Thursday, March 31, 2011

96th Street Steakburgers: Revisit

I owed a friend a lunch, and he wanted to go to 96th Street Steakburgers (cheap date right?)so I figured it was a good time for a revisit.  This time I spent a little more time looking over the menu before ordering my usual burger and toppings and went with one of their signature styles (they call them “stylized” burgers.) I decided to go with the “monster style” which is a take off of the In ‘n  Out “animal style” if I am not mistaken.
So the monster style means the bun is grilled with mustard and the burger includes grilled onions, both things I like, although for some reason, I don’t usually order my burger with mustard.  I also had cheese and pickles and a side of fries.  The burger was really tasty and was cooked just the way I like it—thin and with nice crispy edges from the grill.  I was much more impressed with this burger than I was the first time I had one.  It probably also helped that I ate it there this time and it was piping hot.

I liked the mustard grilled on the bun—there was plenty of mustard on it, but cooking a little mellowed the flavor a bit.  The flavor of the onions was good—but the onions were a large slice out of an onion with a bunch of rings, which made them a little annoying to eat, because they would stick out of your mouth when you tried to take a bite.  I prefer them chopped up a little so you don’t have strings of onion hanging down your chin.  I pulled a few of them off so at least I wasn’t making a total mess.  The pickles are also tasty—thick cut and the not overly pickled kind (although I like both kinds).  These were more the type in which you can still recognize them as having once been a cucumber.  A good burger over all.  I liked it.
Their fries are hand cut and fried, and are pretty good. Thinner than most, although not quite shoestring thin.  They are cooked pretty dark and have a decent flavor.  They were nice and crispy (better than when I had them to go last time).  Nothing amazing in my mind, but an adequate accompaniment to the burger.
So it had been awhile since I had been, so obviously I hadn’t rushed back since my last review, but I am glad my friend suggested it, because it was tasty.
96th Street Steakburgers
4715 East 96th Street
Indy, 46240

96th Street Steakburgers on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 28, 2011

Meridian - Revisit

So Meridian is one of those places that frustrates me.  I love the space, the service is very professional and the menu can be somewhat interesting.  I have yet to have an amazing meal here though.  Honestly, it had been quite awhile since I had been (about 2 years), because the last couple times were quite spotty.  But I figured it had been long enough, that there would probably be some new things on the menu, and I would give it a fresh review.
There were a few new things on the menu, but not a lot really.  The appetizers looked remarkably the same.  So, because in the past we have had the fried oysters and enjoyed them, we split them to start ($11.25).  They were as good as I have had them at Meridian, happily fried perfectly (chicken fried).  They are their version of oysters Rockefeller and the oysters sit on top of some creamed spinach and have a little sliver of bacon on top and a drizzle of Hollandaise around the plate.  The oysters were the right size (not too big, which is a complaint I made last time that got me hassled by some).  They were on it this night. If I had to say something I would change, it would only be to maybe add a bit more acid somewhere.  There was a little lemon in the Hollandaise, but not a lot, and there wasn’t a lot of the Hollandaise period.
I was excited to see skate ($25.75) on the menu, because I love it, and because it was something new to Meridian’s menu, at least since I have been there.  It was served lightly dusted with flour and pan seared, over a ragout of roasted veggies.  The veggies were great.  They had a great roasted flavor— slightly dry on the outside, but still quite tender to eat. I really liked these. The skate itself was fine, but I would have preferred it to be a little more browned on the outside. Seemed like the pan wasn’t hot enough.  The fish (or technically, ray) was cooked through, but I missed a bit more sear.  It was served on top of a Riesling mustard sauce, which sounded like a great combination to me, and wasn’t bad, but didn’t really jump out at me one way or the other.  If the skate had been cooked perfectly, this dish would have been above average, but again because of the execution, I would just call it average.
Hubby had the pork osso bucco ($27.25)and was quite excited about as something different to try.  It was served with spaetzle and red cabbage.  This dish was pretty disappointing. It was pretty tough and didn’t have a lot of flavor.  The sides did nothing to really bring it around—I thought the cabbage was okay, but it was a little sweet and was a turn off for hubby. He didn’t care for it (as I write this, I think this is a recurring problem with him and red cabbage).  The spaetzle was also just okay. Nothing wrong with it per se, but nothing exciting either.
We did at the last minute, thankfully add a side of fries ($5.50) to our order after seeing them going to another table.  The fries were quite good and the portion quite large.  They were freshly cut and fried and the ones that were a little thinner and crispier were really tasty.  These were hubby’s favorite part of the meal.
Since we shared an appetizer, we also ordered a dessert—we tried the “donuts and coffee” ($7.75). These were pretty tasty.  Freshly fried mini doughnuts that came out in a paper bag that was shook by our server (assuming there was more of the cinnamon sugar that was on the plate in there).  They were hot, and nice and chewy inside and were tasty dipped in the little cup of coffee served on the side.  They weren’t too sweet, and the portion not ridiculous. A nice thing to split to end a meal.
So the thing about Meridian is, I really want to like it, but it just doesn’t wow me. Everything we had was not bad, a few things pretty good, but nothing we had was amazing. With a few little nuanced additions to each dish, I think they could really rise above, but so far, I haven’t seen it.
5694 N. Meridian
Indy 46208

