Monday, December 9, 2019

Meet Noodles



Struggling for a place to get a quick dinner on Sunday, I remembered reading about Meet Noodles and so we headed over there. It was impressive to see such a large crowd for a small local place in Castleton on a Sunday. It’s a warm feeling interior—more so than many of the Asian places we like on this side of town. The wood tables are cute, but strangely awkward to sit at if you are on the booth side as you can’t cross your legs under the table. But I switched to a chair and was good. 

Shoyu
So they specialize in ramen and noodle bowls made with homemade noodles. We got 2 of the ramen choices—the tonkatsu ($12) and the shoyu ($12) as well as the lanzhou la-mian with the hand-pulled noodles ($12).  Honestly, they were all good, but if I had to pick a favorite it was probably the shoyu ramen. It was a clear soy-based chicken bone broth base with the classic ingredients—sliced pork belly, corn, bamboo shoots, soft boiled egg, scallions and black mushrooms. I loved the crispy garlic bits that were sprinkled on top. I really enjoyed the salty taste of the broth and even if the noodles aren’t hand-pulled, they are quite tasty. And I preferred the soft-boiled egg to the one that came with the hand-pulled noodles. 

The Lanzhou la-mian was also very tasty—these were the hand-pulled noodles and I liked the slightly different texture to the noodles—not sure how to describe them exactly, but they were a little softer and more delicate. The beef bone broth in this dish was really good—deep and rich even though overall it was a more delicate flavor as well. The thin sliced marinated beef was very tender even though it was thoroughly cooked. It was paper thin. While I appreciate the idea of the soy marinated egg, it was more like a hard-boiled egg and didn’t have that rich creaminess like the soft-boiled egg. I liked the freshness of the bok choy and the cilantro. It needed a little of the chili oil from the table to jazz it up a bit, but it was good. Simpler but good. It was more like a pho than a ramen.

Tonaktsu
The tonkatsu ramen was similar in toppings to the shoyu but had more of the garlic and was in a pork bone broth. I am not sure why, but this was my least favorite—the broth had a slightly fishy taste maybe? Maybe fish sauce? Maybe from the nori in there? It was just a little unexpected I guess. The rest of the ingredients were really good—and the pork that they use in the ramen is cut very thin, making it easier to eat with chopsticks and a large spoon.

All in all, a really nice addition to the Castleton area which is so notorious for bad food and chains (with some distinct exceptions of course). It’s beer and wine only if that matters to you—and when they say wine, they mean sake and that’s it. The service is fast and friendly and the place is already seemingly very popular.  Who else has been? I am curious about the appetizers… what have you tried?

Meet Noodles
6368-B 82nd Street
Indy 46250
317/863-8058


Monday, November 25, 2019

Spoke and Steele


Recently hubby and I were looking around for a good date night spot and I was somewhat uninspired by the menus I was looking at. It’s partly the season and that I didn’t want anything heavy…I just wanted something lighter and brighter even though it was Fall. Spoke and Steele has been a place I keep meaning to get back to try again since I knew that Greg Hardesty had a hand in creating the menu and when I looked at the menu and the abundance of seafood on there, I was sold. 

It’s an interesting menu—there are some definite Hardesty-ish menu items (remember that endive salad that came from Elements and then would pop up on the Recess menu?). And a big hearty burger. But there are also some interesting Asian influences as well as Cajun influences as well. All things that make me happy. The current head chef is Erin Gillum, which is a new name for me, but I like her ideas on paper.

At the recommendation of our server (who was very helpful and professional), we started with the biscuits with Vermont creamery slated butter and local honey ($7 for 2). Loved the creamery butter with just the right amount of salt, but I can’t say the biscuits on their own were super special. I mean, nothing wrong with a solid biscuit, but these could have used some gravy or something to really take them to the next level (maybe on the breakfast menu?). The butter and honey together added nice flavor though. We ended up just sharing one and taking the other one home.

