Saturday, December 26, 2009

Oh Yumm - December Revisit

Sigh… Well, we were having a really hard time figuring out what we wanted to eat on this particular night—we wanted it to be fairly close and quick. Oh Yumm used to be one of our favorite places for such a meal, but after the last dinner visit, when the service was really abysmal, we hadn’t been back. This time, while it appears that they have worked on their service issues, unfortunately, these problems were replaced by kitchen execution issues.

It looks like they have turned what was one of their best waiters into a maitre d' of sorts—he greeted us and seated us. Unfortunately, when we asked for a larger table (a 4 top) even though there were only 2 of us, we were told no, that there were people coming in for those tables (last time we were there they actually gave us the larger table when we asked, they were just grumpy about it). If they really needed the tables, this would have been fine. But as we left, all of the tables for 4 in our section sat empty. This really annoys hubby to no end for several reasons. First, we always order tapas—once you get 4 (or more) plates on the table as well as your own plate to eat from, a bottle of wine, water, etc., you are out of room. We had to sacrifice the bread basket and plates in order to fit everything. As we were walking out I thought hubby might lose it. I mean it is one thing if you have reservations booked for these tables, but if you are just saving them with the idle hope that some larger parties will come in, at the expense of paying customers, that are already there, this seems risky. And it was a Tuesday night at 5:45; I mean how many restaurants in this city are full on a Tuesday night?

Ok, enough about that, let’s get to the food. Well, first a quick note about the service. Like I said, our server was very friendly and attentive and everyone seemed enthusiastic on the whole. We ordered tapas—the fried calamari with sambal aioli, the artichoke fritters with lime chili aioli, the flatbread pizza with pesto, smoked Gouda, caramelized onion and kalamata olives, and the baked chipotle goat cheese with marinara and crostini. The thing is, even though we specifically told the waiter that he should just bring them out as they were finished in the kitchen (as is normally the way with tapas), they brought them all out at the same time. Unfortunately, it was pretty clear the calamari had been sitting a bit because it was barely warm. Now, I love the calamari here on the whole, the batter that it is fried with is super light and airy, and the calamari is not chewy or anything. However, when it is just warm, and not hot, it loses quite a bit. The sambal aioli was a slightly spicy aioli that was tasty and complimented the calamari nicely.

Now the artichoke fritters must have been fried last, because they were exactly the right temperature (uh, hot) and were served in a metal cup lined with wax paper which was also great for keeping them warm (maybe try that with the calamari). They were really delicious. Basically, just little deep fried artichoke hearts served with a similar aioli to the calamari. Although, according to the menu, it was “lime chili” I thought it was the same (as did our server when I asked him). But it was just as tasty.

The goat cheese was nice as well, and served at the appropriate temperature. It was a basically a plate of warm marinara sauce with a nice portion of goat cheese flavored with chipotle chilies. It was nice. Hubby especially liked it—and the crostini were appropriately toasted and held up well to the cheese.

Now, when the server placed the flatbread on the table, even he took one look at it and knew it was burned…I will give him credit for that, he instantly said he would take it back and have a new one made, which we took him up on. When it came back, it wasn’t so burned for sure. Unfortunately, the mini flatbread pizzas have always been one of my favorite items at Oh Yumm, but they have changed the crust from what used to be a thin tortilla that was crisped up in butter, to what looked and tasted pretty much like pita bread that was grilled in a panini press. It wasn’t crispy and it was too dense. The toppings were a really nice combination, but the crust just detracted too much for me. I told hubby as we ate it that I wouldn’t order it again, although he disagreed.

We also wanted dessert and the server read off a long list, with several good sounding items. What we really wanted was the chocolate chip bread pudding which is our longstanding favorite and when we asked, we were told it was on the menu. I don’t know if he just forgot to mention it, or if they just keep it around for people who ask. It was just as good—and I have always really liked it.

Unfortunately for Oh Yumm, it seems just as the get one thing fixed, another problem seems to show up. Hopefully one of these days, everything will get worked out at the same time.

Oh Yumm! Bistro
5615 N. Illinois
Indy, 46208

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Papa Roux

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my readers? You guys give me tons of recommendations and really, I do try and get to as many of them as I can. Recently, we ventured to Papa Roux based solely on a reader recommendation—it is located out at 10th and Post and that is certainly not an area I am familiar with and I never would have found this one on my own.

Another reason I have just now gotten around to this place though is that I really wanted to take hubby with me on this one. Papa Roux is a Cajun restaurant that specializes in many typical New Orleans cuisines, including several types of “po boy” sandwiches. Hubby was an undergrad at Tulane in New Orleans and spent 4 years eating his way around the Big Easy. He also has close relatives that have lived in New Orleans for many years, so even before college he spent a lot of time there. Therefore, I knew he would be the person to tell me the authenticity factor (at least of people I know).

After finally getting there (and realizing we should have gone a different way that would have saved us a good 10 minutes) I was pleasantly surprised by the place. It is very well-marked and once we stepped inside, the place was buzzing with lots of lunchtime diners. This is a place where you order at the counter—and the people working there seem genuinely friendly and like they actually like their job. That was nice. They wanted me to know when you order a full meal; you can have as many different sides as you want free of charge. This was a nice way to try several items.

The main thing we ordered (we both ordered the same) was the shrimp po boy sandwich. Shrimp and oyster po boys were hubby’s fave in New Orleans, so he wanted to give this one a try. I just love shrimp, so that was my choice too. The first thing we (mainly he) noticed was the bread. Apparently, it is pretty authentic to a po boy sandwich, and apparently one of the most commonly screwed up items outside of New Orleans. Now these rolls are traditionally toasted, and these were not. But, they were freshly baked French rolls, with a thin, somewhat chewy, somewhat crunchy crust. Hubby says that since they are usually toasted, they are usually, a bit more crunchy, but other than that, he thought the rolls were pretty authentic and I thought they were delicious. Big, but a great flavor, and soft, but still just a little chewy.

Now, apparently, these po boy ingredients (at least with shrimp and oysters) are normally fried, which I am sure would be good as well, but Papa Roux is going their own way by not frying the shrimp. They are I am guessing boiled, and are totally properly cooked (not chewy and hard) and they are shrimp, not the huge prawns you see most of the time on shrimp dishes. The shrimp are actually from Zirlott’s Gulf Products—shrimp caught from the Gulf, which are true local shrimp (well, local to New Orleans). The sandwich is also topped with the house recipe Cajun sauce and the house “creamy tangy” coleslaw. I am telling you that sauce is amazing. Just the right amount of spicy combined with a big of tanginess from the mayo base—it was really outstanding. I guess a typical cheap po boy in N.O. would be the fried seafood, mayo and shredded lettuce. These are going beyond that by turning the mayo into a flavorful sauce and the lettuce into tasty tangy coleslaw. I liked the additional flavors that this entailed and so did hubby. In fact, he told me he used to basically try and make a similar sauce on his po boys in N.O. by adding Louisiana hot sauce. Which by the way, they had on every table in huge bottles (ok, hubby swears that the only real hot sauces in N.O. are either Crystal or Louisiana hot. If you see Tabasco, he says, walk away. Anyhow, he is partial to Louisiana hot, and it's the only kind we have at our house, so he was happy to see it all over this place). So I guess, really the sandwich wasn’t really authentic, but one restaurant owner's own version of a po boy, but I thought it was really good and so did hubby. So variation is good. They also have pork and chicken po boys, which actually are fairly prevalent in N.O. as well, and hubby used to eat a chicken po boy quite frequently in college. He is certainly intrigued to try one of them next time.

