Thursday, June 30, 2011

Duos Indy (Food Truck)

Gotta love a slow food truck right?  I think the idea is great, and I love the mobility they have, although for me to eat at Duos, takes a bit of travel, because they are usually found downtown.  I like that they are sourcing most of their stuff locally, and offer vegan and vegetarian options, as I am sure this is an underserved consumer base in Indy. 
On the day I went, they were parked at Alabama and Vermont, which is a fairly easy place to park around—of course I ended up in Mass Ave Toy shop for awhile and spent a fair amount of money, which made for what turned out to be a somewhat expensive lunch—although I really love that store. What great stuff.
So I wanted to try a bit of lots of things, so on this day, I got the asparagus soup, the turkey sandwich (which came with a side salad) and a piece of almond cake. I don’t remember the exact breakdown, but all together, it was $11.50.
So the asparagus soup was vegan I believe, although they did a nice job of thickening it a bit with pureed veggies.  It had a nice consistency and several large asparagus tips in it as well.  The lady who helped me told me they were excited to be using the first local asparagus of the season (so it was a few weeks ago that I ate there).  It was good, but honestly, a drizzle of some crème fraiche or something along those lines would have livened it up for me—it called out for just a bit more richness. I understand making it vegan for those who want that, but having the option to not have it be vegan might be nice too.
The sandwich I had was sliced herbed turkey breast, lettuce, tomatoes, Jarlsberg cheese, avocado, sprouts and lemon caper mayonnaise.  It was served on a large, very hearty wheat roll.  So these are all ingredients I really like—I mean who doesn’t like avocado and cheese and turkey?  Actually, this is exactly the kind of sandwich I make for myself at home--although that lemon caper mayo was nice and zesty and salty and made the sandwich a little more special than it would be if I made it myself. And I liked that there was enough of it you could taste it with each bite.  The only thing I really didn’t like was that the bread, while obviously fresh and good quality, was just too big. I thought eating the whole thing together caused some of the flavor to be lost—so I just took off the bottom half (luckily the yummy mayo was on top) and ate it open faced.  The turkey was tender and the avocado plentiful.  Sprouts aren’t my favorite thing, so I took most of them off.
The side salad was wheatberries, tomatoes, carrots and caramelized onions (there were a couple of choices).  It was a very nutty salad, and I liked the way the tomatoes and onions added both acidity and sweetness.  It had a distinct crunchiness, and tasted very healthy, but in a pretty good way.
I think my favorite thing on this visit was the almond cake.  It was baked in a pie pan, and a pie sized wedge was cut for me.  The cake tasted so much of almond—it totally reminded me of the iced Christmas cookies we make at my house every year.  My mom loves almond extract in the icing, and that is a tradition in our home.  When I was a kid, I could open up the bottle of almond extract (and still can) and it would smell like Christmas to me.  Anyhow, the cake was dense but still nice and moist in the middle with a perfectly crisp edge and dusted with powdered sugar.  It was something that I could see being a little addictive.
I really want to give this truck another go, and try some of the more unique combos I have been seeing on their menus lately. I would love to hear from you if you have tried other things about what you think.
Duos Indy
(various locations around Indy)
317/508-8614 (and check them out on facebook for where they will be on a given day)

Duos (Mobile) on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 27, 2011

Black Market

We lost a couple of good restaurants in Indy lately but I have to say, I am relieved to have Black Market, because it looks like we have replaced them with a good new one.  Based on my first visit anyway, this one’s a keeper.

