Monday, March 29, 2010

Pizzology- Lunch

We decided to hit up Pizzology for a quick lunch the other day just to see if we still liked the pizza as much as we remembered. The short answer is yes—that crust still does it for me for sure. We shared the lunch special, which was a slightly smaller version of the Napoli pizza with a chopped salad and a drink for $7 and we also had a half order of the pasta carbonara.

Like I said, the crust is my favorite part of the pizza by far, it is perfectly thin and crisp yet a little chewy too. The Napoli comes with a tomato sauce (and not too much of it), fresh mozzarella and oregano. You could also add any extra ingredients for half the price listed on the menu. My guess is they use the Napoli as their lunch choice a lot because it is a great base for adding other things. I just went for it as is, to taste the restaurant’s combination of flavors. While it was simple, it was very good. And the generous amount of oregano added a nice flavor. And I like that the pizza isn’t over-topped, which would detract from that crust (although last time we had one that was maybe slightly under-topped, but that’s another story). I had to fight hubby to get my fair share of the pizza and I think I could easily eat a whole lunch pizza no problem.

The chopped salad (which came before the pizza) was really tasty too. This is the third type of salad I have had there and I think it was the best. (I have also had the grilled romaine and the spinach salad). The lettuce is chopped into nice bite sized pieces and served with chopped pieces of olives, roasted tomatoes, gorgonzola crumbles, prosciutto, onions, and sliced parmesan on top. The dressing was appropriately tangy (described as a citronette) and between the two of us, we certainly ate every bite (although it is appropriately sized for one person I think—which was what it is intended to be).

The pasta, I thought, was just okay. It was spaghetti with thick pieces of pancetta and more of the olives (both green and brown olives). I don’t think I have ever had olives in carbonara. Not that I mind, because I love olives, and they did add a zing of saltiness that was nice. But the sauce was just sort of runny and didn’t have a lot of eggy flavor, even with the pancetta. Carbonara I have had in the past has been a bit thicker I guess. It wasn’t bad. It was just okay. Hubby was disappointed because he liked the last pasta we had so much.

They are getting ready to open up their patio (they were working on it when we were there). It looks like it will be a great patio; it has huge garage door windows looking into it as well as being screened in, which is a nice added bonus in Indiana. I am wondering how much staffing up they are going to have to do. Our server told us it could seat an additional 50 customers which would what, double the size of the restaurant? Which is great for the fact that I have heard there can be a bit of a wait at dinner time, but I am wondering how the kitchen will handle it. Only time will tell I guess.

I tend to agree that Pizzology is serving some of the best pizza in town, and I think it is because of that crust. Lunch is a great option for a great deal and so far I have not seen a wait at lunch time.

13190 Hazel Dell Parkway
Carmel, IN 46033

Thursday, March 25, 2010

H2O Sushi

We drive by this place probably 6 times a week, and probably at least half of those times we have said, “We should really try this place.” And now that there is a new-ish chef, I thought, hey, what better time? And I have recently heard the previous owners have just recently reacquired the place as well. The exterior of this place and the fact that really the main entrance is really more the back door than the front is sort of weird, but once you get inside, the soothing, minimalist, modern interior calms you. The lighting is soft and the music nice.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, we are friendly with the server who waited on us the night we were there, because he has waited on us at several other locales, including L’explorateur and Euphoria (and even at Pizzology for a minute). It is also nice to know you are going to get great service from someone who knows about the food. So the chef at H2O, John Adams, is the previous sous chef from L’ex, and is quite young. I love that he is taking the primarily sushi menu and expanding it out. (Not being a huge fan of sushi rolls myself). He has added several hot appetizers as well as some hot entrees.

We started with the tuna tartar and a couple of oyster shooters for hubby. While hubby enjoyed the (small and good quality) oysters with a mignonette sauce, the real star of this course was the tartar. The tuna was outstanding in quality. It was marinated with soy, ginger, lemon and cilantro I believe, and served with wonton chips for dishing it up. It was really good. Even though when we first got it, it didn’t look that big, there is a lot of fish there and it is easily something to share, particularly with how rich and deep the flavors are.