Meridian Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sesame Chinese Restaurant

I have been in the mood to clear some long time dwellers from my “list,” which is probably a better, slightly healthier goal than the recent fried chicken fixation.  I probably should have organized my list by date so I knew which ones had been on there the longest, but it is pretty haphazardly organized.  So Sesame has been on there quite a long time I know, and the other day I was running around, and it was the place that popped to mind, so I stopped in.
It is yet another one of those strip mall places, the décor to this one is somewhat minimal, but it overall seemed clean, and my server was prompt in helping me.  I ordered the chicken in hot garlic sauce lunch special  ($4.50) with hot and sour soup (I know wibia swears by this soup so I thought I would try it).  The lunch also comes with an egg roll and fried rice (which I switched to steamed, because that’s just me).
My server fairly immediately brought out my soup as well as some crunchy fried wonton crisps.  I have to say, this was probably the best hot and sour soup I have had outside of San Francisco. It was probably more hot than sour, but not so hot that it detracted.  It had lots of the classic ingredients, bits of pork, egg, and my favorite, a fair amount of sliced tofu.  I can’t remember the last time I was at a restaurant that served the crispy wonton crisps, but they were nice to dip in the soup or even crumble up in there to give it a little more texture.  But all in all, I can see how this soup could be a little addicting.  The broth is full bodied and on the darker side.  The heat did build a bit without me really noticing it, and by the time I finished it and started my entrée, for a few minutes I was having a hard time getting the flavor of the chicken.
After a few sips of water and a few minutes, the heat dissipated and I could taste my entrée.  The first thing I noticed was that there was a ton of food for the money—this lunch entrée was easily as large as many dinner entrées from other places, and it was mostly all meat—there was also some thin lengths of celery stir fried in as well.  The chicken itself was thinly sliced, all white meat and was quite tender, and not at all fatty.  My problem with it was it tasted more sweet than garlicky, and honestly, I prefer the garlic taste.  It was almost like a very light sweet and sour sauce. I added a fair amount of soy sauce and that helped a bit.  I have since been told by others that sometimes this dish is really garlicky, and sometimes a bit sweet. I guess it just depends on who is cooking.  Although I would love to taste the garlicky version, I would probably not chance it next time and get something different.
The egg roll was only average to my mind; it was of the fat variety, stuffed with lots of shredded cabbage and carrots. I really only ate one bite, because I preferred the other things more.  But it is certainly generous in size.  Seriously, if you ate the entire meal, you would be quite full.
But for the money, this place is certainly worth a repeat trip.  Honestly, I could have probably made this dish last for at least two meals.  Because I do want to go back, and I do want to try something else, you know what I want to know next. Have you been? And if so, what’s your favorite dish?
Sesame Chinese Restaurant
1413 West 86th Street
Indy 46260