The biscuits actually came out with the lobster and shrimp potstickers ($19), which were the clear highlight of the meal for me. But this course also reminds me of one of the things I would be vocal about when ordering—the timing and spacing of items. The food came out really fast and the salad was one of the last courses, which is not what we wanted. So if you go and you would like a more spaced out meal, I would order one or two things at a time and if there is something you want to start, let them know. Anyway, back to the potstickers—so, so good. There were 5 of them, stuffed with lobster and shrimp in a light wonton wrapper that was perfectly seared on one side. The broth though—wow—full of ginger, miso and soy—and topped with some peppers. I instantly wanted a second order, but hubby restrained me. The only complaint I had about these was I wished they were just a little warmer, but even so, I inhaled them. And then we dipped our biscuit inappropriately into the broth.

The next course we got were the pork belly and shrimp bao ($16). I love a good stuffed bun, but these were a bit of a miss for us just based on execution. They were 4 large buns—2 were filled with a large piece of shrimp and 2 with a small piece of pork belly. The meat quality of both was very good—the shrimp had nice flavor and was plentiful to fill the bun. The pork, while tasty, and perfectly crisped on the outside was way too small for the large bun. There was just one small maybe two inch by two-inch piece in mine and it was dwarfed by the bun and the excessive amount of spicy mayo. These could be perfected for sure. First, the amount of filling should match the bun. So either more filling or less bun. Then, less mayo—just a drizzle would be plenty as it is very rich (I would add a little acid to this as well). And finally, while I really liked the pickled cucumbers—and they are the things that make these little buns to me—you couldn’t really taste them due to being overwhelmed by the other ingredients. But like I said, there is definitely room for improvement. And I appreciate that they are doing something different. 


The next (and originally, we thought last) course was the endive salad ($11) and the broiled oysters ($20). Like I said, ideally, I would have liked my salad in the first course, but maybe that’s just me. The salad is described on the menu as having endive, blue cheese, candied pecans, granny smith apples and white wine vinaigrette. So the heavy drizzle of balsamic was a bit of a surprise but it was fine. You couldn’t really get much of the white wine vinaigrette flavor though. Loved the combo overall though-some of my favorite combination of things in a salad. It was well-dressed and topped with lots of goodies.

At this time we also got the broiled oysters which were 6 small oysters (I so much prefer them on the small side) topped with Cajun butter and parmesan cheese. They gave you a nice juicy piece of lemon to squeeze over them as well, which was the perfect addition. I prefer my oysters cooked, and these were cooked just right. Gave the oysters even a little more creaminess. Totally worth ordering. 

At this point we felt like we could use one more dish, and hubby was forcing me to try something new (because I really wanted more potstickers!) so we went with the “deconstructed sushi roll” ($24) from the raw section of the menu. This was interesting—it was a patty of rice that was seared on the sides like a crab cake, adding some extra texture. It was topped with some slices of avocado (would have loved a few more) and then ahi tuna marinated and cut into cubes. There were two crunchy spicy chili shrimp on the side. There was a bunch more of that spicy mayo on the bottom of the dish as well. Again, the mayo was a little over the top for me—super thick and rich, but the rest of the dish was really good. The shrimp were cooked just right and I liked the other ingredients combined together for a nice little bite.

Our server was excellent as well and knowledgeable about the menu. She also immediately brought a new bottle of wine when the one we ordered tasted off. No questions asked. I appreciate what seems to be a well-trained staff (although I would like the pacing to go just a bit slower). It's pretty loud in there when it is busy (which it was) so we were happy to be in a table near the bar without too many around us).

At this point, we felt like we had enough to eat and we were generally very pleased with dinner. There are so many things I would like to try (along with my potstickers) on future visits. I love all the shellfish on the menu---am intrigued by items like pickled shrimp with pimento cheese and the Brussels sprouts salad with crab and shrimp. Let me know if you have been and if so, what items you have tried—good or bad. I need to build my next order. 

Spoke and Steele
123 Illinois Street
Indy 46225
317/737-1616

Monday, November 11, 2019

Los Arroyos

One of my son’s favorite types of food is Mexican. He has his preferred places (La Hacienda, Nada and Livery), but we are always looking for new Mexican places. Recently we tried Los Arroyos which has been open a few years but is new to us. It’s a small chain out of California and Carmel is their first location outside of the west coast. It has a little different feel than other Mexican places—a little more upscale I guess. A little on the sparse side décor wise, and we got sat facing the bus station and kitchen which always makes hubby a little grumpy.