Next as a little treat, we got a sampling of the chef’s charcuterie plate. Wow, this was outstanding. Everything on the plate was housemade and it was all really good, even the head cheese which I am normally not a huge fan of. Well, the platter consisted of the head cheese, a cured tuna, and a pork and chicken liver pate. There were beautiful accompaniments of giardiniera (lightly pickled veggies), caramelized cipollini onions, and pickled mustard seed. Seriously, it was all really really good. The slices of the chicken liver/pork pate were probably our favorite because hubby and I both love chicken liver. The giardiniera and the caramelized onions were delightful to cut the richness of the pate and head cheese. The giardiniera consisted of marinated onions, olives, jalapenos, and carrots. It wasn’t too spicy (although we are told can be varying in spiciness depending on how long it has been marinated). The whole plate was served with nice thin toasted and seasoned slices of baguette as well. I am telling you, this plate was a huge surprise from a sushi place. If they have it as a special, my recommendation is, get it. And it is certainly big enough for many people to share.

Next, we had the salmon carpaccio which was also really good. It was very thinly sliced raw salmon served with a lot of the traditional salmon accouterments, but in a new more refined way. There was a drizzle of a crème fraiche type sauce as well as a creamy green sauce which I believe was a bit of caper flavor. There were some capers on top as well as crispy blue potato chips. Salmon is not traditionally my favorite fish, but this dish made me love it.

Now it was at this point, where hubby said, “everything else could suck and I am coming back here to dinner tomorrow!” Unfortunately, I think he put a little jinx on the rest, because while it certainly didn’t suck, it wasn’t as good as the stuff at the beginning. We had also ordered one of the small warm entrees, the mussels and clams with sausage, blue potato, celery and tomato. Now the mussels were really good, small and tender and obviously fresh, and I loved the delicate but flavorful tomato broth they were served in. The potatoes didn’t really do anything to add and the clams were way too big for me (which to be fair were listed as Cherrystone clams). There was no way to eat the whole clam in one bite and there is just something wrong to me about cutting up a clam.

We also had a fluke cigar roll special which was a piece of fluke wrapped in a spring roll-type wrapper and fried, then rolled inside a sushi roll with some of the giardiniera. The flavors were unique but just wasn’t overly exciting to me, even though I really liked the giardiniera. Hubby agreed and he is more of a fan of sushi rolls than I am for sure.

We also had a dessert which was two spicy brownies served with crème anglaise and raspberries. They definitely had a little kick to them which is fun with a rich chocolately thing, but they were a bit dry.

One little gripe though unrelated to the food. Again, it's with the website. In this case, it looks pretty, but is horribly out of date. In fact, I don’t think it has changed since I started checking the menu more than a year ago. Please, please, with all the wonderful new menu items, get someone to update it every once in awhile.

But, I have to say, even with not being as wowed by the last few items of the evening, the first few items placed H20 up there as one of the better restaurants in Indy, at least in my mind. The chef is doing wonderful, creative things, and I was really impressed with that charcuterie plate. If he keeps up this new direction, they may need to add “Land” into their name somehow.

H2O Sushi
1912 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy 46220

Monday, March 22, 2010

Capital Grille- Revisit

At the request of my sister and her husband whose birthdays are a week apart, we took them to Capital Grille to celebrate. My sister had heard about the lobster mac and cheese and wanted to try it.

We had a very enthusiastic waiter who was extremely happy to see us all, and had quite a giddy manner about him. At least it seemed like he liked his job, which was good, but by the end of the evening, it was a tad grating on the nerves.

I think because it was a birthday, they brought us an amuse-bouche (I have never had one before at Capital Grille). It was half a shrimp with some marinated tomatoes. Honestly, I wasn’t overly impressed with it. Really just basic shrimp flavor. At least it wasn’t overcooked, but there was nothing really exciting about it. But there was also nothing “waking up the taste buds” about it either. We did enjoy the bread basket, particularly the onion bread. It was nice and soft with some soft cooked onions on the crust that were tasty.

Anyway, we decided to share a starter of the lobster and crab cakes which were not bad. I think everyone else liked them a bit more than I did, but then again, I rarely meet a crabcake type dish I really like. As they go, they weren’t bad. There were some nice hunks of lobster in there, although the crab was that typically stringy type you often see in crab cakes. The tarter-ish type sauce and salsa of corn and peppers were nice.