Sesame Chinese on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 21, 2011

Iozzo's Garden of Italy

So back to the Italian food quest for a minute. My sister and her husband share birthdays within a couple weeks of each other and they wanted to go back to Iozzo’s to celebrate (they had been, we had not). I was happy to continue with my quest to cross some places off the list, so it was a good choice.
So, I really like the way this place looks—from the outside and the inside.  It has a nice independent restaurant feel—the outside looks like it has a lovely outside seating area when the weather is nice (and apparently a back patio area as well) (although the freeway overpass is quite near, might be a little loud out there) and the inside has beautiful exposed brick walls and wood floors.  It feels warm and cozy. One of my favorite interiors I’ve seen in Indy in awhile.
We sat down and looked over the rather extensive menu.  My sister had already ordered the cheese bread when we got there which is served with fresh marinara ($5).  They were slices of bread covered in three cheeses—guessing mozzarella, parmesan and provolone.  The bread was soft and the marinara was pretty good—chunky and house made.  It had a lot of texture to it, and a slightly sweet taste.
After looking over the other apps, I was immediately drawn to the baked clams ($14) which were on the spring specials menu—featuring mainly seafood and recipes influenced by Sardinia.  They were clams that were in the shell and covered in a mixture of bread crumbs, parsley, parmesan garlic, butter, wine and horseradish.  I enjoyed the slight heat of the horseradish—and I enjoyed that it was a unique flavor compared to many preparations of clams you might see.  The clams were tender and cooked properly.  This was probably one of my favorite items of the evening, but not sure how long they will be on the menu since they were a special.
You get a salad with each entrée (although there is an up charge for the Caesar--$3). I went with the house, because I rarely like a Caesar out.  I have to say, the salads were a letdown.  There was nothing about it that made it good to me—it was just some greens with some tomatoes and cucumber slices and a little shredded parmesan.  The dressing was a balsamic, but there wasn’t much on it, and it didn’t impress me. I didn’t eat that much of it. I was glad at least I didn’t pay an extra $3 for the Caesar though, because hubby was even more disappointed with it. The dressing was a vinaigrette, which is probably not really a Caesar dressing as far as I am concerned—it was completely clear. And I am not sure why they charge more for this.
For my main, I had another special, the seafood lasagna ($23). It was described as including lump crab meat, rock shrimp with 5 cheeses, and marinara sauce.  So, honestly, other than a teeny bit of crab shell, I had a hard time really tasting much of the seafood in there.  It wasn’t much different to me than my brother-in-law’s regular 5 cheese lasagna.  It was quite a large portion, and very cheesy.  It wasn’t bad, but there wasn’t anything making it jump out at me, particularly in the seafood area.  And maybe the marinara was a little overpowering a flavor for the seafood.  As a side note though, I will say, my brother in law loves their regular lasagna (which he had that night, and every other time he has been there).
Hubby had the lobster ravioli ($29) which was probably the best entrée on the table.  There were little rock shrimp on top, which I always like. Not sure why, but rock shrimp seem hard to overcook and tend to be more tender than a lot of other shrimp at restaurants.  The pasta had a homemade tomato cream sauce, which was nice, but not so heavy that it completely overwhelmed the ravioli.  I personally would love to see a pasta like this with something like a sage brown butter sauce. Does anyone in Indy do this? 
My sister had the stuffed shrimp entrée special ($27) which I had a bite of.  It was okay, but it was stuffed with crab cake filling, which is generally not my favorite thing—that kind of heavily seasoned bready stuff with a touch of crab in it.  The shrimp were quite large though, and the portion was generous. My sister enjoyed it and told me she thought it was one of the better things she had eaten at Iozzo’s.
We shared several desserts as well.  We had the cannoli ($7), the tiramisu ($7), and the chocolate pyramid ($8).  The pyramid was my favorite, a chocolate pyramid filled with chocolate mousse and white chocolate crème anglaise in the very center. It was the lightest tasting, but was quite good. The chocolate was delicate and was obviously well served from being kept chilled.  The cannoli were also obviously made in advance and chilled, and didn’t benefit so much from it.  If they were making them as they were ordered, and the pastry was even just room temperature, (or even better, warm,) they would be quite tasty.  But chilling the pastry made them a little chewy (and cold obviously) which detracted from the flavor.  The pastry was filled with sweet cream and ricotta cheese, which could have also even benefited a bit from being a little closer to room temp.  There were also some little chocolate chips stuck on the end.  Of course, I realize this is a hard thing for a busy restaurant to do, pipe cannolis to order, but I am just saying how I think they could have been improved.  The tiramisu was probably my least favorite, because honestly, of the bites I had, all I could taste was the espresso used to make them.  I realize coffee is part of making tiramisu, but it should be balanced by the other flavors.  Part of the problem was it was served in a Champagne flute, so it was hard to really get a handle on how to get a mix of the different things in there.
So all in all, I really like the feel and ambiance of Iozzo’s. It may be one of my top picks in that regard in Indy.  The menu is pretty classic Indy-Italian, but I appreciate the special menu which had some unique items on it, some of which were tasty.  My guess is if I return, I will likely be continuing to order off the specials menu simply because it is not exactly the same as every other Italian restaurant in town.  But….the quest continues.
Iozzo’s Garden of Italy
946 S. Meridian Street
Indy  46225