Anyhow, we got our complimentary chips and dip. I like that they give you two different salsas—one is a littler spicier than the other and has a bit of roasted flavor to it, while the other one is fresher and milder. I actually think I preferred the acidity of the fresher one but they were both fine. The chips were just meh—not warm and nothing particularly interesting about them. We started with the queso dip as well, which if I am honest was probably our favorite part. It came with chile and chorizo and once you mixed it all up was quite tasty. The homemade corn tortillas are a nice touch. Drinks-wise, hubby had a Cadillac margarita ($14) and we both thought it was good (you can also buy a margarita here that costs $350 if that’s your thing). I made the mistake of ordering a blood orange margarita ($14), which took about 3 times as long to get and which has this spicy salt mix on the rim that did not go with orange to me. It reminded me of a drink I accidentally got once that was orange juice and pepper flavor vodka. No bueno for me. I would not order this drink again just for the wait, but especially for the taste. I didn’t finish it and I switched to wine at this point.
The menu looks a little more interesting than many Mexican places—I find so many just have the same 5 ingredients recycled into different tortilla formats. This one had various seafood items. Like for instance, hubby had the langostino quesadilla ($18). It was a quesadilla stuffed with three kinds of cheese, langostino lobster, caramelized onions and avocado and topped with chipotle sour cream and guacamole. Sounds intriguing right?—and all things I like. It was good, but nothing that blew your mind or anything. I could have used a little kick or a little acid with it. But not bad. 

I had the tacos Gobernado ($15.50), which were three shrimp tacos sautéed with green chili and cheese and served with guacamole and a green salsa. Once you doctored them up with enough of the salsa and guacamole and some generous amounts of lime that I asked for, these were tasty. The really needed the lime though. The shrimp themselves were well cooked though and I liked the way the taco shells were sort of lightly fried to give them a little texture. 

The kids both had giant burritos—one had chicken and one had beef  ($13.50). They were definitely large and neither finished. I think I would have gone with the grilled chicken or steak vs. the shredded versions they got. The meat was clearly slow cooked and had that kind of stew-like flavor, which if you like, you would like. If it’s not your thing, this is probably not the burrito for you.

All in all, it was an interesting place with some nice variety on the menu. There are certainly more things I would be interested in trying, but nothing I had on this trip really wowed me. And my son doesn’t understand why we ever go anywhere but La Hacienda for a simple Mexican meal. I will agree, you certainly can’t beat their prices. This place is not cheap, but they do use a lot of fresh and unique ingredients. Will I rush back? Likely not, but I wouldn’t refuse to go either. 

Los Arroyos
11503 Springmill Road
Carmel, IN. 46032
317/810-1747

Monday, October 28, 2019

Hoagies and Hops


Recently a friend suggested Hoagies and Hops for a quick lunch—it was crazy because it is just a few blocks from my work, but I had never even heard of it. It’s a cute little place that serves local beers as well as Philly-style hoagies, cheesesteaks and hot dogs. The owner (I believe) mentioned to us that it was the Hog Island sandwich that inspired her to open the shop after living in Pennsylvania. They are importing the bread from South Jersey and chips and pickles from Philly.

We shared a pretzel and beer cheese ($2.79) to start. I liked the beer cheese pretty well. The pretzel was good too, but I wish it had been heated up.  I ordered the 7” chicken cheesesteak with fried onions and sharp provolone. They cook it up fresh and bring it to the table. The ingredients were good, but I sort of wish I had gotten the “Philly Special” that comes with banana peppers, tomatoes, parmesan and spicy sauce just to add a little more flavor to it—I was itching for some acidity or something more. I think the tomatoes, onions and peppers would have done it. But I can’t say I am any kind of cheesesteak expert so I would love to hear what others think—I bet for people who grew up eating these types of sandwiches, this would be a welcome sight—it feels authentic, even though I am not really sure due to lack of experience. 

The cold hoagies seemed popular and that is what my friend had. It was the Hog Island that I mentioned earlier. This includes salami, black forest ham, prosciutto, capicola, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onions and oil. I liked the lettuce and dressing to add some of that flavor I was looking for, although I would put a little vinegar or something in there too. Or maybe some of the whole grain mustard they mentioned in the menu. Loved all the fresh onions though. 