Hubby and I had already decided we would just split a simple steak and then get a salad and lots of sides. We split the spinach salad which was the traditional steakhouse spinach salad with mushrooms, red onions, boiled egg and bacon with a warm bacon vinaigrette. In my opinion, once it was split, it was the appropriate size for a salad. My sister and her hubby had the clam chowder and just thought it was ok. (I didn’t try it though)

Hubby and I split the filet. It was 10 ounces, and there is no petite option listed on the menu so I was really glad about that. No way would I be able to eat 10 ounces of meat by myself. The meat itself was good; probably not the best steakhouse steak in this town (my guess is this is choice meat and not prime, but it’s just a guess), but it was cooked properly. However, the thing that annoyed all of us at the table was the “au jus/demi glace.” This is a constant annoyance with me and hubby because I don’t like a sweet flavor on my steak. But interestingly, before either of us said anything, my brother in law had asked the manager who stopped by what it was because it was so sweet. She told him it was just “au jus” and nothing more. Now to me, that means, the juice of the actual meat, maybe reduced, but not with other things added in. According to wikipedia, that is what it means in general, but apparently in the U.S., it often means a reduction with various spices, etc as well as brown sugar mixed in. Regardless, I don’t think any of us cared for it. Luckily my plate was large enough that I could scoot my steak out of the “au jus,” but my brother in law was not as lucky because his steak was bigger. I need to make a mental note, every time I go to a steakhouse, ask if there is a sauce on the plate and get it without.

Anyhow, we also had the lobster mac and cheese which was as usual, very good. There are nice recognizable pieces of lobster in it (usually claw meat) and the pasta is sort of horn shaped. It is really tasty. Last time I was there, they had truffle mac and cheese which was also very good. I waiver between which I think is better actually, although the truffle mac is not usually on the menu.

Probably the best thing on the table were the truffle frites (yes yes, I really like truffles). They are a little thicker than I usually like with fries, but they are really crisp, with just enough salt, truffle oil and grated parmesan to make them taste decadent. My favorite thing was a bite of steak with a bite of a frite. Yummy.

We also ordered the creamed spinach (hubby’s perennial favorite at a steakhouse). It was good. Probably in the middle of all the places we have been. Not the best, not the worst. Tasty though and I nice green-ish addition (I say that because with all that cream, you can’t really think it is all that healthy right?)

As part of the birthday celebration, they brought us a duo of desserts and some sparkling wine. That was a nice touch. The desserts included a round cheesecake with a crème brulée type crunchy top. I rather enjoyed that take on cheesecake. I like cheesecake ok, but usually I find it kind of boring. The crunchy top added a texture that made it more interesting. There was also a piece of their flourless espresso chocolate cake. I don’t know. These cakes have been on menus so long, I find them kind of lacking any excitement and preferred the cheesecake. Others at the table enjoyed the chocolate cake though.

All in all, while everything at Capital Grille is good, I have never had a meal there that I found to be outstanding. I have several friends who really like this place and I would certainly go again, I just don’t know that it would ever be on the top of my list for an evening out.

The Capital Grille
40 West Washington Street

The Capital Grille on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 19, 2010

Siam Square - Lunch

Wow, this place is really good. It has been on the list for awhile and since an out of towner recently emailed me asking for suggestions on places to eat downtown and I recommended it to him (I did tell him I hadn’t been) I figured I needed to get in there so I could know about what I speak!

We got there probably around 11:45 for lunch and the place was nearly full. This place is hopping with people at lunchtime. After we sat down, there was pretty much a wait for a table (and a lot of people waiting at that) for the entire duration of our lunch. The interior is modern and spare with nice glass block windows along side. The servers are courteous and fairly prompt, considering the crowd. The one annoyance is there is no parking lot at lunchtime, just street parking, and depending on the crowd, it can be difficult. I had to circle a bit to find one nearby.

For lunch they have several specials which I assume are smaller portions of several of their regular entrees that also come with a cup of soup and a spring roll. We decided to share one rice entrée and one noodle entrée and get the lay of the land. They brought the soup and spring roll out fairly quickly. The spring roll was excellent and crunchy, and hubby declared one of the best he has had. They were veggie and did have the stingy carrot/cabbage problem that spring rolls often do (you take a bite and all those strings of veggies are hanging out of your mouth) but they were really tasty. The soup was the Thom Yum, I believe, a brothy, spicy, yet slightly sour soup flavored with lemongrass, tomatoes, scallions and cilantro and with a couple of mushrooms floating around in there. It was great to dip the spring rolls into. And it had a bit of heat to it. (The little squares in the soup are a reflection of the glass blocks—I thought it looked sort of cool.)

