Thursday, October 30, 2014

Road Trip: Grace-- Chicago

I am going to write about this dinner, because I need to purge it from my mind, but I am not going to go into tons of detail about it, as I usually do because, well, I just don’t have the energy for it.

Chef Curtis Duffy is an extremely celebrated chef in Chicago—he worked under Charlie Trotter and Grant Achatz at Trio and Alinea and has been awarded two Michelin stars at both Avenues, and his current location, Grace. Hubby and I had eaten at Avenues and not really dug it, but thought it was maybe too close to when they ended up closing. Well, as it turns out, we just don’t really care for his food. And seemingly we’re the only ones. But when you spend several hundred dollars on dinner and a wine pairing and for the second time you leave the place fairly nonplussed, we have decided we’re breaking up with Chef Duffy for good.

It’s a 9-course prix fixe menu. The meal started with several little amuse items in a log. One of them was a bruleed banana which would have tasted great for dessert, but kind of killed your taste for the other things in the log. The next course, which really annoyed hubby, was a little jar filled with bits of cod, caviar, lychee and chive. They put it in a jar in the style of yogurt (why, I’m not sure) but when you opened it smoke came out. Hubby inhaled a bunch of it and it was very strong smelling. Food-wise, it wasn’t overly flavorful, which seemed to be something that carried throughout the seafood courses. They were beautiful, like the Alaskan king crab dish (that was just like one we had at Avenues) with the sugar disc that you cracked into to get to the crab below and the tai (a sea bream) with plum and chanterelles. Pretty but lacking.

The first non-seafood dish we had was probably the best of the savory courses. There was a little piece of amazingly tender and perfectly medium rare lamb with some artichoke in various forms—my favorite being the long crunchy piece of artichoke that was crispy. This one had a lot of interesting sauces and various textures. I was excited about the sweetbread course that came next, but again, it ended up kind of bland—there was a lot of crunchy grains mixed in that made the dish a little strange in texture and took away from the creaminess of the sweetbread.

The beef that came next was interesting—the pieces of beef themselves were very nice. Some raw, some roasted and I liked the crispy rice cracker type thing. The slightly sweet peanuts were good as well. There was a lemongrass flavored broth to sip alongside. It had an interesting taste, but it was just too much going on. And the sauce on the plate didn’t really do anything for me.
There were several desserts that were probably the best 3 courses in a row of the meal but still didn’t blow my mind. There was a green chartreuse course, which was a frozen herby liqueur with blueberry, ginger and mint, a peach course with almond and lemon verbena and then a final chocolate course with huckleberry and whisky. They were pretty, but again, don’t stick out a lot. There were truffles as well and honestly my favorite thing, a spicy chocolate bar that they sent us home with.

The tour of the immaculate clean and quiet kitchen after dinner was a nice touch and reminded me of Charlie Trotter, where they also gave tours.

I don’t know, I guess this chef’s style is lost on me. I have friends who rank this place very high on their “best meals” list. Honestly, I’d rather hit Bluebeard on a good night and spend a small fraction of the money.

652 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60661
Grace by Curtis Duffy on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 27, 2014

The North End - Revisit

This is another revisit that I feel I need to update after going back after my first post. My son and I were both excited to try the chicken at the North End again because it was just so darn good that first time. We were with my in-laws too, so we got to try a few new things as well.

We had the salmon dip starter ($8) again, which we really enjoyed the first time. For some reason, I wasn’t feeling it as much this time—I realized later it was because I didn’t have the lemon wedges to squeeze on top that I had pilfered from the oysters last time. I would potentially get this again, but it needs the lemon to jazz it up. The thick cut house potato chips are great though—super crisp and well seasoned.

We also tried the pimento cheese spread with Johnnycakes and green tomato chow chow ($7). The portions for these starters are generous. The cheese spread was a big hit with my kids as were the Johnnycakes. Unfortunately, there aren’t really enough Johnnycakes to go along with the cheese. We used some of the potato chips when we ran out. The cheese spread is pretty mild, even borderline bland, but the Johnnycakes were tender and I appreciated the little bit of acid from the tomatoes. Again, this was a dish my kids really liked.