Overall though, like I said, the shop seems to be a labor of love to the owner (I think) who it sounds like ate these types of sandwiches in Philly and was inspired to open a sandwich shop. The people were really friendly and the service was fast. There were lots of working people grabbing a sandwich here and I love how close it is to my work. I am sure I will give it another try to see if I can create my perfect sandwich. 

Please share what you think if you have been here.

Hoagies and Hops
4155 Boulevard Place
Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/426-5731


Monday, October 14, 2019

Cake Bake Shop Carmel


Cake Bake has clearly been a darling of Broad Ripple since it opened, and it truly is adorable inside. It is one of my now-teenage daughter’s favorite places. I was excited to hear about the expanded menu at the new Carmel location and checked it out the other day with a group of girlfriends. If I am completely honest, I have never thought their cakes were all that, particularly at the price…but I do love a French bistro-style savory menu, and that’s what they have in Carmel (Broad Ripple too but I don’t think it has as much variety last time I checked).

Since there was a bunch of us, we shared a couple of starters—we had crab cakes (it was actually the crab cake dinner that comes with 2 cakes for $32) and the burrata salad ($18). Both were actually very nice. The crab cakes had a lot of crab in them (you’d hope so at that price) and their remoulade sauce had a nice kick of mustard to it that amped up the flavor. I liked the very crispy panko-breaded edges. And I have to say, I am kind of particular when it comes to crab cakes. I would eat these again. 

I also enjoyed the freshness of the burrata salad ($18) which was a nice amount of burrata with fresh tomatoes, basil and extra virgin olive oil. The tomatoes were wonderful end of summer tomatoes and I appreciate this considering the travesty that a lot of places serve for tomatoes in Indiana. This should never happen in Indiana in the summer. They also brought some nice warm French bread with it, which I could have eaten all of, but restrained myself. It was good. 

I ordered the croque Madame for my dinner ($21). If you are unfamiliar, this is a decadent French ham and cheese sandwich covered in béchamel and topped with a runny egg. So they use a nice country bread, stuff it with gruyere cheese, ham, and mustard, add the béchamel sauce on top and broil it I am guessing. If you stop there, you have a croque monsieur. But if you want the proper sandwich, you always add the egg.  Why you would ever not get the egg, I will never know. It is a rich sandwich though—I only ate about half. Ok, I ate all the egg, but about half the sandwich. I switched out my salad side for frites based on the recommendation of a friend who had been there (although next time I would just get both because I was sad not to get to try the salad with the lemon vinaigrette as described. I think it would be a nice addition). The fries are very tasty and you have to love a nice black pepper aioli alongside to dip them in. They were good, but not super hot. My friend who recommended them was a bit sad about this. All in all though, I enjoyed my dinner. 

The same friend who recommended the fries got the chicken and andouille sausage gumbo (a nice little selection of New Orleans-style food as well) ($22 + $8 if you want to add shrimp, which she did). She had raved about it to me the first time she had it and also thought it was also a little disappointing this time—she felt it didn’t have as much flavor as the first time. I tried a bite—I had nothing to compare it to, but agreed, it seemed a little bland. It is homemade though, so maybe it just varies with who is cooking that day? Not sure. I would like to try the shrimp po boy though—they are flying in bread from Nola and I have not found a good one since B’s closed. 

Another friend had the burger ($20), which looked pretty tasty, but I didn’t try it. A little thicker burger version, but with quality toppings. I would like to try it at some point. Another friend had the French onion soup and watermelon, arugula and feta salad for her main. She thought the salad was tasty, but very small. The soup was just average in her opinion.

Of course we had some cake (ok, I didn’t take pictures, but it might be the most photographed dessert in Indy, so easy enough to see if you want to). I really liked the Millionaire cake the best (slice is $13). Dark chocolate cake, caramel and vanilla frosting in the middle of the layers and well as shortbread. I loved the crunch of the shortbread and the cake itself seemed moister and fresher than what I have had here in the past. The raspberry Champagne cake ($13) was also a table favorite. 

