I am very proud to share with you this article that I was asked to write for PBS Food regarding our Indy food scene and the Superbowl!
I hope you enjoy it!
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Monday, January 30, 2012
Some friends of mine recently challenged me on twitter about my lack of pho love and suggested I try Long Thanh to get some that I might like. I was kind of surprised that they liked this place so much because it is really super close to my house and I have never eaten there. I will admit, I went in once shortly after we moved here, and picked up a menu, but just never went back. Since then, they have classed the place up a bit with some décor (I remember it being just pretty much white all over and kind of divey) and some tablecloths. Also, the lady who waited on me both times (one of the husband/wife owners I believe) was really nice and when I came the second time remembered me and asked me if I wanted the same drink.
So I met my friends for lunch shortly after their recommendation to see if they were right. Although, on this first trip, I didn’t order the pho. Just being difficult I guess, but I haven’t found pho in Indy that I really like yet, so I wanted to try something else first and get an idea if I liked the place before I moved on to something that I am obviously kind of picky about. I had a Vietnamese spring roll (you know, the non-fried kind)($2.75 for 2) and the “grilled shrimp noodle”(#54)($6.95). So, I have to admit, those non-fried spring rolls don’t usually really get me going unless they are wrapped really tight and are small and easy to eat. And it helps if there is a fair amount of meat in them (I like to be able to see several shrimp). This one was more like a salad roll with mostly (fresh) greens—lettuce and herbs. There was a little meat in it, but not much. And it was kind of fat and messy and not my favorite thing. They were served with a thick, plum sauce with peanuts on top to dip in though which helped a bit.
I really liked the noodles and shrimp dish though—it was a bowl filled with lettuce and bean sprouts and topped with hot rice noodles, and sautéed shrimp and green onions. There were some crushed peanuts on top as well as some shredded carrots. I really like rice noodles in general—they are lighter and don’t feel so filling and the combo of the nicely cooked shrimp with some noodles and some crunchy veggies from the bottom of the bowl was good. It was served with a light, slightly sweet sauce (with a bit of chili paste and garlic it) that I enjoyed dunking my noodles into. So they were right, I was liking this place.
So the next challenge was to go back and get the pho and see how it went. I met a friend again (different one this time) and we started with the Vietnamese pancake ($6.95). I love these in general, and this one in particular. It was truly like a crepe, they way I like them, light and really thin but perfectly crispy on the edges. Folded inside were sprouts, sautéed onions, pork, shrimp, and with cilantro and romaine lettuce on the side and served with some of the same sauce I had above with my noodles. My only complaint, if I had one, is that the inside stuff was just a little oily, but not so much that it stopped us from eating ALL of it. And it is pretty generous in size. I would certainly get this again. I really really liked how crisp the outside was. Perfect.
So, I got the rare beef pho ($6.75). And guess what? I liked it. This is the first pho I have had in Indy where I felt like the dish really had some flavor. And the flavor comes from the broth—the noodles are the same rice noodles that I had had in the dish before and they are just a complement to the broth really. There are also some sautéed onions and green onions in the bowl as well as the very thin slices of beef. So, of course, there is no way the beef really stays rare in that steaming broth, but these pieces of beef were thin and tender and very good. I thought they were fairly plentiful as well as I kept making sure I got all of them. You are also served a fresh plate with bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, jalapeno slices and a juicy lime wedge. I did add some of all of this into the bowl, which more than anything added a wonderful aroma. I did not have to add any sauces to it, which I have had to do in the past at other places just to get a little flavor. The broth stood on its own and I can officially say I found a pho that I liked. Cheers to my friends who recommended it (and if you have a favorite pho location, please share!).
5707 East 71st Street
Thursday, January 19, 2012
We had a limited amount of time for lunch after getting hubby’s car serviced nearby and popped into Red Habanero because I had heard some good things about it and also because I heard it was taqueria style and so I assumed it would be fast. It is kind of an interesting place because they have very detailed menu items describing some of the menu items, but then when you order them, they sort of wait for you to tell them how you want it made. I appreciate that you can get it as you want, but just prepare yourself for that if you go.