We shared the chicken Kapow and the Pad Seuw. The chicken Kapow is a rice plate including steamed rice and a stir fry mix with chicken, peppers, basil, onions, mushrooms, and scallions. I really liked the flavor on this dish—had the heat of Thai food with the slight underlying tanginess of what I assume to be lemongrass. We were asked what temperature we wanted the dishes and we told him medium for both. They certainly had a lot of spiciness and I would not be up for hot for sure. This was the perfect amount—it built over time and left your lips tingling just a bit, but didn’t ruin the other flavors of the dish. The sauce on the dish was great. If I could change anything, it would be that the pieces of onion and scallion were a little big and because of that were a little too crunchy. The smaller pieces of onion were really good with the mix though. And the chicken was white meat, pleasantly tender and fairly plentiful.

The pad seuw was outstanding. I really liked both dishes a lot, but this one, the noodle dish, probably inched the other one out slightly for the simple reason that I would eat every bite of everything in the mix. There was the right amount of everything, and in the appropriate sizes (for example, I left quite a pile of the onions from the dish above just because they were so big and so plentiful). This was a wide noodle dish stir fried with various greens (baby bok choy and broccoli are the two that jump to mind), garlic, egg and chicken. It was really really good. There were some larger pieces of chicken as well as some finer dices and the flavors combined to make a lovely brown sauce over the dish. I think we would be hard pressed not to get this one again.

Hubby was happy with his Thai beer to go along with his lunch, and by the end of the meal determined it was worthy of a dinner visit. I am excited to go back and try a few of the menu items that aren’t offered as a lunch special.

It looks to me like Fountain Square is really coming into its own with some really great restaurants. So tell me, I have done Naisa and Siam Square, and have been impressed with both. What are your other faves in this neighborhood?

Siam Square
936 Virginia Ave
Indy 46203

Monday, March 15, 2010

Northside Social

As the BFF and I drove to Northside Social the other night, not sure exactly where it was, she commented to me that it must be close to the place where a friend once ran a BBQ place about 20 years ago. Turned out it wasn’t close, it was in the same location. Talk about timewarp. Smokestack Lightning was the place where I got hooked on chicken wings and mustard based barbeque sauce. Ahhh, but I am off subject again. Anyway, what a shocker to see the inside of this place all gussied up and hip-like. And apparently, quite popular. As we arrived, around 6:30, we got the last table there and it pretty much ran on a wait the entire night (and I know because we were seated right next to the host stand).

Anyway, it was nice to see a fairly new independent restaurant doing so well. They clearly are not having any trouble getting customers. I am thinking it is probably a good addition to the brewpub-heavy Broad Ripple area with its slightly more upscale menu and more modern interior. I say “slightly more upscale” because the menu is still a basic comfort food heavy one, with a few twists. There are things like pork chops, and meatloaf as well as cedar plank salmon. The menu also includes pastas and sandwiches. Kids are welcome until 9:00 and this place is so noisy, even if they are unruly, it is unlikely anyone will notice.

We started with the “black and blue” fondue appetizer which was pieces of filet, roasted tomatoes and chunks of bread served with what was billed as a blue cheese fondue. The beef was pretty good, and was not overcooked and had a nice juiciness and seasoning on it. The only problem I had with it was I got a couple bites that had enough fat in them I had to spit them out. Which happens with pretty much any cut of beef, but if you are serving cut up pieces, I would recommend trying to cut out more of the fatty bits. The tomatoes were nice and big and meaty and a nice compliment to the beef and rich fondue. The fondue wasn’t bad, but didn’t really seem blue cheesy at all. More just cheesy. Definitely could have used more blue cheese flavor for sure. I like what they were doing—and that they gave you enough wooden skewers so you didn’t re-dip the same skewer into the cheese if you were sharing. But if you ask me, it just needs a little more pizzazz to make it really good.

I had the fish in a clay pot. It was basa fish, which is a mild white fish, served in a terra cotta baking dish, in a broth with white wine, lemon, olives and more of the roasted tomatoes. The flavor of the broth was nice—you could really get the lemony flavor from the broth and the fish, well after it cooled for quite a while; it was so hot I couldn’t touch it for quite awhile-- was certainly infused with the flavors. There was a wild rice pilaf type side item which added a nice nutty flavor. The whole dish was good. It wasn’t anything out of this world. And the flavors are simple—certainly nothing complex going on here. But that’s not really what they are going for anyway, I don’t think.