Décor-wise, the Carmel location is very nice and much larger than Broad Ripple, but it’s a new building and in my mind, it’s impossible to recreate the charm of the Broad Ripple location. But I do like the menu and the food overall was good. I will take the kids one of these days—it is their kind of menu for sure. And like I said, I want to try that po boy (anyone had it? Let me know).

Cake Bake Shop
800 S. Rangeline Road
Carmel, IN 46032
317/257-2253

Monday, September 30, 2019

Common House Supper Club


If you haven’t heard about Common House, it’s a pop-up supper club run by Alan and Audra Sternberg (he was formerly the chef at Cerulean and the founding chef at Field Brewing). Recently they started doing these pop ups (usually at Ukiyo as far as I can tell) and some friends asked us to go. The menu looked good and we bought tickets. If you call it “Simply Summer,” I will have a hard time passing that by. The entire dinner cost about $90 per person (drinks additional).

The first three courses were amazing. Truly. First was a scallop “tamale,” This was so tasty, it was basically a scallop mixture with whole chunks of scallop that was cooked like a tamale (steamed in a corn husk). Loved the texture of this and the delicate flavor, but also the broth underneath with leeks, scallions and corn dashi. This was unique and it was really good. 

Next came grilled squash salad, which if I am honest, was the one I was least excited about, but which turned out to be one of my favorites for sure. There were various types of squash that was lightly cooked with sweet onions and then tossed in a slightly acidic fish sauce-based sauce—at least that’s how I remember it. It was so good—just the right amount of umami. I loved this one.

The third course was tempura skate wing sitting in a tomato butter with powdered ramp powder. I love skate—truly love it. Skate is the wing of a type of ray in case you haven’t had it before. This was the first time I have had it tempura battered and it was fantastic. Super light and crispy. Clearly a great way to do skate. 

The next course was poached chicken with a strawberry miso side, with chicken fat and pine. This one was good but didn’t stand out the way the first courses had. I liked the crispy edge to the chicken though. I also liked the corn stuffed pasta for the next course with octopus slices and tomato, even though by this point, I was getting full and pasta was a tough one!

The next one lost me. I love tuna, but this “ember roasted” albacore with squid ink bbq, carrot and Thai basil wasn’t doing it for me. The preparation of the fish was such that it had a sort of caramelized crust on top, but the fish got so tough that you could really barely cut it. The last savory course was brisket with egg yolk steak sauce and bok choy. Honestly, but this time I was just purely stuffed. I had a bite or two but had to throw in the towel. I did like that sauce though.
The dessert was interesting, but again, I just tasted it because I was so full at this point. It was rice pudding with honeycomb candy, fermented pine honey, and blueberry sherbet. Interesting flavors and I really liked the texture variation from the light, but crunchy honeycomb in the creamy rest of the dessert. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this meal. Would I prefer maybe a 4-5 course meal next time? Yes.  I was losing steam toward the end. But I would definitely do a next time. I hope to see a restaurant in this couple’s future. 

Common House
twitter and Instagram: @commonhouseindy






Monday, September 16, 2019

Revisit: Road Trip: Fireside Inn - Enochsburg, IN


A couple weeks ago we met our Cincinnati friends back at Fireside Inn. I know I have written about this place before, but my love of fried chicken makes me need to remind you about it. Plus it was interesting to learn that there is a fried chicken trail in southern Indiana. Who knew? But Fireside Inn is one of our favorites in the area, and we’ve tried quite a few. 


We started with some fried pickles ($5.95) because these are some of the best I have ever had. They are thin and really vinegary pickles, just like you might get on your burger at an old-school burger place, with a really crunchy batter on the outside. They are clearly housemade—nothing overly uniform about these. They gave us some ranch dressing and we were good to go. These are the best crunchy fried items (besides the chicken of course) they have that I have tried. And I’ve had the gizzards, livers, onion rings and fries. The standard sides don’t seem to be made in house and the gizzards and livers just get a little dry. I will never go to Fireside Inn and not get the pickles.