I usually don’t try a new restaurant this quickly (it had only been open a week and a half at this point), but it was a friend’s birthday, and his choice, so we happily obliged. As of our visit, Black Market still didn’t have its sign out front, so you sort of feel like you are sneaking into some secret restaurant—it’s tucked away at the end of Mass Ave (near R Bistro) with just a plain black awning out front.  And get this; they have their own parking lot—a very nice benefit for a downtown restaurant.  There is also a small outdoor eating area. When we walked in, we were warmly welcomed, the door opened for us, and we were told to have a seat wherever we liked.  There is a long communal table and then several other tables for 2 or 4.  But the main feature of the room is probably the long bar that takes up nearly half of the restaurant.  Also the enormous black board just inside the door which lists all the menu items as well as the specials (they also give you a regular menu so you don’t have to read anything off the board except the specials).
There are several small plates and then larger plates and several sides.  We started with the ceviche appetizer (a special--$12) and the beef tongue cocktail ($8).  The ceviche was delicious even if I would call it more of a seafood tostada perhaps than what I imagine with classic ceviche.  It was marinated  seafood—chopped shrimp and scallops mixed with cilantro and lime and served over cabbage and on a crispy tortilla.  There was also a lovely fresh cilantro crème fraiche/sour cream sauce drizzled on top.  All these things were awesome together, but you can see what I mean when I say it was more like a tostado or taco with a crispy shell. Usually ceviche is just the fish and something to scoop it up with; this was much more than that.  It was a perfect summer starter.
We also shared the beef tongue cocktail.  Not having a ton of experience with eating a lot of tongue (ok, I have re-written that sentence several times and there is just no way to say it that doesn’t come out sounding a little weird), I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect with this one, but it was really good as well.  The tongue was cut into little cubes and had a slight crisp edge to them.  It was served mixed with cubes of beets and horseradish cream sauce and with several thick fried potato chips alongside for scooping.  The beets and cream adding nice variation in flavor and texture to the tongue itself, but the tongue was so good—I went back for several forkfuls of just those little nuggets—in some ways the richness of them reminded me of cubes of pork belly.   I was impressed—I have never seen an appetizer like this in Indy, and it was a refreshing change of pace.
For our main dishes, hubby and I agreed to share a couple of things—I ordered the veggie option-- Fried Egg on Toast ($11) and hubby ordered the pork schnitzel ($16).  The fried egg dish was also very good (and you know I love a dish with a perfect runny egg).  It was thick sliced toast that had been grilled, and therefore had some color to it, topped with melted cheddar cheese and roasted small tomatoes that had that mellow smoothness that roasting gives to veggies (and fruits in this case).  There was still the touch of acidity but it was balanced by the roasting.  There was also some crispy kale chips (which by the way, I had just made for the first time myself last weekend at my house using Katy She Cooks’ recipe) which were nice to add a slight edge of saltiness and bitterness and crackly crunch.  I have to say, my instinct when I see an egg like that is to reach for a salt shaker, and there wasn’t one on the table.  So I decided to go with it as is, and it was perfectly seasoned.  No additional salt or anything else needed.  It was served with lightly dressed greens (ok, my one complaint on the dish is that I would have liked a little more dressing on these).  The whole dish was simple, but with some subtle tweaks. 
The schnitzel was also very well done. Probably the best schnitzel I have had.  Someone had spent some time getting this right.  The pork was pounded flat and seasoned with egg and breadcrumbs—and some cheese I am guessing.  But the beauty is, it was cooked through, but was also still exceedingly tender with a nicely crispy pan fried crust.  It was served with a slaw of cabbage, apples and lemon.  The slaw was a great accompaniment because it was a little sweet, but mostly tangy.  A bite of the pork with the slaw together let you know someone back in the kitchen had thought about what they were putting together on the plate and had good reasons for it.  Again the dish was inherently simple, but so well executed.
We also got a side of the spaetzel and the fries (both $5).  The spaetzel was my least favorite thing of the evening.  It really had little flavor and just sort of felt like carbs that weren’t worth eating. Our server had told us it was lemony, but I didn’t really get any lemon flavor from it (or really much of any flavor).  We also had the fries which were served with a lemon sage aioli.  You know how I am always complaining when restaurants (particularly ones that are trying to be more than just your standard restaurant) only serve ketchup with fries?  Well, this is the reason why.  You get a dip like this, and you realize how lame ketchup is.  The fries themselves were tasty—hot and crisp, not exactly mind-blowing on their own, but with that sauce, wow.  My only complaint? There were a lot of fries and we could have used another ramekin of sauce.
I only had a couple bites of our friends’ dishes but my quick thoughts are this: the black market burger (made with lamb and beef) ($13) was good. I liked the nice fire roasted flavor in the meat, and that it wasn’t cooked to death.  It was quite juicy.  I also liked the pickled tomatoes and goat cheese topping giving it the right balance with the rich, smoky meat.   What I didn’t like was the bun was a little too big and dense to eat the burger easily—my friend cut it in half to eat it.  Our other friend had the herb roasted lamb ($18) which was not exactly what we were expecting either, but was still good.  It was sliced and heavily seasoned—almost like fancy gyros meat.  It was served with a similar creamy sauce that you would get with gyros too.  It was good, but could maybe use a little more description on the menu—as this would not be what I was wanting if I ordered “herb roasted lamb.”
We had a dessert-the banana bread with butterscotch and chocolate whipped cream ($5).  This was a dish that didn’t look that good when it was sat down on the table—it was basically a banana muffin with the butterscotch sauce and the whipped cream on the side.  I feared the muffin would be dry, but a mix of all the flavors together was terrific.  You could taste the banana without being overwhelmed by its sweetness.  The desserts may be a little on the small side compared to what we are used to in Indy, but I liked that, although I shared it, I could have eaten the whole thing myself.  It was just the right portion.
Overall, this is a place that is certainly going into my regular rotation.  I don’t think they take reservations, so at some point, it might be more difficult to get into, but we had no problem.  I was also really impressed with how well the front of the house was working.  Our service was spot on all night, never a delay in anything.  Our server gave us honest and really good recommendations. She knew what she was talking about.  I would say this kind of service would be impressive in any Indy restaurant, but particularly one that has only been open just over a week.  You really ought to go check it out.
Black Market
922 Massachusetts Avenue
Indy 46202