So I was psyched for ordering my perfect combo based on figuring out what I thought were the best things. I got the half chicken with two sides ($15). I had the fries and the mac and cheese. Sadly, the chicken really let me down this time. It was very dry and had none of that amazing juiciness that it had the first time. I guess it’s just a matter of luck and hopefully this time was the aberration rather than the first time. Luckily they give you all those different BBQ sauces to try with it. I decided after trying them all again that my favorite is the “classic” because it has a nice kick of vinegar to it, but still has the thickness of a good sauce (but not so thick that it’s gloppy). The mac and cheese was consistent with the first time—it’s good and I like the addition of the rib jam to jazz it up a bit. Nothing that knocks your socks off, but solid mac. I love the fries—they are hand cut fries and are coated in smoked bone marrow butter and topped with some sliced jalapenos. And even though they are coated in butter, they somehow stay sort of firm. The bone marrow flavor gives them an extra richness. I would say top to bottom, these fries are one of the best things on the menu.

A couple of us got the cornbread as well—it is also a favorite with my kids. It has a big hunk of maple Bourbon butter on top adding to its sweetness. Again, I like it for dessert. 

So there you go, I think the sides have stayed fairly consistent and I feel like I know which ones to order. I’m sad that the chicken was disappointing (my daughter had the sliced turkey, which she also described as dry). I didn’t love the pulled pork the first time so I am not sure whether I will be motivated to go back when I don’t feel confident that I can find meat that I will really like.

The North End
1250 E. 86th Street
Indy  46240

Thursday, October 23, 2014

96th Street Steakburgers - Revisit

96th Street Steakburgers is a quick place that our whole family can agree on. It’s borderline fast food, but about as close as I get on a semi-regular basis. They do cook the food to order and even the French fries are fresh.

I haven’t written about it in a few years (holy moly does time fly) and since it is a fairly regular spot for us, I figured I’d do a quick revisit. The burgers are tasty—my favorite part being the special sauce they use. It’s got a little bit of tanginess to it and gives some extra depth to the burger. I get mine with cheese pickles and the sauce—hubby usually adds lettuce and grilled onions. Both options are tasty. It’s a fairly thin burger, and they cook them all the same, but the maintain a fairly juicy inside and have some crispy edges. The burgers are around $4 for a single and around $6 if you make it a combo with a drink and fries.

Like I said, the fries are freshly cut and cooked—they can vary slightly in how crispy they are, but they have a good flavor. I love it when they’re really crisp, and the last couple of times they have been. Sometimes they can be a bit greasy though. The portions are generous with the fries (our family of four usually splits two orders). My daughter loves the milkshakes (around $3) and usually gets the chocolate. 

Anyhow, it’s a good place to get a quick bite at what is basically an independently owned fast food joint. You don’t see too many of those.  The service (counter service) can be a little gruff at times, but they’re quite fast. The place never seems very crowded though. Whenever I go I wonder how they maintain such a big place on the amount of business they have.

What do you guys think of it?

96th Street Steakburgers
4715 East 96th Street
Indy  46240

Monday, October 20, 2014


Of course I have been anxious to try Milktooth and as soon as I asked my friend Suzanne if she’d meet me, she said yes yes yes! She had been to both the preview brunches at Recess and really enjoyed them. I had been trying to wait my obligatory couple of weeks, but could barely stand it.

First of all, this place is pretty darn adorable. Very shabby chic—lots of reclaimed and vintage pieces throughout, mismatched china, etc. I thought the chairs at our table looked familiar and then was told they were from the library at IU Bloomington. I probably sat in those same chairs! Even the tables were made by the chef himself from reclaimed wood. I also liked that although cute, the chairs were comfy. Also, hallelujah for a parking lot. It may not hold all the cars when the place is full, but it holds a lot of them I’m guessing. Food-wise, they’re sourcing much of the ingredients from local purveyors.