Iozzo's Garden of Italy on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 17, 2011

La Hacienda: Revist

So I have to admit, I get a little burnt out on Mexican food around here, because so much of it seems the same.  And even within a particular restaurant, oftentimes, it is just many of the same ingredients being used in different shapes and tortillas. One of our regular Mexican places is La Hacienda because it is really close to our house, and if I am honest, because I really like the Texas margaritas and chips and salsa.  The kids really like it, it is really fast, and they people are generally pretty nice.
I met a friend for lunch the other day though and she recommended something new—something I had never even actually noticed on the menu (which, like many Mexican places is enormous)—the chicken soup.  Sounds boring huh? But I really liked it.  And honestly, it is a lot of those same ingredients, but just enough different, that it didn’t bore me.

So it is an enormous bowl of soup with all kinds of things in it.  There were even pieces of tortilla on the bottom that were soft.  There was a little bit of cheese in there, that would surprise you when you got a spoonful with some in it, a lot of tender shredded chicken, chopped pico de gallo (onions, cilantro, and tomato) and bits of rice all in a slightly spicy, but rich, chicken-y broth.  My favorite part, of course, was the creamy, cool slices of avocado lying across the top (some of it sunk  before I took the picture).  There was enough to get a little bit of it with most of your bites.  I appreciated they weren’t skimping on it.
The only thing I didn’t like about the soup was I really wanted to eat it all, and my stomach was so full from it that I couldn’t.  Of course the chips and salsa and margaritas didn’t really help that problem either, but they are all so good.  Like I said, this is a place our family goes to fairly often, and I am happy to report something new and interesting to order.  And hey, if you guys go there, and have a favorite item to share, I would love to hear it. Or, of course, I continue to keep my list of new Mexican places to try if you have any suggestions in that regard too!
La Hacienda
6825 Graham Road (and other locations)
Indy  46220

La Hacienda Mexican on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spicy Restaurants in Indy for Cooking Channel Show

תבלינים Dried hot pepper Shata TypeImage via WikipediaThis is not my typical post, but I was having so much fun reading all the recommendations on Twitter, I wanted everyone to get a chance to chime in.

The Cooking Channel is looking for Indy restaurants that have great really spicy food with great atmosphere and/or extreme spicy food challenges to feature on a show.  They already know about the shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo, so something other than that.  Tell me the restaurant, and what food you would recommend from it that is nice and spicy.

What do you guys think? I know you will have some great ideas!

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Café Korea

Yay! Another good ethnic place a little closer to home for me!  I finally dragged the BFF out to Café Korea the other day (we have a really bad tendency to end up at the same places together a lot); it has been on my list ever since I noticed it when I reviewed the Dragon House Chinese restaurant next door.
We were greeted by an exceptionally friendly woman who told us to sit wherever we wanted.  We looked over the menu, and I have to say there are several things that look quite good.  But when the same lady came back to take our order, I decided to ask her advice. I loved the way she looked out the window to see what the weather was like, and then told us we should order the Dol Sot Bi Bim Bap because it was a nice hot dish that would warm us up.  We ordered that, as well as an order of beef Bulgogi and decided we would share.