The BFF had the meatloaf and was a bit underwhelmed I’d say. Which is what I would say about pretty much any meatloaf, but she is a fan of it in general. She said there was nothing special about it.

We also shared the bread pudding for dessert which I had read somewhere was very good (and I do have a weakness for good bread pudding). But this was a little too dry for my taste and only served with whipped cream on the side. Give me some good old fashioned vanilla ice cream any day. The pudding was in the shape of a square, perfectly cut from a big pan obviously, and just held its shape too well. I like it a bit mushier and free form I guess.

By the time we left, the bar was pretty much heaving and it was so noisy, it was hard to talk. But judging by the crowd which appeared to be a slightly older (older than the 20 somethings you see on Broad Ripple Avenue anyway) singles scene of sorts, I don’t think they are necessarily coming for the food. Which isn’t bad, but in my mind, isn’t so compelling this place will jump to mind when I am looking for a meal out. The prices are reasonable though. If you are one of the mobs of people eating at this place, tell me why you like it so much. Is it the food, or the scene? Just curious.

Northside Social
6525 North College Ave
Indy 46220

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Murphy's Steakhouse- A little update

We took the kids to Murphy's again last night for dinner. I am not going to write another review since I got the exact same thing I had last time. But this time I took a picture so I thought I would post it... And I have to say, I enjoyed this meal just as much as I did last time. Although I did not follow my own advice and order my steak rare instead of medium rare which I should have. Murphy's "medium rare" is more like medium to me for sure. But I just thought it might have been a fluke the first time. It was not. Love that fried lobster and drawn butter though.

Murphy’s Steakhouse
4189 N. Keystone Ave
Indy 46205

Murphy's Steak House on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 12, 2010

Zest- Revisit (Lunch)


I have wanted to go back to Zest ever since we last went for dinner (and it wasn’t so great). I always hear people say such good things about the breakfast and lunch, and I have had a pretty good lunch before, but have been anxious to get back. A friend suggested it for lunch one day, and I thought it was the perfect opportunity for a re-review.

I will say the breakfast items were really tempting and since I was in an eggy kind of mood, I did a sort of crossover thing and got one of the quiches of the day. I have this problem- I like to order quiche and I have had some really good ones, but seems like they always tend to be too poofy/eggy and not have enough of the seasoning ingredients. Finally, I got a really good slice of quiche! Zest’s quiche of the day had mushrooms, goat cheese and greens mixed in. I really liked it. And with every single bite, you got a fair amount of the ingredients. There were a lot of the mushrooms and a nice dollop of the goat cheese one top. It was a thin style quiche, it almost looked like a tart. The crust was very flakey and tasty—it was so flaky when you cut a bite of the end, it sort of just fell to flakey pieces... which is a good thing!

You also get a choice of a side with the quiche—fruit, a mixed green salad or a cup of the soup of the day. I went with the soup of the day because it sounded yummy--roasted cauliflower. And I was right, it was yummy. It was a puree type soup, but not so smooth that you couldn’t taste the texture of the cauliflower. And you could see different color tones in there to know that there really was truly roasted cauliflower in it. It was served with a piece of seeded cracker/flatbread which was nice to dunk. The flavor of the soup and the quiche were both very good. And I liked that the tanginess of the goat cheese made the meal not feel just purely rich. The only thing that was a let down on the plate was the little pile of greens on the side—I am assuming they were just there as a garnish, as I don’t think there was any dressing on them, but I didn’t even try them because they were so wilty. They looked like they had been put on the plate quite awhile ago. If you are gonna throw some greens on there, make ‘em fresh and dress ‘em a little please.

But speaking of rich, my friend had an omelet and was raving about her side of cowboy potatoes. I had never had them before, and she offered me some, so I tried them. Wow, those things are really tasty (and super rich!). They are chunks of potatoes covered in a creamy cheesy sauce of some sort. Really good, but there is no way I could eat a whole side of them. Well, maybe….

All in all, I was very pleased with this lunch experience at Zest. The food was good, and the service was extremely attentive and quick. The place is busy, but not so busy you have to wait. I would really like to go back and get the breakfast panini, with scrambled eggs, white cheddar, bacon, tomatoes and dijonnaise. Sounds delish as well.