It’s a brunch place so naturally, there are eggs everywhere and I was completely overwhelmed with deciding what to order. It all sounded good. We ended up settling on the sweet tea fried chicken and biscuit ($14) from the “Classic” side of the menu and the Chilaquiles roja ($14) from the “Divergent” side of the menu. Of course we needed to try something from the “Adjacent” section as well and chose the latkes ($5).

Ok, this place lives up to the hype (and there has been a fair amount). Everything was good. Really good. If I had to choose a favorite, it was probably the fried chicken. So, here’s the set up: really good, chunky, chorizo gravy on the bottom of the bowl topped with a freshly made biscuit, several pieces of the fried chicken (my piece was a boneless thigh) and a perfectly beautiful sunny side up egg. The egg was seasoned well and the flavor of the chicken was so, so good. Rarely do I eat an egg and not want to season it a little. This needed nothing. The spices in the chicken were my favorite part and I wanted to dole out a little bit with every single bite. The biscuit was buttery and somewhat dense and the gravy gave it just the right moisture. It was all perfect together.

We also had the chilaquiles, which were made up of hunks of lamb carnitas and collard greens. Normally when I have had chilaquiles in the past, crispy tortillas were part of the dish, and this was more of a saucy meat base, but quite good. I liked the slight bitterness from the collards mixed in and when you got just the right bite with the meat, some egg (another perfect sunny side up egg), a little of the guac and sour cream on the side and a few of those julienned (very lightly pickled perhaps?) radishes, it was a wonderful bite. I only wished for a bit more of the sour cream to go around with every bite. It was the kind of dish that could be very spicy, but this wasn’t. It had good spice flavors, but not in the hot kind of way.

The giant potato latke was fantastic. It was super crisp on the edges, but not in the least bit burned. It had a wonderful buttery taste to the potatoes and the drizzles of harissa ketchup and aioli were perfect. A little spicy kick to a familiar ketchup flavor and a little bit of tanginess from the aioli.

I am amazed at the amount of staff working here—they have got baristas making their special coffees (my macchiato was delicious although I did sorta want two sugar cubes vs. the one they brought me when I asked for sugar) and there was one person who looked like he spent most of the time pressing fresh OJ. We sat near the bar where you could watch every dish come out of the busy open kitchen and wish you had ordered that too. The place is lovely to look at and so is the food. And the flavors measure up to the presentation. I can see some people potentially complaining about the portion sizes being small though, although I found them just fine. I found the “modifications are politely declined” wording on the menu fine as well, but am a person who is happy to eat a dish the way the chef wants to prepare it. Others might be less so, but go in knowing this is not your average “2 eggs any style/choice of meat/choice of bread” kind of diner. Put yourself in their hands though, and I think you’ll be happy. I certainly was.

Milktooth is a great addition to Indy’s food scene. And how badly did we need a great brunch spot (and there’s booze too)? I hope maybe they add a night or two of service because I’d be happy having dinner here as well. 

I am anxious to hear what people think about this place and how your experiences have been (and what you ate!), so leave me a comment and let me know.

540 Virginia Ave
Indy  46203
Milktooth on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Souper Bowl

Every time I write about pho, someone mentions Souper Bowl in Westfield to me. Obviously, I needed to try it so I got my friend Suzanne to go check it out with me since she lives on the north side and is always up for a food adventure. We always order too much food, and this day was no exception.

We started with the fried tofu and the avocado rolls ($3.25). I had never seen an avocado roll on a menu (at least that I can remember) so I was intrigued. It was a cold Vietnamese-style spring roll filled with mainly rice noodles and some crunchy herbs as well as a couple of slices of avocado. It was just okay, not my favorite thing just because it didn’t have a lot of inherent flavor and the thick peanut sauce served with it was a little too much. They were too plain on their own, but all you could taste was the peanut sauce if you did use it.

I think we both liked the fried tofu much better—they were very simple and just the right size (and really, really hot). There was the right amount of tofu to fried exterior ratio. Plus we almost always order this dish when we’re together eating at a restaurant that offers it. It’s kind of a tradition. The one thing I didn’t like about it was they served it with just a standard sweet and sour (read: sweet) sauce, which isn’t my favorite. Usually when I’ve had it, it’s served with a light fish broth, which I prefer. I just used a dash of soy instead. But the tofu itself was tasty.

