot of the food we were served, there was nothing that gave us a reason to go back. I really hope it was just an off night, but it will take a lot to lure me back in. Maybe one of you guys have had a great meal here and can tell me about it? 

Plum’s Upper Room
112 South Main Street
Zionsville, IN 46077

Plum's Upper Room on Urbanspoon


  1. Just a side note, but there was actually a person (I forget from where) that was passing out a ground cherry to each person at the DigIN line while we waited to enter. I think most people hadn't ever heard of them, but they do taste like an interesting cherry/tomato mix.

  2. In the amount of time it took the server to tell you to look at the blackboard and then explain that normally she would tell you but didnt have time...wouldn't that have been enough time for her to pick maybe one standout dessert and tell you about it?

  3. Uh, I think you had an inexperienced server, which is not acceptable for a $30/entree restaurant. They call it fine dining for a reason.

    Even if she was busy, she should have sacrificed the service on the 12 top, since their tip is already guaranteed since it is a party of 6 or 8 or whatever - it's the sad truth of the business. And there's no excuse for not having proper server coverage ... the economy sucks, there is no shortage of waitstaff, you should have the front of the house under control - and apparently it isn't.

    As far as the food, looking at the menu, I think there are just too many things on it for them to be any good at a few things. Again, if I'm charging $7 for fries, or $30 for some (probably frozen) salmon - you should be rock solid.