I know Zest has a lot of fans out there, would love to hear your favorite dishes…

Zest Exciting Food Creations
1134 E 54th Street
Indy 46220

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

El Bodegon Tapas Bar

***ED Note: looks like El Bodegon is closed for business as of August 2010***

We went totally in a different direction for lunch the other day, in food and location, and went to Fishers to try out El Bodegon. I love the idea of tapas (small plates) because you get to try lots of flavors without too much of a commitment. And this place has lots of options, with plates starting at $1.00 (for a slice of Serrano ham or manchego cheese on a piece of bread.)

We started out ordering what we thought was quite a bit of food for the two of us for lunch, but ended up ordering even more. We ordered the aforementioned Serrano ham and Manchego which were both really good. I think I like Serrano ham even better then the Italian Prosciutto, in general I think it has more flavor. The bread they were slicing and using as a base was also really nice bread. It was sort of like a baguette in size, but has a slight chewiness to it that went really nicely with the various toppings. In this first round we also ordered a beef empanada, some anchovies (on bread as well), the tortilla (or sliced potato and egg dish) and the garlic shrimp.

The empanada was a little bland, although obviously handmade and quite lovely to look at, it needed a little something to jazz it up. Maybe a tangy sauce or some onions (ok, maybe that isn’t authentic, I don’t know, but still). It was clearly the weakest thing. The garlic shrimp were the best thing on the table and hubby promptly ordered another dish as soon as we gobbled up the first round (there are only 3 small shrimp on the tapa plate). There were large hunks of toasty garlic which were the best part. Those combined with the shrimp and the garlic-y olive oil were outstanding. They also offer these shrimp as an entrée which would be something I would seriously consider ordering in the future.

The tortilla was just ok, also needed a little jazzing up. It was a wedge of a traditional Spanish tortilla, slices of potato stacked on top of each other and held together with egg. I have had really good ones before, but I can’t for the life of me tell you what about them made them so other than I guess they must have just had more seasoning. The anchovies were just canned anchovies on the bread. They were good, as far as canned anchovies go. I was sort of hoping for those beautiful white anchovies you see in Europe, but I guess that was asking too much.

In our second round, we also ordered an arepa, which is a corn meal based sort of mini sandwich. They have Venezuelan arepas and Columbia arepas which are different in style (the Colombian ones being thinner, more almost like a tortilla). At our waiter’s recommendation, we ordered one of the Venezuelan ones, which sort of reminded me of a biscuit made with corn meal. Sort of like a cross between a biscuit and corn bread. It was dense, and had a wonderful crispy exterior. I really liked this aspect of it. We got one with seasoned shredded meat and avocado. Had a slightly Mexican flavor about it—with the shredded meat and avocado and corn meal. It was tasty, although it needed one more thing to make it really stand out for me. There was one on the menu that included chicken, avocado and mayo which I would like to try, because the mayo might just be enough to take it that next step.

Just for fun, we also had a glass of wine which we also enjoyed. They serve Spanish wines, and it was a simple wine, but if you closed your eyes, ate your food and sipped the wine, and listened to the music playing, you could feel like you were in a little restaurant in Spain, and not in the middle of a strip mall in Fishers. Something about the wine reminded me of house wines you get in any little café in Spain. Now, this is not to say the interior of this restaurant is going to wow you (I said, close your eyes). It is very simple, and frankly, a little barren in spots, but there are a few areas that are very nicely laid out, like the little shelves full of Spanish products for sale. It could use a little softening up, maybe some curtains or carpet, but then again, lots of places in Spain would be similarly decorated I am sure. The food also has some Venezuelan and Colombian variations (the various arepas etc.) The owners are making an effort to bring the foods they know to Indy diners. Unfortunately, there were not a lot of diners there, although there were always at least a couple of other tables. It is also kind of hidden on the backside of a strip mall near Wal Mart, so they also probably don’t get a lot of drive by customers.

I love having somewhere different to go, with lots of menu options, including a different lunch special every day. Nothing there was amazing, but it was unique and this City needs more diversity. The spice of life and everything right?

El Bodegon Tapas Bar
8510 East 96th Street
Fishers, IN 46037

Friday, March 5, 2010

Naisa- Lunch

I am getting on a roll these days getting out to some new lunch places. The other day hubby and I headed out to Naisa, a place that has been on the list for awhile. Hubby told me he would go anywhere so I trucked him off to Fountain Square.