I order the sliced beef pho ($7.65) and Suzanne ordered the Banh Mi ($3.95). The pho was very good. I liked that the smaller portion wasn’t as overwhelming in amount as it sometimes is—I can never finish those huge bowls. Pho is really about the broth and this one was nice and rich and beefy. There was a fair amount of the very thin sliced beef and lots of the rice noodles. There was a fair amount of really thinly sliced onions in there as well and a smattering of green onions. The side plate was simpler than some-mostly bean sprouts with some Thai basil, a couple of slices of jalapeno and a lime wedge. There was not a lot of the basil and no cilantro, which is also good with it. I threw all of it in (well, not all the bean sprouts) and slurped away. 

Suzanne and I shared both so I also got to sample the Banh Mi. It was also well done, although the bread didn’t have that super flaky texture of others I have had in the past. There was a thin layer of the pate-type spread and some thinly sliced pork. The sandwich was dressed with lots of fresh bean sprouts, sliced cucumber, julienned carrots and a bit of cilantro that were light dressed in a slightly tangy dressing. It was a tasty sandwich (and extremely reasonably priced). I would have liked maybe just a bit more meat on it, but for that price, you can’t really complain. Overall I liked the pho better but Suzanne liked the sandwich better, so there you go.

I also ordered a limeade club soda ($2) that was fantastic. They make fresh (and tart) limeade and then mix it with soda. What a great accompaniment to this type of food. And you know me, add some tart, tangy drink on the side and I’ll be happy. 

If this place was in my neighborhood (and hey, it’s Vietnamese in Westfield!), I would easily visit again. The menu is large and there’s a lot to try.

Souper Bowl
112 East Main Street
Westfield, IN 46074

Super Bowl Pho on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 13, 2014

Road Trip: Japonais by Morimoto--Chicago

Our first big anniversary dinner in Chicago was at Japonais by Morimoto. We had already made a reservation for the following night at a high-end price fixe restaurant and wanted something totally different from that for our first dinner. Japonais was the perfect choice.

Apparently, this restaurant was taken over and re-vamped by Chef Morimoto (you know, one of the Iron Chefs) not too long ago. They seem to be very successful, as the place was packed. And quite noisy. A cool thing? Chef Morimoto is there most nights apparently, including this night and we got lots of pictures of him working hard in his kitchen (our table was pretty close to the sushi bar).

After glancing through the menu, we wanted pretty much everything on the cold starters page and decided to just go with small plates. It was a wise decision because we got to try lots of things and nearly all of them were great. They want you to order everything at once, but they do a pretty good job at spacing them out. And they’re pretty flexible if you decide you might need “just one more thing.”

The star of the night for us was the tuna “pizza.” ($16). It was this super crisp, almost buttery, wafer thin tortilla on the bottom topped with very thin maguro tuna, the most amazing anchovy aioli, olives, jalapenos, and micro cilantro. Whoa, was this good. The aioli was tangy but salty (and not fishy at all) and the jalapenos gave it a bit of heat (even if you didn’t eat them, just from them sitting on the fish, there was a bit of residual flavor). I loved the olives (of course) and thought it was an interesting thing to add—not something you see with Japanese food often, but kicking up the briny taste. This would absolutely be a must order dish on any return visit.

We also got the toro tartare ($26). This dish is totally cool. Hubby and I had seen it on one of those “best things I’ve ever eaten” shows and wanted it then—so we were excited to get to try it. They give you this flat glass dish with the toro on it—it’s basically pureed into a paste almost. You use this little flat utensil to scoop out a little and drag it through the other dish that contains nori paste, guacamole, chives, wasabi, sour cream and these little crispy rice balls. Then you dipped it into a light soy-based sauce. It was really fun and very tasty. I really like the way the rice balls and chives added texture. It was one of the more challenging dishes to eat (stuff kept falling off) but it was really good.