Black Market on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 24, 2011

U.S. Adventures: The California Grill in Disney World, Orlando, FL

We just got an opportunity to take our kids to Disney and the beach for a few days to celebrate the end of the school year.  It was my son’s first time in Disney, and needless to say, he was very excited.  I thought doing a review or two might be helpful since so many Indy people seem to travel to Disney World, and Florida in general. Overall, I found the food in Disney to be pretty much what I expected—mediocre park food, and our dinner at Chef Mickey’s not much better than the food in the park.  It was a buffet—the real purpose of this restaurant was to meet Mickey Mouse and his friends, and for that purpose, it was exactly what we wanted.  I didn’t eat a lot there, because it was one of those meals that felt a bit like a waste of calories. 
Our last night in Disney though, I had made a reservation for the California Grill which is at the top of the Contemporary hotel.  It is a very large place, but has lovely windows almost all the way around with very nice views of the parks.  There was even a rainbow over Epcot while we had dinner.  While it is a nicer restaurant than a lot of the Disney choices, it is still quite loud and kid friendly.  Most tables had kids (as did ours).  The kitchen is open, and it was interesting to see all the things coming out of there.  A lot of good looking stuff, I have to say. 
So hubby and I shared a couple of things—the yellowfin tuna sampler  ($23)(and they have a large selection of sushi as well) which was quite good. Probably the best thing we had all night.  It was tuna tartare, seared sliced tuna (tataki) and tuna poke (large cubes).  Each part came with its own little sauce and accompaniments.  There was also a little dish of this soy and pickled onion relish that was delicious with all the different things on the plate.  We really enjoyed it. 
We also shared the local corn soup ($11) which was made with pureed corn and Portobello mushrooms –it was a very thick soup.  It was meant to have lobster in it as well according to the menu, and there were a few little dices of something on top when it was served, but they were so small, it was hard to really tell if it was lobster.  It did add a little texture, but the soup was so thick already, even that you didn’t notice that much.  The whole thing was drizzled with white truffle oil and ended up being a pretty decent combination of flavors even without the lobster.  The sweetness from the corn and the heartiness of the mushrooms were nice—and mushrooms are always nice with a little truffle.  It was so rich though, and thick, like I said, that we didn’t even finish it.
For my main, well, they had soft shell crab sliders on the menu, and you know I wasn’t passing up soft shell crabs even if they were in the form of sliders ($18).  They were an appetizer, but there were two of them which was more than enough for me.  They were on little brioche buns (one small crab per bun), and topped with roasted red peppers and corn, and had a spicy aioli on them as well.  The buns were nice and soft and the crabs were fried nicely—it was maybe just a little too much for me with all that stuff—you couldn’t really get the flavor of the crab.  By the time I had gotten to the second one, I mainly was just pulling the crab out of the sandwich. 
The kids enjoyed it too—my son appreciated a kid’s meal that included a decent steak (“fire-roasted” he kept pointing out to me) and he ate every bite.  Hubby had the veal dish ($44) and liked it, although didn’t love it. It was veal tenderloin with potatoes, beans and a morel/spring veggie vinaigrette.  But we were both really happy to have food that was fresh and had some care put into making it. Also a decent wine list.  And the views are some of the best in Disney.  This is a great place to come watch the fireworks that are set off every night around Cinderella’s castle.  And even if you eat before the fireworks start, you can come back up and enjoy their balcony.  It is a bit of a mad house, but if we do a return trip to Disney, this is a place worth repeating.  My next Florida review includes some places from St. Pete Beach, which was where we were off to next.
The California Grill
The Contemporary Resort
4600 North World Drive
Buena Vista, FL  32830

California Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Oceanaire- Revisit

Desperate for soft shell crabs the other day, and getting shut out right and left, I finally found them at Oceanaire on a night we actually had a babysitter.  Now, the last couple of meals I have had at Oceanaire were a little disappointing, but I was willing to take a chance to get some soft shells.  As always, I like the interior of Oceanaire, although they tried to seat us upstairs when the bottom floor was nearly empty—this kind of annoyed hubby so we asked for a table downstairs, and were given a nice booth.  I recently read an article by Michael Bauer, the San Francisco food critic, who questioned why hosts seat people in bad tables when others are clearly available.  There were no clear answers in the article, but the comment that made the most sense to me, is that someone eventually will take it and up until then, they just keep trying to seat people there.  Anyway, by the time we left the downstairs was quite full of conventioneers and they were doing a good business.
Knowing full well how large portions are at Oceanaire, and knowing what we wanted for our main dish (soft shells) we decided to split and appetizer and a salad as well as the main dish and one side.  We started with the mussels ($14.95).  The mussels themselves were quite large (which is already not my favorite kind of mussel) and the “wine and herb” broth had no flavor.  It was murky water that tasted pretty much, well, like nothing.  I often find that the broth in a mussels dish is under flavored, but this one was just unflavored.  It was a little disappointing that a place specializing in seafood couldn’t pull these off better.
We had the seafood chop salad which was chopped lettuce with a few bits of crab and shrimp, some feta, a couple of tomatoes and sliced boiled egg on top as well as a slice of parmesan ($10.95).  The whole thing was dressed with a Greek vinaigrette.  It was ok, and I appreciated they split it at the table for us (this would be huge without splitting), but it could have used a little more dressing (and I wouldn’t have minded a little more seafood as well).  A very splittable salad though and it served its purpose.
Luckily, just when things seemed pretty disappointing all around, we got our entree and it was very good.  It was a perfect portion for us to split—two large crabs that were lightly battered and fried and served with a sweet chili oil on top.  I was worried that it might be too sweet, but it was lightly done, and had a nice spicy flavor as well as the sweetness.  The crabs were served on top of some sliced cabbage that was more for decoration than for eating I think, because it was just plain raw cabbage.  I was extremely happy with the crab though and we ate every bite.  We also got a side of the cheesy au gratin type potatoes, which we have gotten before, and always enjoyed.  Again, a huge portion.  They have changed them a bit in that they now include bacon.  Don’t get me wrong, I love bacon, but they definitely changed the flavor away from the sharp taste of the cheese to a much more smoky bacon flavor.  They were good, but I couldn’t decide if they were better than the way they used to be.
Since we shared everything so far (and honestly didn’t eat a lot of the mussels), we decided to go with a dessert as well.  We were really glad we did.  We had the sticky toffee pudding which was one of our all time favorite desserts in England.  It is a spicy soft cake that is covered with a caramel sauce and was topped with vanilla ice cream.  It was perfectly warm, and perfectly executed.  The second half of the meal had officially redeemed the first.
It will be interesting to see how Oceanaire does business-wise in Indy.  Apparently, it is one of the chain’s more profitable locations, but it seems like maybe a bit of the luster has worn off with locals.  There were a lot of out-of-towners in there, but I would be curious to know how many locals are still going.  They also have a new chef and the menu has gone a little more toward the Asian side, which is good or bad I guess depending on your personal taste.  Anyway, for this meal, Oceanaire served my purpose and delivered the thing that I went for very well.  Is it a place that I will frequent a lot?  Only when necessary.  I would still rather choose a local place when possible to get my fix for whatever cravings I might be having—the circumstances just weren’t right this time.
30 South Meridian Street
Indy  46204

Oceanaire Seafood Room on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 20, 2011

Oakley's Bistro- Revisit

Recently, I had the opportunity to go to Oakley’s for lunch and then again for dinner not long after.  I had heard that the menu had changed a bit and was interested to see how much.  I have always enjoyed Oakley’s and am excited to see something new on their menu.