The Dol Sot Bi Bim Bap ($8.99) was great—I really liked it.  It was a sizzling hot earthenware pot with white rice on the bottom, and topped with shredded veggies (carrots, cucumbers, sprouts, and zucchini I believe) and beef as well as a beautiful sunny side up egg.  Just before eating, you stir it all together, which cooks the egg just a bit more and gives you bits of the caramelized rice that has been a bit burnt on the bottom of the pot.  Our server made sure we knew to mix it all up before we started, but explained it in a helpful and not condescending way, which I appreciated.  It was served with a bottle of special hot sauce, which was a nice addition to give it a little heat.  I loved all those slightly crunchy browned bits of rice with the rich egg and the slightly cooked, but very thinly sliced or julienned veggies.  I would get this again in a second.

The Bulgogi ($7.99) was also quite good, but not quite as good as the first dish.  It was nice to have a bit more beef though, because there isn’t a lot of meat to the bi bim bap, and the bulgogi dish was pretty much all thinly sliced and marinated beef that was grilled—there were a few green onions, mushrooms and bits of cabbage in there as well.  The meat was nicely flavored with what tasted like a slightly sweet soy marinade, although there were a few pieces that had a little too much fat to them for my taste, but they were easily trimmed away.  I was surprised that there was no rice served alongside (and I think it was an oversight because it is listed on the menu as coming with steamed rice and a house salad for lunch, but we were fine with the rice in the other dish).  It was actually a great combo of things for two people to share, because it gave you a little more protein. 

As mentioned, they both came with house salads as well beforehand, which were your typical iceberg lettuce in a cup with a bit of a gingery dressing.  As far as these go, this one wasn’t bad and had the right amount of dressing.  Alongside your entrées, you also receive the traditional Korean side dishes, or banchan.  My favorites were the pickled bean sprouts and the wilted spinach.  The other things (one was turnip I believe and cucumbers the other) were the spicier additions. They were all nice to add a bit of acidity and heat.
But one of the things, as I have sort of already mentioned, that I liked about this place was how friendly and accommodating our server was.  She actually seemed to care about what she told us to order, and she cared about us getting the maximum enjoyment out of the food, which was quite tasty.  This is a place that I, as well as the BFF, will be back to.  She was already telling me how she wanted to take the rest of her family and was going to recommend it to her Dad, who is a fan of Korean food.
Café Korea
7262 Fishers Crossing Drive
Fishers, IN 46038

Cafe Korea on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Local Eatery & Pub

My Dad and I laughed on the way to the place about the fact that it was pretty much a guarantee that one of us would like this place and the other would not, since we rarely tend to agree on restaurants, but they were game for trying somewhere new with me anyway.  We were on the Northside, so we figured we would check out The Local, based on a a lot of recommendations.

So it is in a strip mall at 146th and Gray Road, and is somewhat set back, which is probably somewhat of a disadvantage (and based on all the signs on the roadside saying they are open, my guess is a lot of people have no clue there is a restaurant back there).  But we knew it was there, and headed in.  The first thing I noticed was the entrance is somewhat disjointed from the place.  There is a bar side and a restaurants side with a door somewhat in the middle that hardly looks connected to either part.  But we went in and were promptly seated in the bar (I am assuming if you had a kid with you, you would be seated on the other side, although there was no one over there the day we were there).

So they sort of pride themselves on making things in house, with the exception of the tator tots that are on the menu.  So we tried a variety of things.  Let me start with the highlight of the meal--my Dad ordered the chicken fried pork tenderloin sandwich.  It was really good.  The breading a little lighter and I don't know, more loosely stuck to the meat than your usual pork tenderloin.  Not so crunchy I guess.  But this was a damn good sandwich.  The pork itself was really tender, and as my Dad pointed out, there wasn't a single bite that was fatty or gristly at all (I only had about a quarter of the sandwich).  There was a nice flavor in there too that was a little horseradish-y almost.  Not sure if they seasoned up the mayo a bit, but the sandwich had just a tiny bit of a kick.  It was served on a properly portioned soft bun with lettuce and red onion. It was well done.