We also had the Hamachi tacos ($10). It’s funny—if I had these any other place, I would have been wowed. Crispy wonton shells filled with large dices of Hamachi, avocado, tomato, Serrano and jalapeno peppers and yuzu kosho (a yuzu/chili paste combo)—how can you go wrong? The yuzu, tomatoes plus the limes served alongside gave that kick of acid I crave and the fish was impeccably fresh. In comparison, it just didn’t have the combo of flavors and variations in textures that some of the other dishes had that really pushed them over the top. I’d be ordering them right and left if they were on a menu in Indy though. Still a really good choice. 
Hubby got excited after realizing that had fatty tuna (oh-toro) nigiri on the menu and really wanted to get some. It was the only real sushi item we had for the meal. It’s market priced on the menu, and expensive ($13 per piece on this night). The rice here is “hand polished” and while I can’t tell you exactly how that affects the flavor, I can say that you could really taste each individual grain of rice and there was a slight al dente bite to it. The tuna was melt in your mouth tender, but I didn’t care for the small amount of wasabi they put between the rice and the fish. To me, it detracted. Hubby loved it though. I don’t need to get such an expensive piece of nigiri in the future, but it was fun to try.
At this point, we moved into the warm part of the meal and kicked it off with some hot rock American wagyu beef. The beef was very thinly sliced, and you just through it on the smoking hot rock for a minute, just to sear the outside. They gave you 2 kinds of dipping sauces—one was a hot mustard based sauce and the other had a flavor of sesame oil. Both were very good. I went back and forth on which I liked better. It goes quick though. I probably could have eaten another entire plate of the beef, but we moved along.
The last two things we got at the same time—the “Kakuni” ($12) or ten-hour pork belly served in top of rice congee with soy-scallion jus. This dish, or should I say the pork part of it, was the only real miss for me of the evening. The pork was certainly rich in flavor, just too rich and too sweet for me. It was coated in an extremely sweet soy based sauce that was just too much. I loved the rice congee (or rice porridge) underneath it though. It had a wonderful dense consistency almost like grits. We also got our side of duck confit fried rice with an organic egg on top ($9) at this point in the meal. The rice itself was really good—the duck gave it just the right amount of heartiness without being over the top, and the egg yolk gave a nice creaminess to the unique firmness of the rice. It was really well seasoned. The only disappointing part was I would have loved to have eaten it at the same time as the beef rather than at the same time as a dish that also incorporated rice. I also think it would have slowed me down on the beef too. I would order it again and be more specific about when I wanted it.

Since it was our anniversary after all, we decided to get dessert as well, and they presented it nicely with a “Happy Anniversary” on the plate. We had the salted caramel chocolate tart ($10) because we’re both suckers for salted caramel items. It was fairly simple and very tasty. The perfect way to end the meal.

Japonais is certainly a place we are anxious to return to, and I hope to go with friends so we can order more stuff. There is so much that looks so good on the menu. I might try and see if there is anywhere in the restaurant that’s a little quieter, but I’m not sure if there is. And I’m totally ordering that tuna pizza. 

Japonais by Morimoto
600 West Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60654

Japonais by Morimoto on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 9, 2014

317 Burger - Revisit

Oftentimes, I go to a restaurant I don’t even intend to write about and end up writing about it because it is just so good. Sadly, in this case, it was kind of an opposite experience. I didn’t intend to write about it, but because I had written a pretty positive post about it before, I felt like I needed to update, as I feel like things have fallen off a bit at 317 Burger. 

The kids had really enjoyed it the first time we went, so they were actually the ones who chose it this time. We sat outside, and they have a decent patio, although interestingly, very few tables for 4. They are mostly for 2.

This time we started with the poutine ($6), which we had never had before, and it was probably the highlight of the meal (hubby would definitely say it was). They have good, thick fries that stand there was lots of soft, creamy cheese curds on top. I’ve never been a huge fan of gravy on fries, and I appreciated that they gave you the gravy on the side to use as you liked. Both the males in our household enjoyed it. To be completely fair though, you put cheese of any kind on fries and my husband is going to like them.