So the first meal was lunch, for my Dad’s birthday.  I had the soup and tart combo (really it was a pizza, not a tart). I started with the shrimp bisque.  It was good.  The soup had a nice shrimp flavor, and I usually enjoy the little chopped bits that Oakley’s puts into their soups, but these tasted mostly like celery and were just a little too crunchy for me.

I also had the “spring” pizza simply because it had morels on it (my Dad got the same thing).  It sounded really good—with ramps, morels and pesto. The crust was very thin and crisp, sort of what I imagine a flatbread should taste like, actually. I found it humorous that they called it a pizza instead.  Anyway, the flavor was good, there was pesto spread as the sauce, some really skinny roasted spears of asparagus, some ricotta cheese and pine nuts giving it a nice little crunch.  The morels you ask?  Well, they were there, but they were really small little pieces—one piece on each piece of pizza.  They tasted good in the bite in which you got them, but a few more would have helped the pizza really live up to its description.  There was also a properly dressed pile of greens in the center that went great on top of the pizza to give it a little kick from the vinegar in the dressing.

When we were back not long after for dinner, I was excited to see how much the menu had changed—there were a lot of new things on it and also a lot of morels, which of course once again got me excited.  So I started with the morel mushroom gnocchi ($12.75) with pickled ramps, smoked tomato coulis and a mustard truffle cream.  This dish was delicious.  It was put together perfectly both in presentation and taste.  There were several earthy gnocchi on the plate with some nice chunks of morel mushrooms and very fresh tasting peas.  It was covered in a rich, but not overdone sauce that tasted of the morels and slightly of truffles.  The tomato coulis surrounded that and made the plate very colorful.  The pickled ramps on top were tasty, but maybe a little firm to go with the small bites of the other delicate flavors.   It was also sprinkled with a slightly crunchy bready topping that was described as an “everything bagel crust.”  So it had some seeds and some nuttiness along with a slight bready topping.  It added a nice texture. All in all, I really liked this dish a lot.

Hubby and I also split the “toad in a hole” salad ($10.75) which was a healthy slab of brioche with a hole cut out, into which an egg was cooked, and the whole thing was covered in asparagus, prosciutto, roasted red peppers, a hunk of brie and dressed with truffle vinaigrette.  Okay, you know I love an egg with just about everything, and the theory of this salad was great.  The execution was a little off—the egg was cooked a little harder than I would like—I always felt that part of the beauty of a toad in the hole was dipping the little round piece of bread into the yolk, but the yolk was not runny.  The taste of it all together was good though—the fresh asparagus and the prosciutto are natural mates with an egg and what is essentially buttery toast—and add a little brie and a vinaigrette, and you can’t really go wrong.  The salad was very good, but would have been perfect if the egg was perfectly cooked.

For my main, I had another appetizer—the lobster waffle ($12.75).  This is something I have seen on the menu before, but this was described as a “morel mushroom waffle” so you know I had to get it.  I don’t think there were actually any morels in the waffle, but there were pieces of morels on top, along with lobster hunks, zucchini and crispy fried leeks.  This was not bad, but there was a lot going on here, and unfortunately, I thought the lobster bits were kind of mealy.  Compared to the morel gnocchi, well, there was no comparison.  Hubby had the housemade fettuccini  ($18.75+ $5.75 for meatballs) with crushed tomato sauce, roasted garlic ricotta cheese and pancetta.  He added the chicken artichoke meatballs as well.  He really enjoyed the pasta, and particularly the meatballs.  It was a fairly simple pasta dish in a red sauce, but the meatballs were quite unique and had a distinct artichoke flavor, which is something we both like a lot.  Even he couldn’t finish all the pasta though, and that’s saying something.
Oakley’s is definitely one of the better restaurants we have in Indy, and now that they are mixing up the menu a bit more, it is getting me more excited about returning more often.  It is nice to see fresh menu items and lots of fresh spring ingredients being used.
Oakley’s Bistro
1464 West 86th Street
Indy 46260

Oakley's Bistro on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Just Judy's