We also tried several sides—the red beans and rice, the Creole with rice, and the cornbread. And hubby was happy to see Zapp’s chips, in spicy Cajun crawtator flavor (I know that sounds strange, but basically just seasoned chips that are native to N.O.), which we also shared a bag of. They were quite tasty, and they had them in several flavors. The red beans and rice were tasty—hubby really liked them a lot, although he likes a little bigger plate or bowl to mix them together. I thought they were quite good as well. The Creole is a vegetarian tomato sauce with some rice in it—the flavors were nice, not really spicy. Not really that exciting just on its own—maybe with something else. The cornbread was a little too dry for me—but you don’t need it anyway if you get a sandwich—that bread is great.

They also have daily specials—and on the day we were there, one of them was the Chicken chili Frito pie (Thursday in case you're wondering). Chicken chili served on Fritos with sour cream and cheese—sounds like not the healthiest option—but a very popular one I saw. And I have to say, I was certainly intrigued. I may have to give that one a try…

Anyway, it was a great lunch and we were glad we went. It isn’t a huge place, maybe 10 tables, and it clearly has a good following of regulars. But if you want something different, that the owners are really putting their soul into, and that location works for you, you should give it a try. I know we will, regardless of the drive.

Papa Roux
8950 E. 10th Street
Indy 46219

Papa Roux on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 14, 2009


I have been reading all the chatter about Pizzology both before and after it opened, particularly on twitter, and have been intrigued to try it naturally. Pizzology is the new project of Chef Neal Brown formerly of L’explorateur (which was one of my favorite restaurants in Indy when it was open). This is a totally different concept (pizza), in a totally different land (Carmel) and although pizza isn’t something that gets me terribly excited, I figured if some place could pull it off, it would be here.

So these pizzas are cooked in an 800 degree wood burning oven –there are pizzas with red sauce (rossa) and pizzas without sauce (bianca). They are all the same size (about 13 inches). There are several set pizza combinations or you can make your own from a list of ingredients. Certainly more cost effective to go with one of the house combos though. There are also several salads as well, and about 6 kinds of pastas and a risotto of the day. (Can I just say again how much I love that the pastas are offered in half order and full orders? Because if I was faced with a full order, I would be overwhelmed, but the half orders are a really nice size).

It was a cold night, but we wanted a salad, so we started with the warm spinach salad. It was fresh spinach with basil, capers, fairly large dices of pancetta and a poached egg on top. The dressing was a warm pancetta and red wine vinaigrette. I really enjoyed it—I thought the flavors were great, and I loved the addition of the poached egg to add even more richness. (Ok, maybe a poached egg on just about anything makes me happy—I love a good egg) But the capers and the dressing (which was tossed with the salad, hallelujah) balanced it with the right amount of acidity. Most of the capers and pancetta sunk to the bottom of the salad though, so you had to make sure to spoon them all out to make sure you got all the flavors. I really enjoyed the salad, although hubby wasn’t as excited about it. He liked it, but he didn’t love it. I saw several of the chop salads come out as well—they looked nice and also come in a half order size, which is nice if you don’t want to split with someone.

So originally we were going to get two pizzas, one red and one white, but once we saw how large they were, we changed our minds and just added a half order of one of the pastas. So we went with the mushroom pizza, which was red sauce, wood roasted wild mushrooms, olives and cacciacavallo, which is a type of cheese, made in a style similar to mozzarella (sorry about the pic, it was my phone). The cheese was fairly mild in taste, but was good with the pizza. The only disappointment was the mushroom topping. They tasted good, but the mushrooms were pretty sparse (there was one piece that just had one 'shroom on it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like an over-topped pizza, but I sort of envisioned a mixture of several types of mushrooms and a few more of them—I am not sure that there was anything other than diced portabellas on there, but I could be wrong. The olives were very good, and were cut into at least half, which I liked because you didn’t get too much in one bite, and they were strong cured olives, not the flavorless canned black olives you see on most pizzas.

The best thing about this pizza though, clearly, was the crust. The menu touts that it is made with wild yeast, spring water and Caputo Pizzeria “00” flour. I am not exactly sure how all that translates into good dough, but man, it does. The crust is thin, but not so thin that you don’t get a bit of the flavor with every bite. It is crispy on the edges, and still nice and chewy on the inside. Seriously, I can see why so many people were ordering breadsticks (I am assuming they are made with the same dough). I think my favorite part of the meal was taking the crust from the edges of the pizza and dipping it into the leftover sauce from the pasta we got. I could eat that for days.

Speaking of the pasta, we had the penne with artichoke, prosciutto, and olives. Hubby thought this was amazing. (“This pasta freakin’ rocks!”). I thought it was good—the artichokes were roasted (they are clearly making good use of that wood burning oven) and they make most of the cured meats in house I believe. The prosciutto was nice—and more of those olives—yum. I think some of the pasta is freshly made, but not the penne I don’t think. The sauce on it was not a heavy sauce, nice garlic-y olive oil type sauce that turned a bit creamy with the cheese on top. Like I said, dipping my crusts in the sauce at the bottom of the bowl was my favorite part of the meal.

I will certainly go back, and apparently a lot of people feel the same way. At just after 6 on a Wednesday night with the snow and cold weather, nearly every table was taken. We didn’t have to wait, but got one of the last tables. And they were turning tables the whole time we were there.

They have a great Italian wine list as well, with slightly more unusual wines—and the pours by the glass are generous the first go round, which is unusual in most places (you know how they always give you smaller pour on the first glass to make sure you order the second one, and then they give you a decent glass?). But not here. Both glasses were generous and there is a nice selection by the glass.

Next time I really want to try the white pizza with the clams…for sure. Or maybe one of my own combos with an egg on top—that was one of my favorite things in Italy. Or maybe those fritters….

13190 Hazel Dell Parkway
Carmel, IN 46032

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fogo de Chão

Wow. This place certainly does not need my help to keep it in business that is for sure. I don’t think I have been to a restaurant this busy since I have been in Indy. We had reservations and were still given a pager. And then after being hustled back to our table, and very quickly acknowledged by what was clearly a very harried server, we started our meat extravaganza.

