Monday, September 23, 2013

Tian Fu

This is a restaurant I learned about because the owners have a decent twitter feed. I generally try and follow every Indy restaurant on twitter. I saw them, they interacted with me, I checked out the menu and it looked interesting. So when I was out that way one day I stopped in. It’s amazing what kind of marketing tool twitter can be.

Anyway, that first lunch I was actually surprised I had never noticed this place before. It is in a strip mall near 86th and Michigan and I have driven by it many times. The interior is nicer than I was expecting and it’s pretty large. The menu features many different Asian cuisines, including sushi, but when I’m alone I don’t like getting rolls because I can’t try very many. So on this visit I decided to go with the Chinese menu, and specifically focused on the “Tian Fu specials.” I liked that they have a nice lunch menu that includes dishes other than the standard Chinese restaurant lunch special fare (which they have as well).

I ordered the Szechwan hot boiled fish dish ($9.95). It came with a choice of soup, rice, and a spring roll and a crab Rangoon on the side.  I had the hot and sour soup and it was one of the better ones I have had in Indy. It had a lot of stuff going on inside, mushrooms, tofu, carrots, and lots of bits of egg. It had just the right consistency, not being over-thickened like some. It also had a nice spicy kick to it as well as the sour taste of vinegar. They got this one right. I do like getting the little fried wontons to crumble in, which they brought with the soup, but these were a tad stale (seems to be a problem for me lately).
The fish was very good. My server told me it was spicy and she wasn’t kidding. She also told me upon delivering it, to be sure and mix it up before I ate it. There was a lot of crushed garlic and ginger sitting on top and the fish and broth had been placed on top of veggies—mainly cabbage leaves—and she was right, mixing it all up was important. It softened the leaves and more evenly distributed the seasonings. I love garlic and ginger so I appreciated visually being able to see it quite clearly. The broth that they poach the flounder in is a red pepper broth. It had heat and a lot of flavor. The fish was plentiful and was very tender. I thought it was a large portion, particularly with all the other things you got with it, even if it was one of the more expensive lunch items. I didn’t care for the spring roll, which was full of just shredded cabbage and carrots and kind of hit you in the chin when you bit into it. The crab Rangoon wasn’t bad—a thicker wonton and just folded in half and fried. It made for a nice texture and slightly sweet flavor variation from the two spicy broth-based dishes.

Since I really wanted to try the sushi too, I met my friend Suzanne there for lunch about a week after the first visit to get a couple of rolls. She ordered a green salad to start ($3.95) and we also ordered the fried tofu appetizer ($3.95).  The salad was larger than Japanese salads usually are, so we shared it. It was mainly large pieces of iceberg lettuce (so large it was nearly impossible to eat with chopsticks) with a ginger dressing. Because it was on a plate and not in a bowl, the dressing kind of separated leaving the gingery bits on top and kind of a watery pool on the bottom. The tofu was good—I liked that the pieces were cut into thinner pieces so you could get some crispy outside with each bite. Initially they did not bring any sauce though (and there was none on the plate). We weren’t sure if this was an oversight or not, but our server did bring us out a sauce for dipping. It was lightly sweet (fish sauce and a bit of soy maybe) with some scallions. 

For sushi, we had the black dragon roll ($12.95) and the tobiko rainbow roll ($12.95). The black dragon roll was supposed to have tempura shrimp and cucumber inside although I didn’t taste any cucumber (which is fine with me, it is one of my least favorite sushi roll ingredients besides cream cheese). It was topped with eel, avocado, eel sauce and black tobiko (fish eggs). It wasn’t bad, but the eel part tasted a little fishy to me, and I am normally a fan.  I liked the other roll better—it was filled with spicy tuna and a little bit of tempura crunch, and was topped with lots of avocado and various colors of tobiko. The tuna was still decent quality and I always like a little crunch. The avocado was perfect. The rolls were artfully presented, and a pretty good sized—maybe slightly larger than a mouthful though.  I would rate the quality in the middle of Indy sushi places. It wasn’t bad, but there are several places I like better. 

Our service on the second trip was a little more difficult too—it was our server’s first day and she didn’t speak a lot of English and didn’t know a lot about the menu. It was a pretty dramatic departure from the server I had the first time. 

All in all, I think Tian Fu is a decent lunch place. I think I would stick to the Chinese side of the menu and skip the sushi. It wasn’t bad, but the first lunch I had was more unique, and tasted better. It seems to do a decent business at lunch, and I would be curious if any of you guys have been there.

Tian Fu Asian Bistro
3508 West 86th Street
Indy  46268
Tian Fu Asian Bistro on Urbanspoon


  1. We love this restaurant. We have been there about 4 times in t he last month. We had seen it before but had not tried it. My husband went there for committee meeting within Chinese community. We thought since they had suggested it must be good. There is a Chinese menu. Many Chinese restaurants offer a Chinese menu. Some places it is all in Chinese but at Tian Fu it is in both Chinese and English. It is fantastic. I don't know why they don't but these dishes on the menu. I ask them the other night and she said something about American tastes. I think they either might be underestimating Americans or educate us. Put some traditional dishes on as a special. One of my favorites is their stir fried green beans. They are fresh with bit of spice and some sort of crumbled meat - pork I think. Just delicious. We shared a shrimp and walnut dish that we have not had since we lived in San Francisco. Also fantastic. We like the hot & sour soup too. I have also tried a traditional dish called something like Ants Climb a Tree. It is a spicy noodle dish with bits of meat. Each time we go, I am trying something new along with my favorite green beans. Our daughters ages 14 and 12 like it too. They love the hot & sour soup, the sushi and noodle dishes they have had. I have not been there for lunch but will be trying it too.

  2. We ate here on Christmas night. The place was packed! It took us 15 minutes to get a table plus at least that long to be able to place an order.

    We each ordered a bowl of soup + an entrée. I asked to have the soups first. They came out right away. I liked my bowl of wonton and The Huz liked his bowl of hot & sour. The Huz's spicy crispy chicken came out 20–25 minutes after we ordered, at which time the waitress told me that my dish wasn't available. (I had ordered salt pepper tofu and they were out of tofu.) I ordered stir-fried green beans with beef (because she kept asking "Only green beans? No meat?") in its place; that came out 5–10 minutes later.

    The Huz wasn't able to eat his food when it arrived because we didn't have utensils. When he asked for them, the waitress said only chopsticks were available. (That's what he wanted anyway.) Then another waitress came over to tell me they were out of tofu. I told her I knew but we still needed utensils. She brought forks, spoons, and chopsticks and, when asked, napkins. I noticed a few other tables got paper napkins like we did although I think cloth are standard.

    My dish came out about 10 minutes after The Huz's. We had been sharing his chicken and it was delicious but a bit too spicy for me. It had excellent flavor and texture—tender meat +light, crunchy breading—and included some vegetables on top. My dish came out and The Huz immediately commented on how good (and garlicky) it smelled. We shared that too, and it was also fantastic. The thin bits of beef were tender, the beans had some tooth, and everything was coated in a flavorful (if oily) sauce. We thoroughly enjoyed both choices.

    They were clearly overwhelmed by the Christmas rush. There were several big groups, too. I can't imagine this is how dinner service is normally. They were friendly + hustling as much as possible, which is the most we could ask for, plus the food was tasty. We would definitely return.