One of the last breakfast places near our house that we have been wanting to try is Just Judy’s.  It is in an old Waffle House on 54th Street.  It’s a pretty big place, and actually serves other meals besides breakfast and even has a bar.  The breakfast menu is fairly standard, and hubby went with your traditional choice—a 2 egg breakfast with bacon, hash browns and ½ order of biscuits and gravy.  I went with the breakfast sandwich on a croissant.
Unfortunately, it will also likely be the last time we ever eat there.  Some of the things were fine—the eggs were generally cooked well, and….well, honestly, that’s really about it.  The bacon was so hard you couldn’t bite a piece off of it. After trying to take a bite of my sandwich, and not being able to do it, I pulled it all off and set it aside. I still had my two eggs with melted cheese on my croissant, so it wasn’t too bad.  Hubby unfortunately also ordered the bacon and felt the same way. A lot of bacon went uneaten and that’s just a shame.  But it was that bad.  The croissant itself was okay, it held everything together, but it wasn’t very flaky.
I also wasn’t overly impressed with the hash browns—they did offer home fries and hash browns, which I always appreciate, but these hash browns were a pile of fairly mushy potatoes. There was no real crispiness to them. 
Hubby’s least favorite thing was the gravy.  He said it had none of the pepper flavor that he likes and it was strangely sweet and almost had the color of maple syrup.
The service was fine, and the prices reasonable, but honestly, with as many other breakfast places there are in the area, I am surprised there were as many people as there were in there. 
Just Judy’s
2210 East 54th Street
Indy 46220

Just Judy's on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 13, 2011


I am pretty excited about this place. To be honest, we had sort of put off going for a couple of reasons—one, it is also a nightclub, and I sort of feel too old for nightclubs, and two, when you look at the menu online, it looks like you get a lot of food on each plate, and with only 2 people, I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to try too much.  It IS a nightclub after 10 pm, and certainly has a nightclub feel, but it was a very enjoyable experience going earlier in the evening and there were quite a few people there that were even older than us, so that was reassuring.  It is a very dark modern interior (hence the dark-ish pictures), and the music while in the forefront, wasn’t so loud that you couldn’t easily carry on a conversation.  As for the portion size, I was totally wrong. At the time we went, it wasn’t reflected on the online menu (now it is), but many of their plates come in half portions, or you can buy them by the piece (the tacos, etc.) making it very easy to try a lot of things. And essentially, that is what they intend for you to do. Most of the things are fairly small—in fact we ordered an extra thing at the last minute.
The first things we were brought were the lobster tacos (half order (2) was $9).  They were delicious.  Each taco had one small warmed soft tortilla shell filled with small chunks of lobster meat (tender and not chewy at all) and mixed with lots of good stuff—salsa, avocado and cilantro as well as some little lightly crispy bits of something (just tempura bits maybe?) giving it just a little interesting texture in each bite.  I would get these again in a heartbeat.
Next we had the snapper sashimi—also really, really great (1/2 order, $9).  It was four thin slices of the raw snapper, which was impeccably fresh and tender with a light ponzu sauce (generally a soy based sauce mixed with citrus). There were crispy toasty tasting garlic chips and a little slice of jalapeno on top giving it a bit of a kick as well as a bit of a crunch.  I loved this one—again another one I would love to get again.
The next item we were served (they sort of space them out so you just get one at a time) was the “toast and jam” which was shrimp toast with Ahi tuna jam ($15).  A very interesting concept indeed, and we both loved the toasts themselves—they were little triangles of bread that were dipped in a batter with the shrimp in it and fried.  Seriously, I could much on these alone all night long.  The “jam” part was made with the tuna, and other seasonings—garlic and cumin I believe, as well as house made strawberry preserve and a bit of sugar.  While I loved the consistency of the jam to spread on the toast, it wasn’t my favorite because it was a little too sweet for me—I tasted the fruit more than anything. Hubby liked the combination more than I did.  But just to try the toast alone—this dish is worth getting.
We also shared the seared Kobe beef ($28).  This was by far the largest portion of anything we had, although, it wasn’t huge or anything.  The beef itself was perfectly cooked, and I liked that it was sliced into manageable pieces, but unfortunately, it lacked enough seasoning.  It was supposed to be served with a yuzu cilantro butter which sounded like it would be great.  Yuzu is a type of citrus, and I think the flavors as described would be lovely with the beef, but you just couldn’t taste them at all.  The beef was good, but plain. It was also served with some asparagus spears.
So after all this, we had so enjoyed ourselves, we decided to skip a dessert and just get one more small plate to share.  This time we chose the Albacore salad ($11).  It was mainly a salad, as in greens, but was mixed with cubes of mango, tuna, and pink peppercorns and dressed with a Yuzu-vinaigrette.  The dressing was nice, and adequately coating the leaves.  The salad would have been nice if it weren’t for the severely under ripe mango.  This is the kind of dish that the mango is a big part of, and my advice, if it isn’t ripe, don’t serve it.  The dices of mango were hard and dry. 
Even with the less than stellar ending (although, truly the salad would have been quite good if not for the mango), this is a place that got me and hubby both very excited.  The service is extremely professional, all questions were answered with a lot of knowledge, and the dishes were all brought out in succession, but in a perfectly timed manner.  And I am happy to see a new independent restaurant opening downtown. We look forward to returning to get a couple of the dishes we had on this visit, as well as several new ones.
Sensu (I hear a version of it has opened in Carmel as well)
225 South Meridian
Indy  46225