Things started to fall off when we go the burgers. I ordered the namesake “317 Burger” ($11) (with 4 cheeses, pepper bacon and garlic aioli). The problem here was the meat. The server asked us all how we wanted our burgers cooked and we all said either medium rare or medium, and they were ALL cooked way beyond well done. We all had burgers that were thinner and way dryer than the one I had when this place was new. Why even ask if you’re just going to cook them all to death? Also, hubby “built his own burger” which are automatically supposed to come with lettuce, tomato and onions and which came with none. He had to ask to get them. The fries and tots we had on the side were all solid.

My daughter ordered the Parthenon burger ($12) and enjoyed the interesting flavors of the patty being made with a gyro mix and the “gyro bacon,” feta, and the thin pita bun, but again, it was a small dry patty. We were pretty disappointed.

My daughter had enjoyed the funnel cake fries in the past, and we were happy to see they had added chocolate dipping sauce to the options (we can’t do peanut butter in our house). However, they have changed them from the fries to a regular funnel cake and it just wasn’t as good-the cake seemed over-fried and too hard—there was no “cake” in the funnel cake. And the chocolate dipping sauce? Pretty sure it was Hershey’s syrup.

This is one of those places where I can’t figure out if a dip in quality has lead to a smaller crowd or the lack of business has lead to a dip in quality, but both were true, at least on this visit. The place was nearly empty, and the quality has suffered. I don’t know, maybe they do a better bar business later in the evening with all their local draft beers, but for me, it’s gone off our list. Too bad, it was nice to have another (of the few) family friendly quality places in Broad Ripple.

317 Burger
915 East Westfield Blvd
Indy 46220

Monday, October 6, 2014

Road Trip: Blackbird--Chicago

Hubby and I celebrated our fifteenth anniversary this September and decided to go to Chicago to celebrate. We pretty much just ate, slept, and shopped—a very decadent and fun weekend. The weather was spectacular—I highly recommend getting married in September—it makes for good weather almost anywhere.

We arrived right at lunchtime on a Friday and after much changing of our minds, ended up at Blackbird. Blackbird is a place we have always wanted to try and honestly, I didn’t even know was open for lunch until I just did a general opentable search.

We got there right as they opened at 11:30 (12:30 Indy time) and were one of the first seated. The menu is a modern French-type menu and we went back and forth over what to order. We ended up with the duck liver pate ($13) (hubby) and the salad of endive, baby lettuces, potato, Dijon, pancetta and poached egg ($9) (me). Luckily we share everything because hubby totally won this round. That pate dish was amazing and was probably the best thing we had in that meal and even made it into our list of favorite dishes of the weekend. The pate was smooth and rich, with a hint of some acid (maybe Sherry vinegar?), and was served with caramelized onion pound cake and barely pickled carrots and a couple of little cornichons—the perfect combination and rich and salty, briny and acidic, and lightly sweet. It was really, really good.  My salad unfortunately, just didn’t come together, even with so many of my favorite ingredients. The egg was poached and seasoned perfectly and the few bits of bacon and potato were tasty, but there was way too much lettuce and way too little dressing. It was just ok. The pate totally made up for it though.

After asking for recommendations for main dishes, I went with our server’s recommendation of the seared whitefish sandwich ($13), which is apparently one of Blackbird’s mainstay lunch dishes. Hubby went with another starter, which was also a server recommendation; the soft scrambled eggs with roasted chicken wings, spring legumes, caramelized shallots and radicchio ($10). While both were good, happily, I won this round. The sandwich is served on grilled sourdough with lemon and herb aioli, gribiche (a boiled egg yolk mayo with extra pickly stuff), and roasted tomatoes. There were also some crispy potato chips and some potato salad alongside. Although the bread was quite blackened, this sandwich was very, very good. I think they intend to blacken the bread on purpose, although after seeing several of these sandwiches served after mine, I think my bread was a tad overdone. I can appreciate a slight char taste, but it was a bit over the top. The inside however was perfect. Super tender fish with the right amount of the acidic aioli and gribiche, greens and softened tomato. A great sandwich. Hubby’s eggs were interesting, and also good, but just didn’t have all the layers of flavor like the sandwich or the pate. It was served with the very soft eggs in a layer on top, and all the other goodies underneath. There was a lot of nice texture with the lightly crisp green beans and the shallots. And the crispy boneless pieces of the chicken wing meat. The flavor was fairly delicate and the eggs were cooked perfectly.