I went with a lunch special combination of a taco and an enchilada which also came with rice ($7.99). You choose what fillings, etc. you want and I had a chicken enchilada with red sauce and a steak taco (they have 3 kinds of beef I believe—shredded, ground and the steak, which is like a carne asada). Interestingly, there is no pork on the menu at all (that I saw anyway). We also got some guacamole and chips ($2.99). The chips were fine, nothing really special there. The guac wasn’t bad; it definitely had more seasoning than others I have had recently, but nothing out of this world.
I really liked my steak taco though. I sort of ended up with a strange combination of things on it, because they normally put cheese, tomatoes and lettuce on them. I asked for no lettuce and to add some onions and cilantro. I also asked for some sour cream on the side (mainly for my enchilada) and he put it on top of my taco. But the taco ended up being my favorite thing. The beef is really good. Really, really flavorful. Oh, and I should mention the salsa bar where they have like 6-7 different types of salsas to try. I got the mild and the medium to start, and thought it was interesting—the mild actually had more flavor because it was just more seasoned with cilantro—it wasn’t spicy, but neither was the medium really. We ended up trying several of the others and enjoyed the tomatillo blend as well, which was more spicy but not too hot.
My enchilada was just ok. The chicken inside suffered from being too dry and there wasn’t anything else in there to help it out. The red sauce on top was good. I thought it had more heat than several of the salsas actually. I just had a quick bite of the rice because it was there, but nothing about it made me want to eat more (rarely does this happen with me and Mexican rice though).
Hubby had the cilantro-cream burrito ($6.99) which was your classic enormous taqueria burrito filled with chicken and a cilantro cream sauce as well as black beans, and rice and whatever else you wanted. He also had onions and cilantro. The burritos also come with chips on the side. I thought it had a pretty good flavor, but again, the chicken was dry—although with the sauce, it helped a lot and I certainly preferred it to my enchilada even though it was the same chicken.
So I can see how this place might be a go-to lunch place if you worked in the area. I think you could refine what is really good (I really liked the beef) and put together some good combos. It is pretty reasonably priced for a lot of food, if that is what you are looking for. Hubby ate most of his burrito and was moaning about it for several hours after. And they have hard alcohol—which seems a little out of place in this casual atmosphere, but if you want a margarita with your food, you can get one. Anyway, those of you who are Red Habanero fans, I would be interested to hear what you order that you really like.
4825 East 96th Street (and there is another location in Fishers)
Monday, January 16, 2012
Sapporo Japanese Steakhouse
It was Saturday. It was Castleton. The kids were hungry. We were screwed. We were looking for somewhere to eat (we promised them dinner out) and got shut out of a couple of places because we just wouldn’t wait forever. In desperation, I remembered there was another Japanese steakhouse nearby and I think I have mentioned that my kids love Benihana, so they would love it right? And we could get in without a reservation.
So we were going for the whole teppanyaki cook it at your table experience because my kids are big fans. And forgive me for comparing the whole experience to Benihana, but it is sort of unavoidable for me particularly since we have eaten there so many times. When you order dinner, you get the traditional clear soup with thinly sliced mushrooms and fried onions. I have to say this one had a little more flavor than others I have had. The salad was your typical iceberg lettuce with a ginger dressing. This was the type that was more mayo based and creamy and I prefer the purely gingery vinaigrette type as far as Japanese restaurant salads go.
I had the filet and shrimp combination ($26.95 includes soup, salad and shrimp app) and hubby had a combination of flounder and shrimp ($20.95). We always share in these kinds of meals. My son, the steak eater, also had filet (happy to see it as an option on the kid’s menu). My daughter had the shrimp. The kids both had the fried rice option as well. So they really liked the fried rice. I noticed they make it with a lot less veggies, no chicken, and a lot more sauces than at other places. It tasted okay to me, but it apparently really appealed to the kids. I did like that there were a lot more sautéed veggies offered with each meal—there were bean sprouts, broccoli, carrots, onions and zucchini and a lot of them. I appreciated this a bit more than the kids though.