So in case you don’t know, this restaurant is an all you can eat Brazilian steakhouse with “gaucho chefs” carrying around skewers of meat that they carve for you at tableside. It is a set price and you can have as much meat, sides and salad bar as you want. I had been warned by several people to skip the salad bar because you don’t want to fill up on that stuff when you have all that meat coming. So that is what we did. They give you a little round disc that is red on one side and green on the other—when you are ready for the meat onslaught, you turn it to green and they start bringing the various cuts of meat. When you want a break, you turn it to red, and they will leave you alone for a bit. We found it was good for one person at the table to stay on green just so you don’t miss anything. (You can always tell them you changed your mind after all). Anyway, one of the first cuts we got was the bottom sirloin. It was quite tasty. Interestingly, they spend more time on the seasonings with some of the lesser cuts of meat, and many of them have a better flavor because of it. We tried just about every cut of the beef that was offered (about 6 I believe) and both of the lamb options (chops and leg). Interestingly, I noticed, with the seasoned cuts of meat, they always want to give you an outside piece (with the seasoning), so once they slice all sides off of the meat, they take it back to the kitchen and season and sear them again.

Probably the best pieces were the bottom and top sirloin cuts, because, like I said, of all the seasonings, but the ribeye was tasty too. And it is pretty cool how they can cook one piece of meat and find nearly all temperatures of doneness on it depending on your preference. I had my doubts about this, but pretty much all my pieces were properly medium rare. The only thing (which I waited around for) that I didn’t think was very good was the leg of lamb. It was too quickly cooked, and this is a piece of meat that is not complimented by this form of cooking—the quick outer sear, slices off the edge, and then seared again. Leg of lamb needs some slower cooking to break down the fat I think. This was the only thing that I wouldn’t eat again. (There were also some chicken and pork options, but they did not intrigue me).

The top sirloin, or Picanha, is what they call their signature steak. It is prime top sirloin. It was really tasty and nicely seasoned. I think this was probably the favorite piece of the table. Many helping were had. I also really liked the Fraldinha, or bottom sirloin. It was a bit more flavorful and had really nice seasoning. I also liked that it was very thinly cut. Honestly, there was so much meat coming it was hard to keep track of them all. I can tell you probably the least exciting was the filet, which is often my favorite cut at other places. But just nothing exciting about it, like there was with the others. The lamb chops were nice too; properly medium rare and you got two chops per serving.

Oh! And before I forget, in case you go for the first time (as it was for me) when they carve the meat for you, you are supposed to pick up your little tongs and pull the meat away. Just a head’s up!

They also constantly bring out (and replenish) side dishes. There were sautéed bananas, mashed potatoes with a bit of cheese on top and deep fried squares of polenta. The bananas I would have preferred as a dessert honestly. They were sort of nice, but I tend to not like to mix sweet and savory that much. The potatoes were fine, nothing outstanding but I do like some starch with my meat. The polenta was the standout I thought, although it didn’t show up until about halfway through the meal. They were little thin squares (well, more like rectangles I guess) of polenta that were deep fried very crispy; with just a touch of softness inside (they were thin like I said). They were dusted with cheese and were yummy. We went through several orders of these. The other things that were quite tasty were the little cheese rolls they give you instantly (pão de queijo). They are warm and so tasty; they don’t need butter or anything. Sort of like a cheese-flavored popover. We went through quite a few of these as well

After several rounds of the meat, I did go up to the salad bar for a few things just for a change of pace. They have some nice things—smoked salmon and various cured meats as well as different marinated veggies and cheeses (and of course typical salad fixings). Honestly, I didn’t think any of it was as good as the meat and polenta and rolls, and if I went back, I would probably totally skip it, or maybe just get a green salad.

Ok, because we must have been crazy, we did get some desserts to share too (there were 4 of us). We had the chocolate molten cake, crème brule, and the signature papaya cream. The desserts were all okay, nothing to write home about as far as I could tell. The papaya cream is supposed to help with digestion (good idea). Not sure if it worked or not, but I didn’t find the flavor overly exciting—a fruit flavored cream isn’t my ideal dessert I guess.

It was a fun evening, and I will certainly not be anemic after that meal, but while several items were tasty, there was nothing so good that it makes me want to rush back. No real standout. But as I said at the beginning, judging by the crowds, whether I go back or not, this place is here to stay.

Fogo de Chão
117 E. Washington Street
Indy, IN 46204
(317) 638.4000

Fogo de Chao Churrascaria on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 7, 2009

Canal Bistro

I have been bad lately about getting to some new places for lunch—things just get so busy this time of year! And honestly, I have just been in a mood lately for comfort food and places when I go out for lunch, so I have been hitting a lot of usuals. But I finally managed to get somewhere new the other day with the BFF. We went over to Broad Ripple and ate at the Canal Bistro.

I was pretty happy with this place—there were some hits and some misses, but all around I would put it on the repeat list. I had the mazza plate appetizer sampler for my lunch so I could try lots of things (you know I love to do that). It had hummus, tabouli, spinach pies (i.e. spanikopita), a couple of falafel and various marinated and non-marinated veggie garnishes and olives.

The things I liked about this plate the most were the hummus and the spinach pies. The hummus was not too thick and not too thin—a pleasant consistency that was thin enough you could dip straight in with your pita, but not so watery that it didn’t have the heft that hummus should have. I liked the seasoned olive oil on top with a few diced tomatoes as well. I love a bit of olive oil on top of hummus, adds a nice richness.

I also really liked the little spinach pies. They were very little triangles of the phyllo stuffed with feta and spinach. I think I have told you all how much I love these little crispy things before, and these were certainly great ones. The fillings were still moist and the phyllo was pleasantly browned and appropriately crunchy. Next time I would certainly get an order of just these. They were yummy—and there were only two on the sampler and I wanted more for sure.

The tabouli I wasn’t as impressed with. The flavors were very fresh, the herbs obviously very fresh, and there was a fair amount of lemon. But there was so little of the cracked bulgar wheat that it seemed like a Mediterranean pico di gallo almost. Not bad to slap on top of some other things, but alone, just couldn’t spoon it directly into my mouth.

I thought the falafel was pretty dry and didn’t have a lot of flavor. But then again, I think that about falafel in general. These were a little over fried maybe and even mixed with some of the other things and sauces on the plate; I just didn’t see the appeal.

Loved the olives (big surprise) and I love mixing an olive with just about any bite of the other stuff. And in fact, my friend had the restaurant’s version of a grilled cheese which was grilled feta with olives, cucumbers, tomatoes and other seasonings on pita. She gave me a piece of it (quite a generous portion) and it was very tasty. I would order that again as well. Actually, there are a lot of good sounding entrées on the menu that I would like to try for dinner, but for lunch they seemed too big. I will certainly go back and give them a try one of these days.

The servers were super friendly and the food was pretty fast. The chairs are a bit uncomfortable (don’t tell hubby or I’ll never get him in there for dinner). But a pleasant experience for sure.

Canal Bistro
6349 Guilford Ave
Indianapolis, IN 46220

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Deeter's Nasch & Nip

We settled on Deeter’s the other day (the casual side of the long running Glass Chimney restaurant in Carmel) because hubby was itching for some liver and onions—he had had it before and remembered it being really, really good and he wanted to see if he remembered correctly.