Mom and I split the fried chicken drumsticks and the mushroom and goat cheese flat bread as well as some of their hand cut fries.  Interestingly, there were wings and the drumsticks on the menu, and they first brought us an order of the wings by mistake which we sent back.  But the drumsticks were way larger than the wings, and looked so much better (although I didn't try the wings).  They were regular sized legs that were fried and rolled in sauce, much like wings (we got the regular barbecue sauce) but were nice because they were so much bigger. There were 5 of them on the plate (even though the picture only shows 4).  The meat was maybe a touch dry, but the sauce was flavorful, with a smoky flavor with just a touch of heat.  They need to give you some wet wipes with these though--eating barbecue sauce coated chicken legs makes for some serious sticky fingers.  But would I order them again? Not with that tenderloin as an option.

The big disappointment of the day was the flatbread. Honestly, we thought it was pretty bad.  The crust was that thin cracker-type crust which can be good when done right, but this one was really soft under the toppings and really hard on the edges.  And the "sauce" on the flatbread was basically a caramelized onion paste that was spread around on the crust.  It was topped with dollops of goat cheese and slices of what seemed like completely raw shitake mushrooms.  This thing just did not come together at all for me.  The whole thing wasn't warm enough, and the mushrooms should have been cooked.  Preferably like sauteed with some seasonings beforehand---especially if you are using this kind of a mushroom--they were really dense.  The toppings over all just came across as too dry. I don't know how you would fix this, as there were so many things going wrong with it in my mind.  My mom agreed and refused to even take the leftovers home (my parents are big leftover people).

The fries were handmade and had a nice flavor--they were maybe just a little soft for me, but on the whole, I liked them.  But again, a place only serving ketchup alongside, which seems uninspired to me.

I guess I didn't expect quite so many bar food type things on the menu---from what people were telling me, I was expecting something a little more fresh food oriented or something, and less of all the deep fried stuff.  But the tenderloin was good, worth ordering again (and with the fries). 

The Local Eatery & Pub
14655 Gray Road
Noblesville, IN 46062

Monday, March 7, 2011

Michael's Southshore

The other night I wanted somewhere new to go with the kids, and stumbled upon the menu for Michael's Southshore in Geist.  They had a nice looking kids menu, and a somewhat interesting regular menu, so we decided to give it a try.

As we walked in, I thought the atmosphere of the place was nice for what was obviously a family friendly restaurant (there is a bar side though if you prefer not to sit around kids). There is a fireplace in the middle of the restaurant, between the bar and the dining room, and we had made a reservation, so we got a table near it which was pretty, but the table for 4 was quite small and difficult to maneuver with every seat full.  My kids loved the dry erase boards they were given to draw on (why do kids love dry erase boards so much?) and I was pleased that they were kept occupied while we figured out what to order.

We started with an order of the homemade potato chips with gorgonzola, pancetta and tomatoes ($7).  Sounded good.  The chips were pretty good--your classic restaurant made potato chips that are slightly thicker and chewier than the kind you get in a bag and were sprinkled with very fine crumbles of the blue cheese, even finer (and sparser) bits of pancetta, and the diced tomatoes and some scallions.  The chips themselves tasted pretty good, but the whole thing would have been well served from being heated up a little bit.  The blue cheese was cold and not melted at all.  Maybe this was what they intended, but I think warm and a little melty would be better.  The pancetta was not noticeable at all among the other flavors, mainly, because like I said, there wasn't a lot of it and it was a very fine crumble.  I liked the addition of the tomatoes to give the whole thing a bit of acid.  It has the potential to be a good starter, but as presented, was a little lackluster.

The adult entrees came with salads, and hubby got the Caesar and I upgraded (for $3) to their version of a wedge.  Hubby's Caesar was bad.  Well, it was lettuce. There was really no dressing to be seen (well maybe a tiny bit in a stripe under the lettuce).  Ok, I know I am sort of weird about salads being tossed, but a Caesar HAS to be tossed with the dressing. That is just how it is done.  My salad was a small wedge of iceberg with candied pecans, tomatoes, bacon, and a creamy buttermilk feta dressing.  I liked that it was slightly different from the usual blue cheese wedge, which I get somewhat tired of seeing on menus, and the dressing was nice--a little bit of tanginess coming from the buttermilk and the feta was a nice complement to the sweet pecans and salty bacon (which was thankfully larger pieces than on the chips).  The salad was much smaller than most wedges I have seen though, which was great for me because I don't generally like to eat half a head of lettuce with my dinner, but for an extra $3, I thought it was a little pricey given the size.

