Thursday, August 28, 2008


Woo-hoo! I get so excited when I find a new restaurant that is good. Really good. And not a chain! Oh happy day. So hubby and I came by Miyagi's seperately and yet both suggested it the same week for date night. We had both seen an ad for it, and I will admit, been drawn to the coupons for the place mixed with the description as French infused Japanese. And face it, we were looking for something new.

So, we were doubtful, and even had back up plans if it looked too questionable. (I mean, it is not often that we choose a restaurant based on coupons in a free mailer) But we pulled up to the location on 96th street (near Keystone) and were pleasantly surprised by the modern decor and prompt greeting. We were seated and ordered drinks (there is a full bar for those who are interested). As we perused the menu, we were happy to see an actual French influence on many of the options. There were so many things I wanted to order. You need the first drink to have whilst you look over everything on the menu, as it is quite extensive. There is a hot kitchen and a cold kitchen and separate appetizers and entrees (well, sushi rolls for the cold kitchen and regular main courses on the warm side). I was thrilled when I saw all the choices on the hot appetizer side. All of my favorite things, crab and shrimp, scallops, rare-cooked high quality meats, all combined with citrus and ponzu sauces. Yummy.

I decided to go with 3 appetizers and have a tapas-style meal. I had the soft shell crab (natch), gyu no tataky, or thin slices of filet mignon atop cucumbers, tomatoes and avocado, and the lobster spring rolls. Hubby ordered off the cold menu and got the Hamachi appetizer (which is actually cooked quickly at the table) and a fancy roll called a diablo roll.

The lobster spring rolls came first and they were outstanding! They were crispy and served over a bed of mango chutney with a orange vinaigrette. They were perfectly cooked and we both loved them. Next came the soft shell crab which had a soy based sauce with it. Now you know how much I love soft shell crab and these certainly did not disappoint. My final choice was the beef dish which was very medium rare (which is exactly how I like to eat beef) and it was served with very thin (wafer thin) slices of tomato, cucumber and avocado. It was quite tasty as well, but probably not quite as good as the other things.

Hubby's hamachi, which as mentioned was cooked at the table, was probably the biggest disappointment. It was good, but cooking it even that long was too much. Maybe sear it on one side only for a couple seconds. The seasonings were good though. If it wasn't so tough, it would've been better. His roll, on the other hand, was outstanding. It was tempura king crab and shrimp wrapped in the classic rice with salmon on top and roe as well as a delicious spicy sauce. It isn't on all the menus (apparently, even though they have only been open for 3 months, they already have an "old" and "new" menu. But if you like fancy rolls, order it!

We also tried the honey bread dessert on our waiter's recommendation. It was sort of a sweet bread drizzled with a honey cinnamon sauce and served with ice cream. I wasn't overly excited about it, but the waiter had not steered us wrong so far, so we went for it (and after all, we did have that coupon!). It was really good. The bread was crispy and mixed with the ice cream and sauce, it made a really good combination.

The service was very attentive and informative. Our server really knew the food and made great recommendations on the whole. By the end of the meal, he was a bit almost pushy and a tad know it all-ish which got annoying. But he did really know and appreciate the food.

The wine choices were somewhat limited (which seems to be the case with most Asian restaurants it seems, well, except Shaghai Lil which has great choices) and a little on the flowery/sweet side for me, but I know that is what you are supposed to drink with spicy, or Asian food, and I struggled through, but would love to see a few more crisp choices by the glass. Hubby had a mixed drink to start which he said was very good.

We will certainly be back--and I will order some of the same things and some different things off the appetizer menu. There were so many appealing choices!
One last thing, I think they should drop the "'s" after Miyagi and just be "Miyagi" instead of "Miyagi's." It sounds like it is owned by the guy from the Karate Kid movie. Just my 2 cents.
3625 East 96th Street
Indy, 46240

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

BARcelona Tapas

I know, it is a chain, and I tend to stay away from them as much as possible, but it is something really different in this City, and something different is always good (and it isn't a very big chain after all--just 2 locations as far as I know). Plus it is open on Mondays, and all the other places I was thinking about going were not.

This is my second visit to BARcelona (they write the name that way, it is not a typo), and my first was probably a good year ago. I wasn't blown away the first time, which was why it took me awhile to get motivated to go back. But I do appreciate the idea here, real Spanish-style tapas in this Midwestern City. Every other City in the world seems to have it, and now we do too. Tapas originated in Spain after all, so there should be lots of things to make and try.