Anyway, this place is very old school—the décor is what hubby describes as “early mortuary” and I have to say he is about right. I don’t think it has changed in the 30 years or so it has been open. Wood paneling, textured walls, red velvet chairs and dark paintings. Well, you get the idea.

I think the menu is probably the same as it has been as well, with the addition of certain specials (which I think were the specials the last time we were there nearly 2 years ago). Also, I think the servers and assistants are the same as well and they know this place inside and out. Now, in the last couple of years the original chef owner retired and there was quite a time when it looked like the two restaurants would close. However, obviously that didn’t happen, and the investors who bought the restaurants obviously saw that the formula and recipes were working, and didn’t change a thing.

The food is old school too, but the ingredients are high quality and executed pretty well. All the entrées come with soup or salad, and the entrées are pretty good sized, so you don’t really need an appetizer at this place, but we got one anyway. I wanted the sautéed chicken livers, but since hubby was having veal liver for dinner, we got the fried calamari instead. You know, when we saw them, we were a little skeptical. But when you ate them, you realized, they were actually pretty good. They were nice and crunchy (pieces of the main body only, no tentacles) and the squid itself was soft and not rubbery at all. They were served with lemon and cocktail sauce. The cocktail sauce was good—pleasantly spicy, but not so over the top that you couldn’t taste the underlying food (and you gotta love it in the silver server). The calamari was also really good with just a squeeze of lemon. I ate some both ways, and enjoyed them. And the portion is certainly big enough to share.

We both went with the house salad with the house dressing, green goddess, with our dinners. It was a decent salad with a nice dressing. The green goddess was a bit like ranch dressing with more herbs and I think a bit of celery in it. The salad was a basic lettuce—iceberg and romaine with some sliced red onions and a tomato. Nothing spectacular, but not bad.

For my entrée, I had the pan fried walleye, which our server said was her favorite. It was two large filets of walleye, pan fried so that it had a crispy crust and served with a lemon butter sauce and capers. There were certainly capers, but I didn’t see or taste much of a lemon butter sauce. The fish has a great flavor on its own though, so I still enjoyed it, but maybe a bit of actual sauce would have been nice. I squeezed a lemon over it and enjoyed it. With each entrée, you also get a choice of a side—I think the standard sides were sautéed cabbage, the house potatoes or the vegetable of the day. You can also “upgrade” to certain other sides. I went with the spaetzle and hubby upgraded to French fries. Both our sides were good as well. I thought my spaetzle went really well with my fish (there was a TON of it though). The pasta was lightly crispy on the outside (I assume it was lightly pan fried as well) and had a nice texture and flavor. Hubby’s fries were really good too—they were very lightly battered, seasoned fries. They were really crispy and had great flavor. Not sure why they were so addictive, but they were.

Hubby had the veal liver and onions and enjoyed it once again. He didn’t think they were quite up to the memory he had from the last time. But he did really like it—and grumbles about not being able to find them more often.

All in all, this is a restaurant that is continuing to put out a good product—of course, you would hope after 30 years of preparing these same dishes, they would have them down, and they do. They give you a lot of food for sure, and you really don’t need an appetizer. The wine list was a little limited for me, and I had a hard time making a choice. Hopefully, in the main dining room, it is more extensive (I have eaten there before but it has been quite awhile, so I don’t clearly remember). I do like the more casual side of Deeter’s better I think, because while the décor is similar in both, Deeter’s more casual feel balances the cheesiness of it. Whereas, the last time I was at the Glass Chimney, you feel like you are really in a time warp (especially when you are dressed up yourself).

Anyway, this is a very traditional restaurant, with a traditional menu, but like I said, the quality of the food is good, and we enjoyed ourselves.

Deeter’s Nasch & Nip
12901 Old Meridian Street
Carmel, IN 46032

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Amalfi Ristorante Italiano

Well, this place is one of the most commonly mentioned and/or recommended places to visit by my readers and last night we were planning on going out and I was having a really hard time deciding where to go, so we thought, “why not?”

Well, honestly, on the way home, hubby and I discussed the fact that maybe all the people that recommend this place work there or something. We were not impressed (and if you have recommended it, and don’t work there, please let me know what you like). This place encompassed pretty much everything I don’t like about American-Italian food. Rich and bland and your choice of a tomato sauce, a cream sauce, or a mix of both.

My guess is the menu hasn’t changed since the restaurant opened –although there were a few specials, some of which sounded interesting, but at the recommendation of our waiter (who hadn’t tried several of the items on the menu unfortunately) we went with the Gamberi fra diavolo, or Diablo shrimp. These were 4 large shrimp in a very spicy tomato sauce. Now, the sauce had good flavor—there was lots of garlic and whole pieces of tomato and a fair amount of heat—too bad one of my bites included a big hunk of the hard end of the garlic clove, but what are you going to do? Well, actually the main thing to complain about here was the shrimp—they were completely overcooked and rubbery. Haven’t quite figured out why it is so hard for restaurants to cook shrimp properly (and I know it isn’t impossible because they do it at R Bistro and Oakley’s), but it seems like it is often the case. Ugh. Nothing worse than rubbery shrimp. The sauce was by far the standout and was better just sopped up with the bread.

Oh, the bread was one of the other better things served at Amalfi—they will bring you butter upon request (olive oil on the table). I am usually happy with olive oil, but this bread was so steaming hot, just seemed to call out for butter. The bread are nice sized rolls that had a nice flavor and were moist (and as I said, steaming on the insides) and fresh from the oven.

Unfortunately, things did not really improve from there. I ordered the Tortellini Michelangelo which was tortellini, onions, bacon, mushrooms and a creamy tomato sauce. I was hoping with the onions and bacon, this dish would be a little more exciting than the typical pasta dish in this town, but it was not. It was so one-dimensional. You could taste each ingredient—the crunch of the onions, the chewy dices of the bacon and the large slices of mushrooms, but that was it. There was no melding of the flavors into a unique dish. And it was all just rich. I sort of hoped the partial tomato sauce would bring out a bit of acidic kick, but, I got nothing.

Hubby ordered the veal Marsala and was really disappointed with it as well. Same kind of problems—there was nothing special about it and he felt like if there was Marsala wine in it, it was well hidden. The veal itself was nice and thin and decently cooked (i.e., not overcooked) but there was just nothing exciting about the flavor. I had a bit of it as well and agreed with his assessment. He also ordered one of the specials of the day, which was 4 cheese macaroni and cheese which was probably my favorite part of the entrée portion of the meal, I guess because it was a small portion of a rich dish, and if you are going for pure rich, why not go with mac and cheese (not to mention the combination of cheeses actually gave it a tiny bit of dimension). But still, for good mac and cheese, there are so many places in Indy to get better (as I sat there last night, I specifically mentioned Zest as one example to hubby, and it I am sure is much cheaper).

Which brings me to one of my other complaints about this place—it is pretty pricey for Italian. When you see the prices here and compare them to say, Mama Corolla’s, you can see why that place is jumping. Not that it is amazing either, but very comparable, and they have those artichoke fritters! We got out of Amalfi for almost exactly the same price we paid for Oakley’s last week. And Oakley’s was much better.