For my main, I had the skirt steak with roasted garlic Boursin mashed potatoes, chimichurri sauce, and crispy chili spiced fried onions ($21).  When done well, I really like skirt steak, and this one was cooked very well.  It was presented interestingly also, rolled up and standing like a tower in the mashed potatoes.  The meat was well seasoned and exceptionally tender.  It was by far the best thing we ate all night, and everyone at the table shared my steak.  My kids loved it.  If we went back, I think they would get this and split it.  There wasn't a ton of the potatoes, but they had a little of the Boursin taste (think herbed cream cheese), but not a lot.  The onions were little thinly sliced fried onion rings, with more seasoning than most.  They were also quite good, and clearly seemed homemade.  I honestly didn't get to eat a lot of them though, as my kids (and husband) grabbed them off my plate pretty quick.  The only letdown for this dish for me was the chimichurri sauce.  Chimichurri sauce is made with parsley and garlic, vinegar and oil.  There can be variations, but this is the basic recipe.  This version tasted muddy though, like the sauce had been frozen and re-heated.  It didn't have a fresh herby flavor.  But even without the sauce, the dish was quite good.

Hubby had the rigatoni pasta bolognese. ($15) The meat was veal, pork and beef and was in a red sauce.  All in all, an okay dish, but didn't really taste like something you couldn't fairly easily make at home (although this is why I rarely order a dish like this).

My kids both had the grilled cheese pizza ($5) (my son is in that stage where he wants the same thing his big sister is getting).  I did not care for the pizza at all.  The crust was slightly grilled on the bottom but tasted totally flat and a little cardboard-y.  The kids said it was ok, but preferred my steak.  They did end up eating most of it though.  They also got fries on the side which suffered from being soggy--not sure if they weren't cooked long enough or if the oil wasn't hot enough, but even the kids wouldn't eat them.

This is a place that I can see a need for in Geist--it is a midrange, family friendly, independent restaurant serving quite a wide variety of food.  It reminded me a lot of George's or Binkley's if you are familiar with either of those places.  Honestly, my main dish tasted quite good, but everything else left me a little disappointed.  If I lived in Geist, I can see repeating a visit (and pretty sure everyone in my family would be getting the skirt steak), but for a 15-20 minute drive? Not so sure.

Michael's Southshore
11705 Fox Road
Indy 46236

Michael's Southshore Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Northside Kitchenette

Let me start by apologizing for the lack of pictures on this post. I do have them, unfortunately, I had already loaded them onto my computer shortly before I had some major problems and had to leave it in for repairs.  So, I won't tell you how hard it has been for me living without a computer for over a week now (hard), but I will make you a deal--when I get it back, I will post the pictures then.  Unorthodox I know, but I hate for them to go to waste.  So if you want to see a few pics, check back in a week or so. *****Ok, obviously I have gone back and added the pictures....enjoy!******

Ok, as for the review, I have been mulling this place over in my head for the last week or so (I actually went twice because I am so torn about it).  Here's the thing.  There are many things I like about it--the ingredients are really fresh and high quality...the interior is modern and clean and the service staff is pretty spot on.  And even the menu is really appealing (and quite large).  But here's the deal, the food just didn't wow me, you know?  There was nothing that was downright bad, and a few things that were interesting and good, but overall, I can't get myself really excited about it.

So the first time, I went with hubby and had a cup of the potato soup ($4) and the AK's grilled cheese which sounded up my alley (and both of which had been recommended by a reader).  So the soup wasn't bad, and I liked that it had nice chunks of potato in it, and wasn't just a puree, but I immediately reached for the salt shaker, which is not something I usually do.  I did like the little cheesy slice of toasty bread they served alongisde it--particularly crumbled up into the soup.  Gave it that little extra texture and salt that helped it out.