Other than the giant snow bank along the curb to negotiate (not really their fault), we had no problem getting in for lunch. The place had only a couple of tables full when we got there, although people came in fairly regularly the entire time we were there, and several picked up carry out.

I was a little surprised by the menu, in that is was very classic Chinese dishes. For some reason, I sort of expected it to be a little less traditional based on what I had heard. You’ll see all the classics--- things like chow mein, General Tso’s chicken, sweet and sour pork and chicken, and even moo goo gai pan. I haven’t seen that on a menu in ages. Maybe the dinner menu is more extensive, but the dishes for lunch were pretty old school. Not that there is anything wrong with that, just not what I was expecting.

Each lunch item comes with a choice of soup (egg drop, hot and sour, or wonton) and a little seafood puff. You also get your choice of steamed or fried rice. I asked our server which soup she preferred and she said the hot and sour (which I do like) but then told me about their wonton soup and the fact that their wontons were made smaller so they are actually more bite-sized. That sold me on it, because while I generally like wonton soup, I often don’t order it for that reason---who wants to try and cut a wonton in half? The soup itself was very light and the wontons were smaller (there were three of them) and obviously quite fresh. However, it lacked much flavor. I think I would go with the hot and sour next time.

For my entrée, I ordered the garlic chile chicken which was sliced white meat chicken with broccoli, celery, baby corn, hot chile peppers, snow peas and bell peppers and in a thick slightly garlic-y sauce. The menu listed it as hot and spicy and I am happy to say that it actually was. I drank quite a bit more with my lunch than usual. It had quite a little kick. And I loved that the veggies were actually cooked a bit—so often the broccoli in Chinese dishes is so raw it is just too hard (and often too large) to eat. This broccoli was actually cooked to where it was still crisp, but also tender. The chicken was plentiful and balanced by an appropriate amount of veggies. The little seafood puff was more cream cheese than seafood, as they usually are, but was obviously freshly fried and super crispy. A great deal for lunch.

Hubby substituted an egg roll (they have spring rolls and egg rolls-the spring rolls are veggie, the egg rolls contain pork and are larger with a thicker shell) for his soup. He was impressed with it and said it was probably the best egg roll he has had. It was clearly freshly fried (can you say burn your mouth hot?) and had two layers of the flour wrapper—the outer one was fried super crispy, but there was an interior layer that added a nice chewiness to it that was tasty and different. I also liked that when you took a bite, long strings of the cabbage didn’t come dangling out. They must have chopped the veggies more and I appreciate things like this.

He had the General Tso’s chicken which is dark meat battered and deep fried and served with hot chiles as well. This is your classic General Tso’s, with the slightly reddish spicy yet slightly sweet thick sauce. He thoroughly enjoyed it. I had a bite and it had a nice bit of spiciness to it as well. He ordered the fried rice (I had steamed) and while it was quite dark in color, it didn’t really seem to have a lot of flavor to it really.

All in all, this is a great little Chinese restaurant from what I can tell. The ingredients seem super fresh and the food is clearly being made to order. We both proclaimed that if it was in our neighborhood, it would certainly be on our regular rotation for carry out. And hey, if you have been for dinner, let me know what you thought.

Naisa Café
1025 Virginia Ave
Indy 46203

Monday, March 1, 2010

Euphoria- A New Chef

***As of June 5, 2011, Euphoria is closed as a restaurant and is only open for private events. The chef has also left the restaurant.****

I reported several months ago that Euphoria lost its chef, who happens to be one of my favorites in Indy. We hadn’t been back just because things were so hectic and I figured I would give the new chef a bit of time to get settled in. Her name is Ivy Denman and she moved to Indy from Chicago where she worked at Blackbird restaurant. My parents, actually, were the ones who were nagging me to go back after they had a wonderful dinner over Valentine’s weekend. My Mom is not one to rave about food, but she did about Euphoria. So we decided it was time.

I had been checking the website every so often and the menu there hadn’t changed since Chef Denman’s arrival, which sort of had me uninspired. It turns out, however, that she actually changes the menu every two weeks and uses very seasonal and local ingredients. (Side note: Dear Euphoria, PLEASE change your website. It is so mish-mashy and visually unappealing and just not up to date. At least, at least, please keep the menu up to date. Even the web address doesn’t make sense.) Anyway, when we got there the menu was completely different from what I expected and reflected very wintry cuisine (which is very appropriate for mid February).