The fried chicken is why you come though, and theirs is very good. We kept trying the other local places between Indy and Cincy, and we have all agreed this is our favorite. The chicken pieces are small, but generally I think smaller pieces stay juicier. A whole chicken here is $14.50 (hubby and I shared one and brought a couple pieces home). A half is $7.50. This chicken just ticks all the boxes. It’s juicy and tender and has a nice crispy and lightly seasoned crust. And they cook it to order so it is hot, hot, hot. I like mashed potatoes with my fried chicken the best, but they only offer them on certain days and it wasn’t the day we were there, so I just went with a baked potato ($2.45). Like I said the rest of the sides seem pretty food service, so I was happy with my choice. 

The atmosphere of this place is well, pretty bare and unchanged since maybe the late 60s. The bar has a better vibe, but only 4-5 tables, but it is where we always sit. The rest is a lot of fluorescent lighting and worn out fabrics. Our server was awesome though. She was hilarious and extremely efficient. She had the kind of personality that alone would make you come back. 

If you want a dive between here and Cincy with great fried chicken and pickles, this is your place. Preferably without the kids so you can sit in the bar. 

Fireside Inn
2174 County Line Road
Greensburg, IN 47240
812/934-4174
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fireside-Inn-Enochsburg/237529667427




Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Four Day Ray Brewing


Recently we went to a concert a Ruoff/Klipsch/Deer Creek and I wanted to try something different. And hubby was traying to maximize the side of the park we came into for parking. I asked around on twitter and we settled on Four Day Ray in Fishers. It’s a brewery and restaurant—the menu looks like an elevated pub menu, and that was intriguing to me.

We met some friends there and started with the loaded fries—they were a big pile of fries with cheese sauce and chopped up bacon and chives. These were a tasty snack, especially right when they came out and were really hot (and they came out fast!). The fries were crisp but quickly became a little soft after sitting under the cheese sauce for a bit. Still tasted good, just needed to be eaten with a fork. Intrigued by the loaded tots though.

We all got some different things for mains and shared bites with everyone. We had some tacos, and a couple of sandwiches. The top picks were probably the burger ($11) and the Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich ($12). The burger is 2 beef patties with two slices of cheese (as it should be), Bomba sauce (which I am thinking was just like a classic burger sauce with some combo of ketchup and mayo as well as some other seasoning) on a brioche bun. This was a tasty burger—not exactly smash burger type patties, but thin-ish and very juicy. It was really good. Hubby chose chips with the burger and they were good too although I am usually a fry person.

The Nashville chicken sandwich was also really good. The chicken breast is brined with cayenne and pepper and then it is fried and topped with spicy hot sauce, shredded romaine lettuce and buttermilk chive dressing. The chicken was very tender and the coating on the chicken, even with the sauce,  stayed crisp. I liked the cool lettuce and dressing to balance out the spicy chicken. Also a really good sandwich. The onion rings were decent too. Battered and maybe a little overdone, but a good flavor. 

The tacos were a bit more mixed for me. I like the random flavor varieties they have, and they were very interesting and unexpected. I liked the poke taco ($5), which had a hard shell filled with marinated tuna, Asian snap slaw, and pickled ginger aioli. The taco had a distinctive flavor that maybe included sesame oil and the ginger aioli on top was really nice with it. This one was my favorite. Next of the ones we tried, I liked the Cubano ($4), which was a vegetarian option that includes fried plantain, black beans, mango salsa and guacamole. It had a slightly sweet taste from the plantain, but still a good savory mix as well. An interesting flavor profile. Not totally sure I would order it again, but it was interesting. The one I was kind of mixed on was the special taco ($5), which was stuffed with smoked chicken thigh, a chipotle sauce (I think) and fried onion straws. It was like BBQ in a tortilla which threw me off a bit. Nothing wrong with any component, bit not my favorite.

Overall though, the sandwiches were the stars. And I bet their tenderloin is good too based on the fried chicken. Oh! And what a cool beer selection. I am not typically a beer drinker, but I really like the refreshing taste of the blood orange blonde. Like beer, but with a little tart kick. It was great on the hot day with the food that had all kinds of different flavors. I also really enjoyed the “Hot Pink” which is a strawberry rhubarb jalapeno blonde. It had a distinct taste of the strawberry rhubarb (which I love) and then just a tiny heat in the back of your throat after you had a sip. Our waiter described it to us perfectly and I would be hard pressed to say which I liked better. Hubby also liked the La Playa Mexican lager—his favorites are almost always the Mexican style lagers wherever he goes. 