So the "AK's grilled cheese" ($9) was actually melted brie and mozzerella and baby spinach with what are described as balsamic marinated portabella mushrooms--all on whole grain bread.  So here's what was missing for me: the flavor of balsamic.  All those other ingredients were there--and I enjoy them all.  But when you have two very rich, thick creamy cheeses and then some veggies...without the flavor of the balsamic coming through, it kind of gets lost... you know what I mean?  I did like the heartiness of the bread to break up the smooth texture of the cheese and mushrooms...but it wasn't enough to make me want to order it again.

AK's Grilled Cheese
 Hubby had the "munchie supreme" ($10) which was pastrami, swiss, dijon remoulade with a "fist full" of fries on rye bread. Again, all the ingredients were good.  The pastrami was moist and flavorful, and there wasn't so much of it that you couldn't fit it in your mouth.  Again, though, I didn't get a lot of the sauce---the Dijon remoulade, which is what I was hoping would take it up a bit.  The fries on the sandwich sounded like an interesting twist, but didn't really add that much for me (and hubby agreed).  The fries themselves were pretty good (we had a side of them as well for $3).  Handcut, darker fried fries with a decent amount of seasoning. I was bummed that they just served them with ketchup.  These fries deserved more.  Give me a little aioli or hell, some of that Dijon remoulade.  When you have some high quality fries, you need something a little above and beyond ketchup (in my opinion).

They also served housemade potato chips as a side with the sandwiches.  The chips were thick and hearty, cooked a little darker than your average chip. More like kettle chips. The thickness made them just a teeny bit chewy.  Nicely done though.  Hubby thought they were better than the fries, but I was torn a bit on that question. 
Munchie Supreme and Fries
 You know what I really liked though? The pickle spears they served alongside the sandwiches.  These were delicious.  A little more vinegary than most pickles, and with some fresh dill right on them.  I was quite grateful for this little piece of tangy vinegar flavor to balance out what was otherwise a very savory, slightly monotone, meal.

So for my second meal, I went with a cup of the mushroom soup and a half a chicken salad sandwich.  The mushroom soup was described as mushroom Brandy soup, and was aptly described.  And despite the fact that our server highly recommended the potato soup (which the BFF ordered and promptly salted and peppered), I think the mushroom soup is better.  It is still quite rich, and again, I like that they don't do pure purees, and that their soups contain some nice chunks of, in this case, mushrooms.  The soup had a nice flavor from the Brandy without being overly sweet.  Again, I crumbled up the slice of bread toasted with cheese on it and liked the extra bit of texture variation.

I also had a half of the chicken salad sandwich because it sounded interesting.  It was described as chicken with celery, pancetta and mayo and a touch of Dijon.  I was intrigued by the addition of the pancetta---I had a sandwich at Nordstrom the other day with crispy prosciutto on it and really enjoyed the crunchiness of it.  However, I didn't even get a pancetta flavor (which is more bacon-ish) from this sandwich.  Honestly, I didn't get a lot of any flavor other than the greens and the bread.  There wasn't a lot of the chicken salad and it wasn't overly flavorful.

The BFF got the chopped salad ($7) (which I would have done if she had not, but since she was, I knew she would share, so I went a different direction).  It was chopped romaine, sopressata, pepperoni, artichoke hearts, red onions, hard boiled egg, blue cheese and the house vinaigrette.  So her thoughts were, wow, there was way too much meat.  My thoughts were, wow, there was way too little dressing.  So somewhere in the middle, was a decent salad, that either needed more dressing to balance out the heaviness of the strongly flavored cured meats, or less of the meats.  Or maybe a little combination of both.

So again,  the ingredients in the food were good. I loved the pickles and the soups were interesting and obviously being made in house.  The sandwiches were clearly homemade too, but just lacking a little in the pizzazz that for me, makes a sandwich great. But there are a lot of things on this menu, and the second time I was there, there was not an empty seat in the house.  So let's hear from you guys--obviously some of you all are eating there--what is your favorite thing and why?

Northside Kitchenette
6515 North College Avenue
Indy 46220

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