We also had dessert—the cannoli which was a cannoli shell filled with a sweetened ricotta cheese mixed with chocolate and sugar and drizzled over the top with chocolate sauce. You would think the cheese would have at least given this dish a bit of a tang, but you would be wrong. It was just rich, and flat, and pretty unmemorable.

Unfortunately, we had the misfortune to also have a server, while very nice, was a bit bumbling, and knew little about many menu items, and pretty much nothing about the wine list. And while many people have recommended this place, I find it is a love it or hate it kind of place, and I have several friends who have had similarly bad experiences to ours. But I would still love to hear from those of you who have recommended it to hear specifically what you like. As far as I can tell, the only thing I enjoyed was the room itself, which is quite warm and feels like you are in a nice restaurant. Other than that, I can’t really see a reason for a re-visit.

Amalfi Ristorante Italiano
1351 West 86th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46260

Amalfi Ristorante Italiano on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 23, 2009

Oakley's Bistro-revisit

Wow. There is hope after all. We had another great meal at Oakley’s the other night. Restores my faith. I know it hasn’t been that long since we have been there and I reviewed it, but it was hubby’s birthday and his choice and this is where he wanted to go. And I am really really glad he did.

It took me awhile to figure out what exactly I wanted to order because I was trying to make sure I didn’t order something I had ordered and reviewed in the past and my tendency is to go for the shellfish items on the appetizers. Both the scallops and the lobster waffle sounded good, but I am pretty sure I have had both before. So I decided to go with a salad and a starter for my meal and save room for dessert.

I had the Spinach salad with roasted fingerlings, radish, bacon streusel, lavosh, almonds onions, and mustard sherry vinaigrette. This was really good. I love roasted fingerlings in a salad, particularly when they are properly cooked which these were, and there was a dusting of the almonds and crumbles of the bacon streusel on the bottom of the plate and the lavosh (a type of cracker) was shaped into a circle and the salad was inside it. Nice presentation and nice flavors. The dressing had a sharp zip from the mustard and I really enjoyed it (and the fact that the salad was dressed properly).

Hubby had the butternut squash gnocchi with mascarpone, sage, pecans and crispy pancetta. These were out of this world. Truly outstanding. The gnocchi were super light and all the other things melded into a sauce that just was a delight. I didn’t order it myself because I tend to find pasta dishes, whatever course they are, are often too big and filling, but I thought this was just the right portion and I could have eaten the whole thing myself. Really good.

For my main, I had a starter-- the crab risotto cakes with butternut maple puree, pumpkin seed pesto and goat cheese fondue. I was questioning whether to order them because I was sort of imagining them to be like crab cakes made with risotto with some crab mixed in (which in crab cakes I always find to be in short supply). But when I asked our server about them, she said the crab was actually on top of the risotto cakes and I was sold. SO glad I ordered them. They were so good. There were two of the risotto cakes and they were properly tender with a crispy outer shell and topped with lump crab meet which was drizzled with the goat cheese fondue and set over the butternut maple puree and pesto. Wow. A unique and delicious flavor combination. I wish I had some right now. So, there were only two of them, but they were rich and actually quite filling I thought, and I even gave hubby a couple of bites (it was his birthday after all). I would so get these again.

Hubby had the beef short ribs because he has had them before at Oakley’s and really enjoyed them. This time was no exception—they were served with Portobello puree potato mash, and a blue cheese tater tot. He was really really happy with his choice and proclaimed he had out ordered me and was happy about it. I disagree, but a salad I guess isn’t inherently as exciting…

We also had the chocolate brownie cake with cashew caramel corn and caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. I have had it several times before (or some variation of it) and have always enjoyed it. This time was no exception.

So all in all, what a fabulous meal. And I am not sure if things are more exciting on the menu or what, but it seems like in the last two visits I have had to Oakley’s, things have just stepped up a bit. I have always liked the place, but now, it is rocketing up there to one of my favorites. And I like the feel of this place—it is not overly fussy, but you feel like you are in a nice dining room. The service is professional and our server really new the menu and what she was talking about. The balance is there and this may just be one of Indy’s best restaurants right now.

Oakley’s Bistro
1464 W 86th St
Indianapolis, IN 46260
(317) 824-1231

Friday, November 20, 2009

Café Patachou

I have reviewed Café Patachou before, a while ago, and it is a place I eat on a nearly weekly basis, but since my most frequently visited location (River Crossing) has recently moved and expanded, I thought it would be a good time for a formal re-visit.

Well it looks like the new location (which is right next door to the old one) has about 50% additional seating than it used to, which is a nice improvement since there is often a wait for lunch (and I don’t even go on the weekends because when I have it has been so crowded). There is also a little cushy seating area now in which to wait, although not a lot of seats. Everything is new—the furniture and all, and the additions have stepped up the feel a bit. One of my only complaints about the new interior is the specials board is way down on the west end of the restaurant which makes it hard to see if you are sitting at the other end.

The menu is the same as it has been though and I ordered one of my favorites—the broken yolk sandwich with bacon and avocado. It is two fried eggs served on your choice of buttered toast with cheese, bacon and avocado on top. I still think Patachou’s bread is too thick, so I usually end up eating it (and any other sandwiches) open-faced. They clearly know what a ripe avocado is though, and put on an appropriate amount. Their bacon is really tasty too, although, on this particular visit, there was not as much as there usually is and it was little pieces that looked like the stuff they probably use in the omelets. But it still tasted really good. Also, I love that the yolks are not fried completely hard; I like mine a little runny.

One of the nice things about breakfast items here is that they serve them with a nice fruit cup rather than the chips that come with the sandwiches (although you can substitute a side salad). Normally I am not a huge fruit salad person because they are usually just filled with melon, which is so boring, but the fruit salad here has a nice big variety in it. Apples, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, oranges and several other things (not always the same, they change it I think depending on what is available). I like that in a fruit salad.

One of the issues I have had at Patachou sometimes (particularly at certain other locations) is service being a little gruff or sometimes, just bad. But the last few times I have been into River Crossing, everyone has been really friendly and the service has been great. And especially on this visit, maybe the new digs had everyone in a good mood. The whole place just seemed more professional.

I still haven’t managed to get over to one of the Petit Chous for dinner, but when I do, I will certainly let you know about that as well! And I am looking forward to the new pizza place as well.