Anyhow, I thought this was a really good pub type experience. It’s new though,  therefore packed, so be prepared to wait (although they told us much longer than our wait ended up being). The food is tasty and our service was on point. Let me know what else you have had and enjoyed. 

Four Day Ray Brewing
11671 Lantern Road
Fishers, IN 46038
317/343-0220

Monday, August 19, 2019

Maialina


I am trying to get out and try some new places and Maialina kept popping up in my social media. It’s a new place that is in the historic Fountain Square building and it’s Italian. I keep hoping for a great Italian place, so I was excited to try it. I didn’t realize till we were there that it was owned by the same family that owns Ambrosia, which lessened my excitement a bit (just never had an amazing meal there), but I wanted to keep an open mind.

We started with the tomato and basil bruschetta ($10), the parmesan garlic toast ($4) and the small Italian chop salad ($7). Ok, I have to say this course was pretty underwhelming. The best thing was the garlic toast and it was very good. Bread was crunchy and it had a nice amount of cheese on top that didn’t make it gooey, but just added to the flavor. The bruschetta had a lot of problems. The biggest one was lack of taste. I liked the small dices of tomato, but it needed acid so much. According to our waiter, I think it was meant to have some balsamic on it, but I tasted nothing. And for me a good piece of bruschetta is toasted crunchy so that it doesn’t get soggy under the toppings. This was very lightly toasted if it was even toasted at all. I ended up using some of the dressing from the salad and putting the tomatoes on the parmesan toast. Then I got a decent flavor bite. But the most important change I would recommend is adding acid to those tomatoes. Please. 

I was a bit puzzled by the chopped salad. When I read chop, I think little chopped up pieces that are all approximately the same size. The menu listed romaine, pepperoncini, salame, provolone, mushrooms, green olives, red onions and croutons. This was certainly not chopped very much. There was a lot of lettuce and large slices of red onion and some olives, maybe 2-3 tiny pieces each of cheese and salame, a lot of croutons, and one large pepperoncini on top. Oh, and no dressing. At all. It was supposed to have red wine vinaigrette, which I eventually asked for and got. And I was surprised at how lacking in flavor it was as well. It was not emulsified at all and the main taste was of oil. So in my mind this salad was a no-go. A chop salad should be chopped and tossed with the dressing. End of story.

Moving on to the main courses, we quickly learned none of the pastas are made in house, which was disappointing. Hubby ordered the cacio e pepe pasta ($12), my son the gnocchi Bolognese ($18), and I got the truffle mushroom flatbread ($10).  Luckily things improved on his course. The best course was the simplicity of the cacio e pepe, which was spaghetti with cheese and pepper. This is a simple dish when done well is really tasty. This was good—the cheese in the right amount both parmesan and percorino. The pepper was strange though—it was just some ground pepper on top (like the kind that comes from a pepper shaker—really fine). A little bit of fresh cracked pepper would have really added to the flavor (and was what was listed on the menu). The Bolognese was decent as well, but a weird choice to put on gnocchi because little pillow shapes of gnocchi don’t really hold on to the sauce that was made with ground meats. The flavor was good but you kind of had to eat them separately—the gnocchi and then a spoonful of the meat sauce. I would recommend a different shape of pasta for this dish. The flatbread was decent as well—I didn’t get a lot of truffle flavor, but I liked the little bit of rosemary. It was maybe a little boring, but nothing wrong with it. I definitely preferred the cacio and pepe. That’s what I would get on a return visit. Which is probably somewhat unlikely.

I will say, this is a pretty new place, so they are probably still finding their groove, but nothing really jumped out to me and the first half of the meal was pretty disappointing. They do have a nice Italian wine selection though. And our waiter was very nice and service was pretty good overall, even though they were very busy (people in Indy do love a new place). If you have been, please give me your thoughts. 

Maialina
1103 Prospect Street
Indy  46203
317/982-7676



Monday, August 12, 2019

International Adventures--Paris


Over the summer, my family and I went on a trip to explore parts of Europe—Paris, London, Windsor and Edinburgh. I have probably mentioned we used to live just outside of Windsor and my daughter did as well but didn’t remember it because she was so young. So we took the family to all the old haunts and to some other great cities.