I have to say, I am impressed by the size of the menu and the choices offered at BARcelona. They have a lot of the classic tapas like potato and cheese tortilla Espanol (more like a piece of quiche made mostly with potato), Serrano ham with manchego and these yummy, crunchy breadsticks and lots of other seafood and meats. The only repeat we had from the first time (read, the only thing worth ordering again) was the Serrano with manchego cheese. I love Serrano ham--sort of like Prosciutto, but for plain eating, much better in my opinion because it is really more flavorful. I liked taking a piece of the bread stick, layering a sliver of the cheese against it, and then wrapping the whole thing with the ham. Delish.

We also ordered the tortilla--and it is really good. It comes with a lemon which is great squeezed on top. It is room temperature and comes out fast. It is a nice, classic Spanish starch to have with the other things, particularly if you order several meat items.

We also tried the bacalao, or potato and cod cakes (more like fried balls). These were the biggest disappointment. I only had a taste and left the rest. There were so many better things, they weren't worth eating.

We had the goat cheese with bread which was basically a tomato sauce with a large hunk of goat cheese that was all heated and served with garlic bread. It was quite good, tasted like it could belong in an Italian restaurant though. Hubby LOVED it.

The little plate of mixed marinated olives were good too--a nice salty cut for some of the richness of the food. I wasn't too sure about the whole pickled garlic cloves mixed in--are you supposed to eat those? They were quite hard and I thought must be very intense---are they just for flavor? I will probably never know as I will probably never try one unless someone tells me they aren't that strong!

We had one of the day's specials too--a Spanish bouillabaisse of sorts with clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari and scallops in a garlicky, smoky, yummy sauce. For some reason the consistency of the cooking was a bit off. The mussels and clams were really good and well cooked (meaning properly cooked, not well done). The shrimp was pretty good. The calamari was questionable--a few pieces were ok, but a lot of it was very rubbery, the worst thing that can happen to calamari. The scallops were inedible they were so rubbery. It all must have been cooked the same amount of time, which you just can't really do with that many types of seafood. That broth though, WOW! If they just did a mussel and clam dish in that broth, it would be perfect! And sadly, I scanned the menu and I didn't see anything cooked in that sauce. It's a shame.

Our server was really nice and the food comes out fast, as it is finished in the kitchen (as tapas should be). So you generally get the cold and room temperature stuff first, and so on. The nice thing about tapas, you can share several and then if you want more, just order some more. Or if one is not so good (i.e. cod cakes) you don't feel like your whole meal is ruined. It was also quite crowded for a Monday which is nice--and the atmosphere is really like a tapas place you might find in Europe. We had wine, but the margaritas looked quite good as well.

We also had dessert--bread pudding with a caramel sauce. It was as good as it sounded. Rich and large enough to share with at least one other person, if not more.

All in all, we'll be back. And this time sooner I think than the last time.

BARcelona Tapas Restaurant
201 N. Delaware
Indy 46204

Thursday, August 7, 2008

R Bistro and my love of soft shell crab

I have mentioned before how much I love soft shell crab. I only wish I saw it on more menus. In case you don't know, soft shell crabs are blue crabs right after they have molted their hard shells and haven't quite grown their new ones. They are caught at that point and you can eat them whole, shell (such as it is) and all. I love them. In fact, I declared to my hubby last night that they are probably one of the most perfect foods. They have the yummy tender crab inside with the little bit of crunch that normal shellfish lacks. They are almost always fried somehow, either sauteed or deep fried, just to add that much more crunch.

So when the menu came out Wednesday for R Bistro and one of the featured items was soft shell crab served with two of my other favorite summer time things, tomato and corn relish, I booked a reservation. The crab was served on top of grilled bread with some yummy spread, tomato slices, mizuna greens and bacon. The corn relish was on the side. It was one of my all time favorite things I have eaten at R Bistro.

Many of the menu items were actually selections from other well known female chefs/cookbook authors. Alice Waters, Patricia Wells and the 2 Fat Ladies to name a few. When I saw the summer tomato pudding as an appetizer, courtesy of the 2 Fat Ladies, I knew I had to try it. I watched their show quite a bit while I lived in England and was sure it would be good knowing their propensity toward cream, butter and all things rich and delicious. I didn't even ask what exactly it was but went for it. It turned out to be a chopped and seasoned tomato mixture covered in a sort of soft tomato-ey bread crust with a bunch of stuff around it like cream fraiche, green olives, boiled egg and some more tomatoes. It was even better than expected. Light and so flavorful. I highly recommend it.