Café Patachou
8691 River Crossing Blvd
Indy, 46240
317-815-0765 (check the website for all locations)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Binkley's Kitchen & Bar

So I actually have a physical list of restaurants that I want to try and review, many of which are reader recommended and some are just random places that I want to try…Binkley’s has been on the list awhile and at this point, I can’t even remember why honestly but BFF and I headed over there the other day for lunch

Well, let me start by saying, I have to face facts. I do not like wraps. I keep thinking, they sound good…I like the ingredients and hey, less bread is probably a good thing right? But then I go and order one and remember. They just aren’t good. If you are ever dining with me and I start to order one, stop me! (And if you know of a really good one somewhere, please let me know)

So, you have probably figured out that I ordered a wrap at Binkley’s. I did. It was the Santa Fe steak wrap with lettuce, tomatoes, black bean relish, cheese, avocado and ranch dressing. I put lettuce as the first ingredient, because like most wraps, it seemed to be the main ingredient. This is probably one of the biggest problems with wraps---they are all full of lettuce. Anyhow, the thing was just too blah. The steak was overcooked and tough (got a big hunk of gristle in one bite) and the things to add flavor- the black bean relish, avocado and ranch were in short supply. I wasn’t a big fan.

But there were some things that I do like about this place. Food-wise, I really really liked the cup of soup I got with my sandwich. It was the soup of the day—red potato and goat cheese. Now, you know when you hear a combination like that, that it is likely not coming out of a big plastic container and warmed up, and this soup was tasty. Big hunks of potato -- and the flavor was really good with the goat cheese. And you didn’t need to season it at all. I really liked it and ate every bite, which I rarely do with soup.

I also had a bite of my friend’s sandwich—she got the spinach and wild mushroom panini with mixed mushrooms, roasted red peppers, sautéed onions, fresh spinach, provolone and her cheese spread on multigrain bread. This was much much better than my wrap for sure. The ingredients were much more interesting and there wasn’t one ingredient that dominated too much. I would get this again.

I also was surprised by the interior. It is a warm woody interior with a nice fireplace in the center---sort of has a lodge-y feel. Nice. And it seems pretty popular—by the time we left, the place was pretty crowded.

So all in all, I might go back to this place, but I will stay far away from the wraps…

Binkley’s Kitchen & Bar
5902 N. College Ave
Indy 46220

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tulip Noir Brunch

Now normally I am not a brunch person, not sure why, but usually just doesn’t sound that appealing to me. On this Sunday we were undecided where to go, and hubby hadn’t yet been to Tulip Noir so we headed there. They have a regular lunch menu during the week that I really like, but on the weekends, it is brunch. I am really glad we ended up there though, because I hadn’t checked the menu out first, and like I said, I am not usually drawn to the brunch type options, but this was really good.

I had one of their teas which was really nice (a loose leaf oolong) and the little clear glass teapots are nice. This place has a huge tea menu, but not a lot of cold drink options besides a few flavored sparkling waters. For my brunch, I had the “original egg sandwich” which was a whole wheat English muffin with pesto, fresh spinach, a fried egg and prosciutto. Wow, this was really good. The pesto was super fresh and tasty and tasted like it had a bit of lemon in it maybe, which I really liked. The egg was pretty hard fried, but I guess that is appropriate for a sandwich. The spinach was just plain fresh spinach, but it was just the right amount, and went really well with the pesto too. The prosciutto was just the right amount, and it was quite tender—not sort of stringy the way prosciutto can be sometimes. There was a little salad of mixed greens on the side that wasn’t bad, but as is usually the case with these little side salads, it was underdressed. But all in all, I really liked this sandwich and I would definitely get it again.

We also got a side of the rosemary roasted potatoes (Yukon gold and sweet potatoes). These were really well done. Nice crispy sides and a good amount of rosemary so that you could really taste it. Hubby had the open face egg sandwich which was a rather large piece of bread with tomato slices, smoked salmon, and scrambled eggs on top. He enjoyed it, but he thought mine was better.

The only thing someone might complain about with my dish was that it was pretty small. Perfect for me, but I figure if I thought it was right for me, it probably wouldn’t be enough for a lot of people, judging from the portions at most restaurants. Even hubby said he would want two of my sandwiches.

All in all, I really like Tulip Noir and their seasonally changing menu. Someone is working hard to come up with fresh, unique flavor combinations using really high quality ingredients. And obviously, they have a knack for it, because most of it seems to really work.

Tulip Noir
1224 West 86th
Indy 46260

Tulip Noir Café on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nordstrom Café- Downtown

I was downtown shopping the other day and stopped in for lunch at the Bistro inside Nordstrom. I was surprised to find the menu totally different from the one at the Fashion Mall, and also intrigued.

I really like the restaurant at the Fashion Mall, and actually eat there quite frequently for lunch. I hadn’t eaten at the one downtown in quite awhile. I looked over the menu and saw they had a shrimp Louie salad which is one of my favorite salads in the world. I knew from the menu this one would be a little different because the shrimp was grilled, but everything else sounded like all the things I love about this salad (eggs, avocado, Louie dressing) so I thought I would give it a go.

The good things about this salad were the dressing and the fact that the lettuce was tossed with the dressing. I love it when a salad is dressed. The avocado and bacon were mixed into the tossed leaves in good proportion, and the eggs and shrimp were sitting on top (the hard boiled egg quartered). They also serve a decent roll on the side with butter if you want it.

Unfortunately the bad things were the fact that the avocado was seriously under-ripe (ugh, I hate hard pieces of avocado) and the shrimp just didn’t do it for me. It was ok, but it was slightly overcooked, and I don’t know, maybe I am a purist, but I like my shrimp on my shrimp Louie to be cold.

So while I appreciate the fact that they are attempting the salad, unfortunately it didn’t come together for me. If they had just gotten some ripe avocado, the salad would have been much better, even with the shrimp as it was. And I did like the dressing, once I squeezed a lemon over it (which I always do with a Louie anyway).

So while shopping at the Nordstrom downtown is probably better, I think eating at the Fashion Mall location is much better…especially those fries with that olive aioli dip…mmmm…. (Just for fun, I posted a picture of my last sandwich there too—that olive dip would be good spread on just about anything!)

Nordstrom Café
130 S. Meridian Street
Indy 46225
(No website for the restaurant specifically)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

R Bistro- October 2009

Hubby and I got an unexpected babysitter the other night and were at a loss for somewhere good. We decided on what is probably one of the best places left around here these days—R Bistro. We always check the menu first though-it changes weekly and sometimes it sounds so good, and other times not as much.

Anyhow, this menu looked pretty good. Since I have reviewed this place quite a few times, I won’t go into the ambiance and service too much, but suffice it to say I like that this restaurant is very professionally run and the fact that you feel like people know what they are doing. It has a sort of quiet confidence that I really appreciate. I also like that there are also always other people there no matter what time you go.

I started with the Asian pear, endive, tamari pecans and blue cheese salad. It was lovely in its presentation. (By the way, sorry my only pictures are sort of dark, I was trying to not be too obvious). The flavor combination of the pears and blue cheese was great—I love fruit with blue cheese and the pears were perfectly ripe. The peppery-ness of the greens was great and the sweet and slightly spicy flavor of the pecans was a nice counter balance. Hubby really enjoyed it too

For my main course I had one of the starters on the menu, the New Orleans shrimp remoulade with fried green tomatoes (hubby also had this for his appetizer). These were really good. When I eat shrimp so perfectly prepared, I think 2 things: 1) why doesn’t R Bistro have more shellfish on their menu; and 2) why can’t more restaurants do such a good job with shrimp? They were perfectly tender, in a tasty remoulade sauce alongside a couple of good size fried green tomatoes. The tomatoes were the right amount of tartness to balance out the shrimp and I really enjoyed this dish.