We really enjoyed Blackbird—it’s a great place to know about that is open for lunch if you want something a little higher end and where you can make a reservation. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and like I said, since we split all of our dishes, we thoroughly enjoyed the food as well. The service is very professional without being snobby, and the interior, while somewhat sparse, is comfortable. I loved the chairs that spun.

619 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60661

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Oakley's - Revisit

Hubby and I were in the mood to go back to Oakley’s—we wanted something good without having to go downtown. We met a friend there as well (it was supposed to be him and his lovely wife, but she was a doctor on call and yadda yadda, babies gotta be born, so it was just the three of us).

Oakley’s has changed their menu format up a bit with a bunch of small plates. I am always sucked in by small plates, so we mainly ordered a bunch of those to share. Probably my favorite small plate was the black bean artichoke hummus with lobster truffles, artichoke spinach parfait and roasted pita ($10.75). There was A LOT going on with this dish but it was pretty much all delicious. The only thing that I was kind of meh about were the little fried lobster balls—they were just okay. But the hummus itself, the cheese and the fresh veggies were great. There was a lot of artichoke flavor, which I love, and there was a perfect balance between rich and acidic. A great one to share for sure.

We also shared the escargot (basil fed apparently) with maître d butter and Texas toast ($8).  Hubby loves escargot and doesn’t get them a lot, so he was excited to see them on the menu. Yes, they’re snails, but trust me, with that herby butter and that thick toast, if you’re weirded out about snails, you won’t care. They’re just tender little herby morsels. I really enjoyed the pop of texture and flavor from the mustard seeds on top as well. They were very nicely done.

We shared the Tennessee eggrolls ($8) as well, which were an interesting variation on an eggroll. They were fried and stuffed with pulled pork, grits, jalapeno and cheddar and topped with a kale “slaw.”  I really enjoyed the fresh greens on top and thought these were an interesting variation. Much more meaty than your average eggroll. We also ordered the French boule (bread shaped like a ball) ($3.75) because I am always tempted by housemade bread (it seems so rare around here) and also because I was intrigued by the mustard butter being served with it. That sounded like a good combo to me. Honestly, the bread didn’t really wow me that much. It was fine, but nothing to write home about. And the butter just had a hint of mustard.

For our “main” dishes, I ordered another starter, the sweet corn gnocchi ($12.75) with lemongrass creamed corn, sweet pea romesco, pork belly and cilantro tortilla salad. I have had amazing gnocchi in the past at Oakley’s and was hoping for a repeat with a variation made with one of my favorite things (corn) but while good, this wasn’t the best thing on the table that night. I was looking for a bit more acid maybe to balance out the sweet and rich flavors of the corn, peas and pork belly, and I just didn’t really find it. Still good, but compared to the earlier starters, not as impressive.

Hubby had the ribeye steak entrée ($34.75). This was another case of A LOT of things going on with this dish—there were smoked hash brown croquettes, creamed kale, tarragon Béarnaise vinaigrette (I was loving the sound of this), blue cheese salsa verde and crispy onions. I mean, all things I love, but wow—it sounded like a lot and it was. It tasted good, if just a little confusing with so much going on. But really, how could you complain about any of those ingredients—fun twists on classic steakhouse ingredients. I do love some blue cheese with steak.

The dessert was their version of s’mores, fancy-style. Honestly, I didn’t really care for it, other than it was quite pretty. There was a little too much fruity stuff going on, which didn’t make sense to me with s’mores. And the chocolate and cake part was a little bland. I’ve had some great desserts here, but this one wasn’t one.

I really like Oakley’s—it’s a solid choice on the north side when you want a good, high-end meal. The one thing about Oakley’s—sometimes there’s so much going on with some of the dishes that you are almost overwhelmed. The hummus dish totally worked I think, whereas the steak dish was on the border. But there’s a ton of creativity in this kitchen and I always enjoy it.

Oakley’s Bistro
1464 west 86th Street
Indy 46260