Hubby and I have been excited about all the new places opening right now—seems like these things happen in waves. A friend of mine was posting pictures and comments about his meal at Vida on Facebook and instagram and after seeing them, I booked a reservation for us.
The first thing you notice about this new Cunningham Group restaurant is how nice it is. It feels like you could be walking into a nice restaurant anywhere in the country—from San Francisco to New York. Love the open kitchen and the lovely wall of herbs and greens. I hope they are better at keeping that up than I am at my house because that adds an incredible touch. I was also impressed with the staff—they had clearly been trained properly and it showed. They even had a sommelier who came around to help with wine choices if desired (and a decent wine list to boot).
The restaurant is broken down into a slightly more casual (and more lively) bar side and a more formal (but still very warm feeling) dining room. We were seated on the dining room side. I loved the enthusiasm of our server as he explained the menu and some of his favorite items. We started with a drink and shortly after were brought a bread basket. This was one of the best bread baskets I have had in Indy in ages. There was a tiny loaf of brioche, a nice piece of focaccia and then a pumpernickel biscuit. That brioche and focaccia were simply fantastic. And a nice crock of whipped and softened butter. Makes all the difference. They also brought a little amuse of a sweet potato puree that was made nicely savory with some flakes of salt.
For our first course we had the tuna crudo ($16), which was very good. Our server explained that they have a way of slightly aging the tuna, which gave it a deeper flavor. There was a lot of creativity in the things alongside (and underneath) it as well. There were slightly chewy, slightly crunch little rice cakes, Tandoori flavored ‘nduja, pieces of shrimp that had a slightly curried flavor and a couple of pieces of blood orange that added a wonderful hit of acid. I wished for a couple more slivers of this though, just to have a piece with each piece of the tuna. It was all lightly dressed with soy. A wonderful combination of flavors as well as textures.
For our salad, we split the “winter density” lettuce salad ($12). Our server explained it as a kind of deconstructed Caesar, but I would just describe it as delicious. There was some slightly dense lettuce leaves next to a piece of toasted Brioche bread that had a perfectly runny egg cooked into it. There were large, super thin slices of cheese underneath it adding a great saltiness, and the dressing, called “bolzanese,” was creamy and rich with a nice flavor from the chives. It had enough acid in it as well to not fall flat. I loved this salad. We ate every little crumb.
We shared two main dishes, the shrimp dumplings ($26) and the roasted mushroom pappardelle ($24). This was the only course with a letdown. We were both excited that they were making their pasta in house, and we both love all the things that come along with the pasta—mushrooms, truffle, a little egg omelet and garlic. How could you go wrong? Well, the pasta was fresh, but tasted quite overcooked and therefore turned into a bit of a doughy mess. Loved the light tender omelet alongside, but the pasta and the heavy purely rich sauce just didn’t do it for us. Luckily the shrimp dumplings were stars and had a great sour pork broth-type sauce that was not only really tasty, but was a nice counterbalance after a couple of bites of the heavy pasta. The dumplings themselves were plentiful and slightly pan-fried, lending a nice sense of texture to this dish as well. The crispy fried onion straws were great in this regard as well. The dumplings were served atop slices of smoked scallops, which were silky smooth and added an even further texture element. The flavors of the smokiness and the slight sour flavor from the sauce with the seafood were perfect. We both really loved this one as well.
Overall, we both thought this was one of the standout openings of restaurants in Indy in a long, long time. They have worked hard to not only put out creative and for the most part, delicious food, but they have clearly worked hard to make the service and atmosphere stand out as well. Chef Layton Roberts is at the helm, and is a gifted chef. My only concern is that when Cunningham moves him on to their next thing (they move him around to open whatever the newest place is), food quality might suffer a bit. I have seen this happen with some of their other ventures in the past. So my advice is get in there soon! I can’t wait to return and try many other things.
601 East New York Street