Although I am utterly and totally ready for some spring foods and I am getting worn out with winter, the combinations of flavors being put together at Euphoria are completely unique and I would say represent some of the most refined dishes available here in Indy. This is the hand of a very very skilled chef. I started with the grilled octopus with white bean puree, pancetta, tomato confit and potato. The octopus, while it had the flavor of actually being more smoked than grilled, was extremely tender and paired nicely with very thin, crispy, possibly baked pancetta and was served on the white bean puree. There were some roasted tomatoes there as well, although I would have really liked a bit more of the acidic flavor of the tomatoes to balance out the rich smokiness of the dish. But it was beautiful and extremely well prepared.

Hubby had the crispy sweetbreads with celery root puree, blueberry mustarda, and celery and cilantro salad with buttermilk puree. Wow, this was great. The sweetbreads were in the center of the plate on top of the celery root puree and garnished with the salad on top. Sweetbreads if you are not familiar, are pancreas. Doesn’t “sweetbread” sound so much lovelier? The sweetbreads were tender and perfectly fried and the flavors were amazing together. And again, the presentation was beautiful. And I want to comment on the portion size. It was perfect. These were appetizers and they were appropriately sized as appetizers. Not huge, but enough that you got the great flavor sensations and did not feel like you were left wanting more. I, for one, greatly appreciate this.

For my main, I ordered another appetizer, the braised fresh bacon with white grits, apples, olive honey and fried sage. This was a large piece of pork belly with a wonderfully crispy bacon-y edge that was set into the grits and was beautifully set off by the tiny little dices of green apple. The apples completely made this dish. The tartness of them added just the right sweet and tart flavor to the rich saltiness of the bacon. A perfect marriage.

Hubby had the crispy braised duck leg with the house-made pasta, parsnip puree, knob onions and cilantro. He really enjoyed this. It was basically like a fried duck leg—it had really crispy skin. The pasta was a simple ribbon in a creamy sauce, and was outstanding. Another chef with a great pasta-making ability. (I still do not understand why so many chefs that cook in non-Italian restaurants make so much better pasta than the Italian restaurants in this town. But I digress).

Euphoria also has a new pastry chef, and they are presenting several choices each night. They also have paired down the cheese selection, but are still offering several selections daily (they are listed in the wine list, so if you want cheese, that’s where it is). We shared the bread pudding with caramel sauce. They also brought us a nice dish of sorbet to cleanse the palette first which was nice and refreshing. Anyway, the dessert was quite large, definitely enough to share. It was good. Not spectacular, but good. The only thing that annoyed about the evening was the pace. It was a bit slow. Sometimes this is nice, but we were ending a busy week and would have preferred to get in and out a bit faster. Our server disappeared a few times, and I think they were busier than normal, but still, I think you should be able to have three courses and be in and out in less than 2 hours (unless of course lingering is what you want, but in that case, you can always draw out your meal by ordering more slowly).

The thing about Euphoria is it has never had a problem with its food as far as I am concerned. It was wonderful under the helm of Chef Gates, and it is again with Chef Denman. They have totally different styles but are both up there in our local scene as far as I am concerned. But for whatever reason, this place has struggled to get butts in seats. I am not sure if it is the location, the parking (it is all street parking, although I have never had a problem finding a space), service issues, or that people have just never heard of it. The interior is quite warm and inviting, but recently at another dinner I overheard a conversation where someone was talking about how much they enjoyed the new chef, but that they hated eating practically alone in the dining room. At this most recent visit, the restaurant was probably nearly half full, and it is a big dining room, but it is sort of a let-down when you know it has some of the best food in Indy. So have you been? If not, why not? I am quite curious about this.

Regardless, I am telling you, I am very excited about the new chef. I hope that she can make it work at Euphoria, because she is a very, very welcome addition to our landscape. She has a gift for matching flavors from all areas—the sweet, the savory, and the tart-- and bringing them together extremely well on the plate. This is another place that I cannot wait to get back to in the Spring (not to mention that lovely deck is always so nice in good weather). Seriously, get over there and give it a go--she is doing great things with food!

337 West 11th Street
Indy, 46202