Sensu on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Zoobilation 2011

It has been a couple of years since we’ve been to Zoobilation, but we were able to get there this year—it’s always fun to people watch at this event, particularly later in the evening.  I also ate a ton of different things, but here were some of the highlights that stuck out in my mind:
Tilapia ceviche from Adobo.  Maybe because it was so hot, but the cold dishes were hitting the spot.  This ceviche was light and limey with a hint of heat from jalapeno, and had a perfect slice of avocado on the plate. 
Shrimp, octopus and tuna ceviche with avocado, cucumber, cilantro, tomato, soy and yuzu from H20. It was served on a tortilla chip and the flavor was great.  I also like that it was easy to eat—not so big that you made a mess, and it was easy to walk and eat it.  Handling your drink and a plate with a fork got to be a little challenging sometimes—especially when you are trying to take pictures of it on top of everything else.  And I noticed it is on the menu tonight at H20, so you can go check it out yourself if you want.
Lobster voodoo from Ruth’s Chris. These were two small pieces of deep fried lobster tail that were coated in a spicy voodoo sauce.  They had quite an impressive set up with deep fryers behind the booth.  This was one hubby went back to for 3 helpings throughout the night.
Baked snow crab rolls from Sensu.  These were nice bite sized items as well—just one piece of a sushi roll with snow crab and Dynamite sauce (chili, garlic and mayo) and crunchy bits of tempura.  It was rolled with rice paper.  This was a really nice bite as well—and I was excited to get to try this because we had just been to Sensu and almost ordered this on their menu and hadn’t.  (P.S. Look for my full review of Sensu on Monday).
Dessert-wise I had several things I really liked.  The sticky toffee pudding from R Bistro was outstanding—sort of like a dense spice cake topped with a caramel sauce. (This won one of the best of the best awards.  I also really enjoyed the dark chocolate tartlets which were filled with caramel and sprinkled with sea salt from Circle City Sweets and the chocolate cake shooters with buttercream frosting and a bit of raspberry from Cakes by Cathy—that may have been the moistest cake I have ever eaten.
Circle City Sweets
I was happy to see a lot fewer sliders than 2 years ago when we went. There was a really good variety of different types of things served in different styles.  I didn’t eat every single thing there, but I got a pretty healthy sampling of most of the things.  It was also fun to see a lot of our City’s great chefs all together in one place. 
If you went, tell me what you liked or didn’t and your overall impressions of the night.  It looked like a lot of people were having a lot of fun, even if they were all pretty sweaty!
Zoobilation 2011 (next year’s date is June 8th)
Indianapolis Zoo
1200 West Washington Street
Indy, 46222

