I was excited to meet a friend for lunch the other day at Rook—I hadn’t been yet to their new location. Wow, so much more sophisticated. I always felt like the old Rook’s location didn’t do enough to live up to the interesting food.
It’s a more spacious place as well, with individual tables, a bar area (looking into the open kitchen) and some larger communal tables. The menu is larger as well, although you will recognize many items from the old Rook location.
One of these return items also happens to be one of my favorites—the mushroom dumplings ($6). These are so delicious. They wonton skins are thin and delicate and having a mushroom filling gives it a fairly intense earthy flavor, but without the routine pork dumpling taste. They’re rich, but not typical. The light sauce is made with soy and vinegar and even the chunks of cucumbers (which aren’t typically my favorite thing) were tasty. I love these things and was glad they are still on the menu.
I ordered one of the two ramen bowls ($14). It was a very interesting bowl of ramen. Besides the obvious broth and noodles, there were pickled greens, mushrooms, cabbage and a chicken rillettes with pickled mustard seeds on top. Oh yeah and one of those wonderful 63 degree eggs that are soft and just the right amount of runny inside. The flavor of the dish was very deep and almost grassy with all those greens, but I really enjoyed it. The one thing that didn’t really do it for me was that chicken rillette. I couldn’t quite figure out what I was supposed to do with it. If you cut into it in the broth, it just sort of dissolved and lost most of its flavor. It was difficult to eat. I sort of wished I had a side plate to put it on separately. I mainly just didn’t eat much of the rillette, but enjoyed the rest.
My friend had the Galbi rice bowl ($16) with Korean short ribs, avocado, pickled cucumbers, kim chi and pork cracklings. This is a solid choice—and I liked all the texture variations. It was maybe a little dry before you cracked into the egg on top, which gave it some more moisture. I loved the addition of avocado, as I always do—but in this case it lent a little bit of creaminess that was nice.
Rook is a cool spot—again one of the more interesting and creative menus you’ll find in Indy. I also appreciate that they change it up a bit all the time. And there’s beer and wine as well as cocktails now in the bigger space, which is really nice. Mostly, I appreciate the feel of the new space because it feels like it can easily be a dinner spot as well as a lunch spot. In the old location, it was hard to imagine it feeling like a destination for dinner for me anyway. Glad to see the progress.
501 Virginia Ave