Hubby had the grilled elk steak with tomato watercress relish and warm potato and preserved shallot salad. He was really torn between this and the duck that night and decided to go with the elk because he had had a lot of duck recently. Our server told us that it would be prepared to medium rare because any more well done would have made the meat tough. Now this was fine, because this is how we like meat, and this is how it was prepared, but unfortunately, the meat was still a bit too tough for my taste. Not sure why—other very lean red meats like bison don’t seem to have the same problem, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed this as my main dish because of this problem. The sides were pretty good, I liked the watercress and tomato combo, although I found the potatoes a little bland. I was glad I had my shrimp on this one.

We also had the apple tart which was pretty good too—I don’t often order dessert at R Bistro but since I had two appetizers we decided to share one this time. Like I said, it wasn’t bad, but nothing out of this world or anything. I have always found desserts to be R Bistro’s weakest link, which is one of the reasons I rarely order one.

But if you want to go to a restaurant that is consistently producing good quality, and creative, ever-changing dishes, R Bistro is one of your only bets in this City, and one of the best.

R Bistro
888 Massachusetts Ave
Indy 46202

R Bistro on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Castleton Grill

Ok, we live right near this place and we have never managed to get to it. And I have never, NEVER, heard anyone say one word about it. But they advertise that they are one of the only non-chains in the Castleton area, and one day for lunch hubby wanted a burger and I wanted to go somewhere new, so we landed at the Castleton Grill. (Although after looking at their website, they certainly run several restaurants, and while they mainly seem to be in Indiana, I am still not exactly sure what they mean by being a non-chain—they are not a large national corporate chain, but a locally owned group of restaurants I guess.)

It’s a strange place. There are a lot of people eating here that have obviously been eating here for a long time. You could tell by their familiarity with the staff (my favorite was one guy who refused to sit in a certain server’s section and they knew it from the moment he walked in). The menu is pretty big, and covers most of the basic Midwestern menu requirements.

The first disappointment was the onion rings we ordered to start. I asked our server if they were battered or breaded and she said, oh, “they’re battered and they’re really good!” Well she was wrong on both accounts. They were actually breaded (I don’t like them that way) and straight out of a foodservice bag and probably the worst onion rings I have ever had. I didn’t even finish one of them. Complete waste of calories. And we only ate 2 of them and they sat there for the rest of the meal. Even though she asked if we liked them and we told her we didn’t, she didn’t offer to take them off the bill or anything. Annoying.

So I ordered a Cobb salad for my lunch, which is often my go to salad in places like this. It is easy to compare a salad like this and see how quality the ingredients are. It had all the usuals, tomatoes, avocado, bacon, blue cheese, and hard boiled eggs and a less common thing, slivered almonds. The chicken was a grilled chicken breast. The dressing was their own blue cheese dressing. I was a little disappointed with a couple of things in this salad. They touted their “Applewood smoked bacon” all over the menu, including on this salad, but as you can see from the picture, the crumbles of bacon were more like bacon dust. And the tiny sliver of avocado, while ripe, was miniscule. The blue cheese was also in very small crumbles, and not the most flavorful cheese I have had for sure.

I liked the almonds, as I like the crunch that almonds add to a salad, but there were more of these than just about anything with the exception of the chicken and tomatoes. The chicken wasn’t bad. Not too tough, and I liked that at least it wasn’t just lunch meat cubed on top. However, all in all, I wouldn’t order this again. Probably the best thing about the salad was the dressing—it was very thick and blue-cheesy, although sometimes when the dressing is so thick, it makes it hard to eat with the salad. But I just dipped my forkfuls in, made a mess, and went on about my business. They sell this to go, so my guess is they consider it a specialty.

Hubby had the burger with cheddar and some of that bacon I mentioned earlier and was quite happy. He liked the bun and thought they had the proper proportion of bread to meat. He wanted to be sure that I said his burger got the thumbs up. (He didn’t care for the fries though—very standard. And in this day and age, with so many great fries out there, it shouldn’t be that hard to come up with some good ones). So there you go. If you end up at this place, maybe you should order the burger. And if you are one of the regulars, and think something is really good here, will you let me know?

Castleton Grill
6010 East 82nd Street
Indy 46250

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Alinea Chicago

Wow. We had an impressive food weekend in Chicago recently for our anniversary. Since it was sort of a big one (10!) we decided to go whole hog and finally get to Alinea. It has been on our list since we moved back to Indy, but with its minimum of 12 courses and hefty price tag (not to mention a more challenging reservation to get then some others), we saved it for a special occasion.

Before I start, can I just vent about something? How come none of the cabbies in Chicago know where any of the restaurants are in the City? I mean Alinea is one of the top ranked restaurants there and the cab driver had no clue. And every time we go there, it’s the same. Once we actually had to get out and walk the rest of the way because the cabbie was so clueless. My advice: if you aren’t totally sure where you are going, and you’re taking a cab, make sure you have the address, phone number and ideally written directions. Makes me long for the cab drivers in London who would be seriously offended if you even told them the address—they had to take a detailed test in order to even get their license.

Anyhow, once we got there, you walk in, into a hallway that is sort of like a little rabbit hole which is sort of cool, and then the metal doors slide open into the restaurant. You can look to your right and see a somewhat open kitchen (which I attempted a picture of). I have to say, the staff is all very friendly and not at all snooty. This is one of my favorite things about Chicago restaurants, the lack of pretension. We were seated and started on the adventure. This is a set menu, no options (well, unless you tell them you don’t eat certain things or have allergies, etc). With 12 courses, we figured we should just go with the wine pairings too, because it just seemed overwhelming to come up with your own stuff. And if you aren’t familiar with the style of this restaurant, this is a chef who likes to play with his food, so to speak, and you will find familiar flavors disguised in things you might not expect. Like cucumber infused lettuce. That was part of the Thai-inspired pork belly. He also incorporates scents and textures more so into the food than most—for instance one of the first things that happened after we were seated was a large piece of rosemary was placed at each of our seats, allowing for a beautiful scent before we had eaten anything. The rosemary was later incorporated into the lamb course. But if you are like a friend of mine who said she avoids restaurants with things that are “foamy” or “smoking,” this is probably not the place for you.