Friday, June 10, 2011

Something New: A Few of My Favorite Places: Cork & Cracker

I have decided to start something new here on the blog and introduce you to some of my favorite local places that are food and drink-related, but aren’t restaurants.  Locally owned places you would actually find me in on a regular basis. These aren’t reviews—these are places I really like.  But I want to try and support other local places here on the blog by giving them a little love and also get suggestions for some of your favorite places or products that are Indy specialties. (Don’t worry; these features will be in addition to all the regular restaurant reviews).  Feel free to let me know what you think of the idea too!
My first featured place is my all time favorite wine shop, Cork and Cracker.  This place has a lot of things going for it---first, it is pretty close to my house (it’s in Broad Ripple), second, they mainly stock wines that are under $15 a bottle, and finally, the people who own it are really nice.  They have become good friends of ours actually, but we got to know them solely because of shopping in the store.  It isn’t some massive chain; it is literally a “mom and pop” operation. 
They pride themselves on carrying “non-grocery store” wines, and do a great job carrying lots of interesting things from all over the world.  Honestly, most of my favorite wines come from Europe, and they have a nice wide variety of European choices.  They have the wines divided up by different taste profiles (I find myself in the “citrus” section repeatedly) and often have special close outs that are less than $10.  Plus, if you buy 6 bottles, you get 5% off, and if you buy a case (I always do—you can never have too much wine, right?), you get 10% off.  They do also carry more expensive wines (they’re on the walls) if you are looking for a treat too.
I was actually just in there yesterday buying a case of wine and noticed they are celebrating their 5th anniversary this weekend and are having a party next door at Bark Tutor—free wine tasting of lots of things they carry in the shop (that’s right people, free wine!) and I was inspired to do this post. 
Don't forget to tell me what you think of this idea or recommend other local favorites of your own.

Here are the details on the tasting:
Saturday June 11th
@Bark Tutor (which is right next door to the shop)
2122 East 62nd Street
2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Cork and Cracker
2126 East 62nd Street
Indy   46220
317-722-WINE (9463)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Local Eatery & Pub- Revisit

I know it hasn't been that long since I last reviewed The Local, but the other night I really wanted to go to Pizzology for soft shell crabs, and I dragged hubby up to Carmel just after he had gotten off a plane.  The wait was too long for him (he was starving) and even the bar was full, so I remembered that the Local was close by, and we went there instead.  It was quite crowded as well, but we could at least sit at the bar and get a drink while we waited.  Also, since a lot of people hassled me over my last review of The Local, so I thought I should give it another try.
We started with the warm goat cheese appetizer ($9.50) which I quite enjoyed.  Seems like a lot of people have this on the menu, but they are almost always prepared the same way—surrounded by marinara.  Which is good too, but it is nice to see a little change of pace.  This one was the goat cheese with some olive oil and several cloves of roasted garlic—the mellow but rich garlic was a good combination with the slightly tangy goat cheese.  It was served with toasted bread that was crisp, but not burnt and soft enough to not hurt your teeth. 
After my recommendation from the last time I was there, hubby had the chicken fried pork tenderloin sandwich with their house cut fries ($9.50) and I tried the Portobello burger with fries ($9.50).  Several people had recommended the Portobello burger to me after my first review, and it was good.  It was a whole grilled Portobello mushroom cap with Havarti cheese, red onions, lettuce, tomato and their house sauce.  This is the same sauce that is on the tenderloin.  The mushroom was marinated and was tender and flavorful and went well with the cheese and the house sauce which I think was mayo, mustard and maybe horseradish.  The sauce kicked up the toppings just the right amount.  The bun was nice and soft—my only complaint being that the bottom bun was quite thin, and because mushrooms hold a lot of water, the bottom bun was pretty soggy. I turned it upside down and ate it that way to keep it all together.  But it tasted good.  The fries have a fresh potato flavor, but they were still a little cold to me, and thus, a bit soft.
Hubby agreed with my past sentiments about the tenderloin and also thought it was good—he was not a huge fan of the house sauce on the sandwich though because he thought it was a little too overpowering for the sandwich.  The tenderloin itself is very tender inside though and nice and crunchy on the outside—the breading is fuller than most—more like a double fried piece of chicken (hence the name, “chicken fried” pork tenderloin sandwich I suppose).  He agreed with me about the fries and thought he might try the tater tots next time, just because they might stay crisper, even though they are not house made.
We also shared the “beignets” for dessert.  These were pretty good, with a caramelly dipping sauce, but according to hubby and his New Orleans experience, they were not really beignets.  They were more like donut sticks—denser through the middle than traditional beignets, and certainly larger.  They were also covered with cinnamon sugar quite thickly.  Traditionally I think beignets are lightly fried and dusted with powdered sugar.  But, although they weren’t really what we were expecting, they were hot and fresh and tasted good dipped in the warm caramel sauce.
You certainly have to appreciate the fact that they are using a lot of local ingredients and products (hubby enjoyed his cocktail made with Indiana vodka) and that they are doing something independent in this area where so much is chains.  The interior is a little gray for me, and quite bare, but in general the staff is friendly (if not a bit crazed).  The place was packed, and I can see how it offers a good alternative if this is your side of town.
The Local Eatery & Pub
14655 Gray Road
Westfield, IN

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