Friday, June 13, 2008

L'explorateur (again)

****This restaurant is closed as of January 2009****

I can't help it. I know I have blogged quite a bit about L'explorateur, but we had a perfect meal there this week. The day was lovely, the service was great and the food was outstanding!

Were were served an amuse bouche of a slice of fried zucchini with a remoulade sauce. It was good, but could've used a sprinkle of salt on top. As for the things we actually ordered, we started with some of the L'ex classics, the scallop ceviche, which I am completely addicted to, and the yellowfin tuna "pizza" which is a small flatbread with anchovy aioli, the tuna, thinly sliced, and some olives and microgreens. They were both amazing! The ceviche contained scallops, avocado, cilantro, habanero, and cucumber with house made chips. Oh, and lots of lime juice. Cucumbers aren't my favorite thing, but I ate around them (interestingly, they don't always put the cukes in, it does make for nice variety that it isn't always exactly the same).

We both had the skate for our main. I have mentioned before how much I love skate (as does hubby) so when it is on a menu (which isn't that often around here), we almost always both order it. I loved that it wasn't the classic preparation that we have had many times. It was lightly floured (and I think had some egg in the crust too), pan fried and served over a mix of chopped asparagus and morels all in a brown butter sauce and over a swash of miso paste. May sound a little strange, but it was richly delicious.

We had a bottle of the Principessa Gavi with the meal which was also perfect (for some reason with this wine, it is either really good, or somewhat skunky). Since we were on such a roll, we decided to go for dessert. We went with another L'ex classic, the banana pot de creme with dark chocolate genache. We have had this before and weren't as impressed as we were this time. I don't know if it was slightly different or if it was just the high of the rest of the meal that made it seem so good, but it was very good. We also asked if they had glasses of moscato d'asti for dessert and were told they only had it by the bottle. We ordered a glass of Riesling to split instead. When the waiter brought the wine, it was actually moscato d'asti. It was funny because he didn't mention it, but obviously, they had decided to open a bottle for us. So we ordered another glass (lower alcohol content you know!).

This is a restaurant that we really need in Indy and I hope it continues to do well! It is the most edgy restaurant I think we have and the food is fresh and outstanding. Rumor has it the chef is looking to move the restaurant downtown. I would still go just as much and hopefully maybe even more people will discover it and enjoy it as I do.

6523 Ferguson Street
Indy 46220

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Oceanaire --the next visit

OK, I was hoping for some soft shell crab, but turns out they only have it for a couple of weeks in the beginning of May. I did find out though, it was a good time to visit Oceanaire because it was Devour Downtown, where many of the downtown restaurants have fixed menus for a $30.00 (and you get 3 courses). So I thought, hey, this is a perfect for Oceanaire since, a) their stuff is very pricey and b) the servings are way too big. So I ordered the set price, hubby ordered a la carte and we shared. The serving size of the devour downtown appetizer was great! Small portion of smoked salmon. Very well done. We also ordered the regular mussel appetizer which was, of course, huge. They were pretty good--not too big in individual mussel size. The shallot/white wine sauce was a little flat--needed several lemon wedge's worth of squeezes to brighten it up, then it was quite tasty. Although my favorite mussels in this City are still the ones on the bar menu at The Tavern at Bugg's Temple.

Continuing on with the set menu (you actually got to choose one of three choices for each course which was nice), I had the Dungeness crab cakes. I love Dungeness crab and having had the blue crab cakes at Oceanaire before, I had high expectations for some really meaty delicious crab cakes. However, while their blue crab cakes are that way, the Dungeness crab cakes are not. Apparently, they use all the meat from the body cavities of the crab and it is the small stringy bits. (Now, when you are eating the actual whole crab, this part is still really good, but didn't come out this way in the crab cake.) The portion was actually still quite large (2 large crab cakes). Hubby ordered the walleye done "Ritzy" style with crushed Ritz crackers. It was quite delicious (and interestingly, the only fresh water fish on the menu--apparently the chef is from Minnesota and loves walleye). I love it too. I think it is one of the best white fishes around personally.

Up til now, the service was superb and quite a difference from our last meal out at Puck's. We even had the manager at our table a couple times to check on us. And your shell bowls are constantly emptied and water is always full. However, in between entrees and dessert, things got really busy in the restaurant and service of the food slowed quite a bit. We finally ordered our dessert from the special menu and it was a strawberry rhubarb crumble with ice cream. There was way more ice cream then crumble which was unfortunate because it was hard to tell how the crumble really tasted.

I know this review sounds harsh, but I generally do like Oceanaire and the fact that the seafood is very fresh. This was definitely not my best meal, but I like that the menu is different each time, and next time I will get something else. I also really appreciate the professional service. I will do devour downtown again at Oceanaire as well because I really appreciate the smaller portions.

Oceanaire Seafood Room
30 S Meridian Street
Indy, 46204

Thursday, June 5, 2008


****Note: Puck's is no longer in business.

Pucks, Pucks, Pucks. What can I say? The food is great, and so is the ambiance (beautiful dining room at the Indianapolis Art Museum overlooking the fountain), but the service blows. Hard. We went last week and have been many times since being back in Indy. The food has almost always been excellent, while the service has ranged from mediocre to really crappy (as it was this last time).

Because the service problems started from the get-go, that is where I will start. I will tell you about the food next. We walked in, about 2 minutes late for our reservation. There was no hostess there and a large party ahead of us. We all waited. The hostess came back, told us she would seat them and be right back for us. About 10-15 minutes later (!!) she came back and seated us. At a table with only half the necessary flatware and no bread plates. Granted they were pretty busy, but it bordered on ridiculous. The waitress was nice but very distracted and slow. Our meal took forever. Later, I saw why the hostess wasn't at the front. She was bussing tables and pouring water and bringing menus (which by the way, for dinner, we were given one dinner menu and one lunch menu). It makes one wonder if they are struggling with help or business and were not expecting a crowd. But you have to have bussers.

As for the food, I am amazed that with the service issues they have, they continue to put out such an excellent product. Although I have noticed that the menu used to change a lot more than it does now. Which is a bummer because parsnips are really more of a fall/winter kinda thing I think. Where's my spring veg? But if you are having a lot of service problems, and who knows what turnover in the kitchen, it is probably easiest to keep up the quality with routine.

On to the food specifically. I had the frisee salad with a poached egg, bacon and sherry vinaigrette. I have had it in the past, and as usual, it did not disappoint. Excellently prepared and executed. Hubby had the tuna tartare which I had the last time I was there (and I had some this time off his plate as well). The quality is really good, but to me, it was heavy on spiciness and could've used some lemon or something. Next, I had the halibut done Shanghai style with rice. It was good. The fish was cooked very well, but it was quite spicy. I can handle a fair amount of spiciness, but this started to take away from the other flavors the closer you got to the end of the meal. Normally, my experience with Shanghai style is a sort of mix between the spiciness of the red chilies and a sort of sourness from the ginger and rice wine. This was mostly just hot, with a hint of the other flavors, but still quite good.

Hubby then had a blue cheese encrusted filet, as the mains weren't really up his alley this night. (Listen up Broad Ripple Steakhouse, this is how you do a blue cheese encruseted steak--with blue cheese! Not breadcrumbs.). He was quite happy.

Anyway, it was a very frustrating meal because the food is up there in the Indy scene, but the service was so bad, it made it hard to want to go back. I hope they fix these problems, because not everyone has 3 hours to spend at a weeknight dinner. And I want to go back, I really do.

Puck's at the IMA
4000 Michigan Road
Indy, 46208