We started in Paris (how could you not with that great direct flight from Indy to Paris?) We arrived just in time for a crazy heat wave. Anyhow, here I am just going to write about our food experiences, but we had a great time. 

To start with, we stayed at the Hotel Fauchon, which was a beautiful hotel, but is known for their bakery and fancy baked goods and sweets. Needless to say, the complimentary breakfast that came with our room was one of the highlights. The croissants alone were amazing. But I also loved the scrambled eggs that were so lightly cooked and not all dried out like they usually are in the states. They even asked how many minutes you wanted them cooked. After I got them, my whole family started getting them just about every day. Then there was the fancy chocolate cake and their French toast—which was light and custardy. We also had a dinner one night at the  hotel restaurant (The Grand Café Fauchon) which was also very good. There were crudos, risotto with tiny thin rounds of octopus, asparagus with soft boiled eggs. An extreme high end French meal—it was fun. And of course ended with fancy Fauchon desserts—the lips were filled with berries and there was a chocolate/caramel éclair. 
Fauchon dinner

The first night we arrived though, we ate at Breizh Café, which is known for crepes (it is a small Paris chain). I told you last week how much I love buckwheat crepes, and I sought this place out. This one is called the Mushroom complete (12.50). It had very thin ham, Comte cheese, mushrooms and a sunny side egg. It was perfect. The egg was runny, the ham was tasty, but in just the right amount to not overwhelm the flavors and the mushrooms just added a little extra earthiness. I also got a little side salad which was perfectly dressed with a tangy cider vinaigrette (3.80). One of my favorite meals in the world when done correctly. We all got some version of the complete—my son without the mushrooms and my daughter got one with caramelized onions instead of mushrooms. As you know I recently had a similar one at Buondi Caffe that was good as well, and that is the only place I know in Indy that does a buckwheat crepe. The kids also had a chocolate crepe for dessert and it was very tasty too. 

One morning we went on a walking tour and our guide recommended Le Relais de l’Entrecote. This is a restaurant that specializes in steak frites. And when I say specialize, I mean it is the only thing they serve.  The set menu is about €30. You sit down, order some drinks and have a plate of their house salad with walnuts and a tangy vinaigrette in front of you within minutes. You tell them how you want your steak cooked in their 3 offered choices-rare, medium, or well and that’s it. They bring your steak, slice pieces of it and cover it in their special sauce—hard to say what was in it, but it was delicious. Definitely a hint of anchovy in there as well as some nut I am guessing since they wouldn’t let my allergic son eat any of it. They give you a generous portion of fries alongside and then after you eat your steak, they come around and give you a second portion of the meat. And the frites look simple, but they were really salty and tasty. I don’t know how they made them taste so good.  It’s crazy. But really fun and delicious. One of my kids’ favorite meals of the trip. They have a couple of choices for dessert as well and we shared some profiteroles. Also so good—I love the dark chocolate they used everywhere. Just a note, there is usually a line when they open for lunch, so best bet is to get there right when they open or prepare for a wait. It’s a fast meal though, so I am guessing they turn over tables pretty quick. 

The last meal I will write about was at 58 Eiffel, which is in the Eiffel Tower. In the past, hubby and I ate at Jules Verne, which is a restaurant a bit higher up on the tower and was very fine dining. It was very decadent, but very good. However, it is currently closed for renovation, so we went with the other option. This feels less fancy and decadent, but I actually thought the food was decent. You pay a set price for the dinner (€125 for upgraded view; €95 without) and you get 3 courses plus two glasses of wine.  You can choose from a couple different options and like I said, it was pretty good-elevated (pun intended) wedding food. But in Paris. And with more interesting dishes. Lots of asparagus, some foie gras and several fish dishes. The star here is definitely the view. You can pay a little extra to be on the window, and I don’t know why you would go if you don’t have a view. Someday I would like to try the fancy place again when it re-opens.

Anyhow, this is a quick review of where we ate—of course there were lots of little pastries and chocolates along the way, but these were the memorable meals. In a couple weeks I will tell you about London—we ate very well there.