We tried dessert, thinking someone else's recipe might help in this area (as I think desserts are R Bistro's biggest weakness), but it still wasn't overly memorable. It was Alice Waters' chocolate pave, which was like a flourless chocolate cake. It was just ok, not a lot of flavor. I really need to learn from experience and just skip dessert, as everything else is usually so good.

My suggestion is to get there by Saturday and get the soft shell crab, or if you can't do that, go to R Bistro and see what's on the menu anyway. And hey, they are even on, so it is even that much easier to make your reservation!

R Bistro
888 Massachusetts Ave
Indy 46202

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Z's Oyster Bar & Steakhouse Update

*****AS OF JUNE 3, 2011 Z's IS CLOSED*****

A quick update on Z's. We went there for dinner last week and it was back up to its original standard and even a little better. After one trip where it was very crowded (on a Saturday night), the food quality was lower and the service was just plain bad, it took us awhile to go back. However, when we did, we were reminded of all the reasons we loved it the first time we went. Of course, it was not crowded (at all) so it was easier to give good service and prepare the food so well..

Anyway, the roasted clams, which we have ordered most visits, were delicious. And they now include bacon and chives which made them extra tasty. Reminded me of this claim and sausage combo that we had in a little divey place in Portugal that I can still remember because it was so good.

I had the walu, or butterfish, again (I can't help it, I don't think I have had better fish.) I remembered to order the tail end so it wasn't SOO thick. It was outstanding again. Hubby had a steak again and loved it as well. I had several bites and it was quite good. (My fish was better if you ask me).

We did get dessert just to try something new, we had the chocolate souffle (souffles are supposedly their specialty). I miss the bread puddings they had in the beginning. It was good, but not overly memorable.

But all in all, this place is great. Try it on a weekday when it isn't so busy. They even have an outside seating area--looks nice although the sound of 465 may get to you after awhile.

Z's Oyster Bar & Steakhouse
6220 Castleway W Drive
Indy 46250

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sawasdee Restaurant

Again, I am behind. Why is summer so busy? Anyway, I went on a recent trip with girlfriends to Sawasdee Thai restaurant after being told by many folks how good it is (and reading the same in many places). For those who might be curious, "Sawasdee" is a word for a bowed Thai greeting.

The restaurant, I have been told, has recently expanded in its strip mall location, and must have been quite small before. It is nicely sized now and was quite full for a Tuesday night. (And I might add, quite warm! For someone who usually brings a sweater to restaurants in this City in the summer due to the crazy air conditioning, I was flushed by the time I left Sawasdee).

So I ordered something off the menu that seems to be as large as the phone book (the menu, not what I ordered). OK, I am not going to be able to remember what its official name is, but it boiled down to chicken (on a side note, I was interested to see how many different ways "chicken" was spelled on this menu--when people are writing menus, do they forget all about spell check?) with garlic and black pepper sauce and seemed to have some crushed peanuts on top. (Another side note, as a Mom of a child with peanut and tree nut allergies, I would NOT take such children here since it appears that out of the 4 meals on the table, 3 of them contained peanuts and/or cashews--ok, one of them was "cashew chicken," but still). Once you finally narrow down what you are going to order, you then need to choose your meat, which could be chicken, beef, pork, shrimp and even sometimes squid. It takes AWHILE to get through this menu. I think I now know the true reason people just always order their favorite here. It is so much easier! If it were my restaurant, I would try to get it onto a couple of larger pages and make certain dishes with the ingredients that might benefit the most from the accompaniments. But that's just me.

Anyway, as for the food, it was good (I also tried the drunken noodles). They brought you soup and an spring roll to start. The spring roll was really crispy which is how I really like my spring rolls. The soup was sort of nondescript. Since I generally don't like sweet sauces in which to dip my spring roll (or anything else) I used the soup to dip in. It was pretty good. The entrees came with steamed rice (except the drunken noodles) and my entree was also pretty good. It wasn't amazing and the chicken was a little overcooked I thought. The sauce sort of had that eggy consistency to it that a lot of Asian restaurant meals have. None of it was super flavorful, but I probably should have gotten it spicier (oh yeah, that was yet another choice. Once you picked your entree, you chose between mild, medium, spicy and Thai hot). By that time I was overwhelmed and just said "mild" which may have been a mistake.

The service was quite nice and at one point when we ordered a second glass of wine, the manager?/owner? came to our table, opened the bottle and let us taste it, even when we only ordered a glass. Also, one of the other big benefits of this place is the cost. Dinners were only around $10, and they included the spring roll and soup (or Thai salad). All in all, for an Asian-type meal, Shanghai Lil's is still my fave, but it is significantly more expensive, so there you go.

1222 West 86th Street
Indy 46260