My overall impression of Alinea was that it was really good. The thing about a set menu is you are likely to get a few things that might not be up your alley and a few things that are awesome. And that was the case here. I’m not going to go through them all, because it would take all day, but probably my favorite 2 courses were the trout course and the “hot potato” course. The trout course was the chef’s interpretation of a traditional recipe. It was amazing. The trout was so tender, rolled up and had been cooked in a rich, very Fall-ish sauce. There were 3 little “boats” (all edible of course) filled with other yummies, 2 with trout roe and one, my favorite, lined with truffles and then with a plump quail egg yolk that had been poached in red wine. Mmmmmm…. He also used antique plates and etched wine glasses to carry the classic nature of the recipe. Very cool. (Here's a link to one of the Chef's twitter pictures showing the fish being rolled up:

The other favorite (although now I am thinking about the caviar course too that came first—a fun one with foam flavored like bread and gelatin with the vegetable flavors infused. It was whimsical, but still really good) was the potato/truffle course which was a small piece of potato and a truffle skewered on a little pin that you pulled out and dumped into a little wax bowl full of a rich creamy sauce that you then drank in one gulp. Really tasty (can you tell I have a thing for truffles?).

An example of one of the other courses, just to give you an idea of the playfulness, but one that I didn’t think really actually tasted that impressive was the Pheasant course. It was a little tempura battered ball of apple, pheasant and shallot and skewered on a little oak branch that had the leaves slightly burning. A nice aroma of Fall to be sure, but the food itself on this course wasn’t that great. A little too chewy and not a lot of flavor in itself.

Also pictured here is the pork belly course which was served with Thai seasonings. his was also where the cucumber infused lettuce came in that I mentioned above. There was also a shot of “Thai distillation” which was a shot glass of a liquid that looked like water but was infused with various Thai seasonings which you were instructed to drink before you ate the food. This was very pretty, but for me, the flavors just weren’t that impressive. Hubby liked it better than me, but would’ve chosen a different flavor combination too.

This place is an experience for sure, and if you are really into food, a totally worthwhile one. And the wine pairing was spot on. The wines were all great (there were 8 small pours throughout the night) and many were unusual from smaller producers in the world. The meal and wine is almost shockingly expensive (the only other equivalently expensive meal I have had was the French Laundry in Napa), but there is certainly an inordinate amount of thought and passion going into the food. I actually would love to go back in the Spring and experience those flavors, as they are probably my favorite. But I’d better start a savings account for it now!

1723 North Halstead
Chicago, IL 60614

Alinea on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Brugge Brasserie- Lunch

The last time I ate a Brugge, I had a great meal for dinner. I didn’t really realize until recently they served lunch, so I met a friend over there the other day. Now Brugge is sort of known for their mussels, which are very good, but since you can only get 2 pounds at a time, I thought I would try something else.

However, I would love to see a separate lunch portion of mussels for the menu at lunchtime. Brugge’s menu is exactly the same for lunch and dinner, which makes sense for the sandwiches and crepes, since they are more of a size to go either way. But I don’t think 2 pounds of mussels is probably an appropriate lunch portion (at least not for me—even at dinner that is enough to share I think). Not to mention $19 seems a little steep for lunch. Maybe offer a lunch portion of them so that people can still enjoy them and not be overwhelmed by the amount of food and the price if they don’t have someone to share with.

But, regardless, it was a good opportunity to try something new and I was torn between a crepe and a sandwich. Honestly, what sold me was the fact that the sandwiches come with frites and the crepes come with salad. If you have ever eaten at Brugge, you know how yummy their frites are (but don’t get me wrong, the salads I have had are good too). And even when you get them just as a side with a sandwich, they serve them with your choice of 2 dipping sauces. So I got the Portobello mushroom sandwich with glazed sweet onions and Dijon and crème fraiche. These sandwiches are really large. My only complaint is that while the bread is tasty, it may be a little big for me—a little too much bread in relation to the amount of toppings on the sandwich. And difficult to get the whole thing in your mouth. But the mushrooms and other toppings were tasty and the amount of fries is really generous. I got the fresh garlic aioli and the blue cheese dipping sauces and was really happy with both (even though I think the aioli is my perennial fave). But there was no way I could eat the whole thing (or even all the fries) and neither did my friend (she also got a sandwich and frites).

Overall though, I have to say, I missed the mussels even though the sandwich was pretty good too. I love the fact that there is a place in our City that really takes mussels and frites seriously. I just wish they had a lunch portion…

Brugge Brasserie
1011 A East Westfield Blvd.
Indy 46220

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Moon Dog Tavern

So we randomly decided to go to lunch at this place the other day because we had read somewhere that they had good pork tenderloin sandwiches. Hubby has become a bit obsessed with tenderloin sandwiches because he grew up in Ohio where they aren’t such a tradition like they are here.

There were four of us, so we decided to start with the appetizer platter which consisted of chicken fingers, potato skins, portabella mushroom fries and some spinach seafood dip. We got this as a compromise because everyone wanted different stuff. And hey, it was decent pub grub. I used to have a thing for good potato skins when I was young, and then they all disappeared off the face of the earth and became these pre-made frozen jobbies that restaurants just threw in the deep fryer. These were more old school with a good amount of cheese and bacon as well as a potato shell with a bit of actual potato to it. I liked ‘em.

I also really liked the portabella fries—they were slices of portabella mushrooms that were hand breaded and fried and served with a creamy chipotle sauce. I really liked these too—and slightly different take on a fried mushroom. And the sauce really complimented them well. See, when a restaurant takes the time to actually hand make something themselves, they are so much better.

Honestly, I didn’t eat the chicken fingers; I boxed them up and took them home to the kids (and by the way, don’t bring the kids here, it’s a bar, and they aren’t allowed). They didn’t look hand breaded—more like straight from the freezer I would guess. I did try the seafood spinach dip. I wasn’t a huge fan of it, although others at the table liked it a bit better I think. Just nothing great…and I have to think any seafood hiding in a cheesy dip might be a little questionable... but maybe that’s just me.

For my lunch I had the California Club panini. Described as sliced chicken, bacon, avocado and tomato and topped with cheddar cheese. Ok, this sandwich was huge. I will start with that. Seriously enormous. Even if I had loved it, I wouldn’t be able to eat more than half. And I didn’t love it. Actually, I didn’t really like it either. The cheese was much more along the lines of Velveeta in its consistency. And that was what most of the sandwich was made up of—the cheese. The cheese was so overwhelming you couldn’t even tell there was anything else in there. And there wasn’t much of certain ingredients (avocado of course). Hey, everyone, if you list avocado as an ingredient, put some on there. Don’t give me one tiny slice. Okay? And the bacon was soft and pretty flavorless. I had the standard chips as my side. They were just chips from a bag.

Hubby had the tenderloin, and again, while also huge, he found it disappointing. Again, it was all the things I don’t like in a tenderloin (and the things I think he is starting to realize he doesn’t like as well). Really big and really thin and really dry and not much flavor. The one bright spot with the sandwiches (no one at our table really liked theirs too much) was the fries. Unfortunately, only one of us got the fries, but they were really tasty. They were the seasoned battered type and we all wished we had gotten more of them.

Unfortunately, while I like the fact that this place is an independently locally owned restaurant, and while a couple of the appetizers gave me hope, for purely food reasons, I probably wouldn’t go back. They do support local music though, which is always a good thing. So if you want a couple of good apps some night when you are going to see a band, check out the portabella fries and the potato skins. And maybe a side of fries.

Moon Dog Tavern
4825 East 96th Street
Indy 46240