Unfortunately after that, things went sort of south. Both the shrimp and the steaks were overcooked and lacking any real seasoning. My son, pointed it out quite loudly that in fact, his steak was not medium rare as he ordered it (my son declares everything very loudly—he really needs volume control). I don’t know, maybe the guy just does the meat that way regardless of how you order it, or maybe he was just having an off night. The shrimp were also a little tough. They don’t cut them up the same way they do at Benihana, which I think is a mistake because they are probably afraid of undercooking them, and went too far the other way. The flounder on hubby’s dish may have been one of the better things, it was cooked properly and was tender and I liked the flavoring they put on it while they were cooking it. I thought the fish was just a little bit fishy though.
All in all, it wasn’t a great experience food-wise, but I will say our chef was quite flashy and skilled with all the teppanyaki tricks. They do the big flames here, and he was tossing eggs all over the place. That part he had down anyway. The interior is tired though, other than the very cool koi ponds as you walk in (even with a little bridge across it—the kids were digging this). It pretty much looks like it was opened in the 80s and hasn’t been touched since. Oh well, at least we managed to find a non-chain restaurant in Castleton—that alone earns us a medal right?
6342 East 82nd Street
Thursday, January 12, 2012
A Few of My Favorite Places: Brad Gates Catering
I haven’t done a favorite places post in awhile, and I thought it would be a good fit to talk about Brad Gates Catering again. Brad has catered a couple of events for me in the last month or two and he is certainly my go to person for this kind of need. Most recently, he catered my birthday and did a great job. I’ll just tell you a couple of highlights, mainly because there was a lot of wine consumed on this particular night, and some of my recollections of particular details are somewhat foggy (also explains the lack of pictures). We had a smallish group, but Brad still provided us with lots of different small tastes to enjoy and the food was great.
I helped to choose the menu somewhat, but also let Brad come up with most of the ideas. There were a couple of things I have had before and a lot of new stuff. It was all good. Really good. One of the the things I loved was the chilied salmon nachos. They were chips with some nicely seasoned salmon, pico de gallo and avocado crème fraiche. They were easy to eat which meant I ate a lot of them. And I loved that most everything we had was finger food-ish so we all just sort of munched and hung out. We also had lamp chops Milanese that surprised me—I was a little skeptical because they were breaded and I worried they might be tough or overcooked. But they weren’t. They were super tender and perfectly medium rare. There was also a great pork wonton soup-- he did little individual spoons with a wonton in each. Those wontons were amazing. Such tender pork.
Anyway, if you are ever in the market for a caterer, I would heartily recommend Brad Gates. He also recently did the food for an anniversary party for my parents and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it as well (including me). The menu was completely different, and maybe slightly more traditional (per my request), but just as good. He is also a really nice guy whom you don’t mind having in your house for several hours (there are some I have met I would not say this about).
And, I wanted to get this posted because I just saw on facebook that Brad is continuing one of my personal favorite traditions—delivery Valentine’s Day dinners. He creates a menu and you can tell him how many dinners you want and it is delivered to your house in a cute basket. This is a perfect scenario for me because a) I hate going out on Valentine’s Day and b) I love Brad’s food. So check it out—last year’s pork shoulder was extremely memorable. It is a great way to get a great meal prepared for you by one of my favorite local chefs without having to have a party to cater. You can also check out his food locally at the Ball & Biscuit.
Brad Gates Catering & Events
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
4 Years and Counting...
So, 4 years ago today I started this blog. I have to say, friends ask me if I am burnt out on blogging and I can safely say, I am not. There are those days for sure, but in general, I actually think I like it now more than ever. It has become sort of like a job (a really crappily paid job, but at least I like it). I have met a lot of people I never would have met otherwise, and have made a lot of friends, some just online friends and some who have become very good real life friends. How cool is that? Certainly a perk I wasn’t expecting (or even thinking of) when I started this whole thing four years ago.
Some of you guys I feel like I know, even though I may only know you through recurring comments, emails or conversations with you on twitter. (I worry when I don’t hear from some of you for too long, is that weird?) But one thing I would like to say is how much I LOVE it, and you, when you take the time and make the effort to leave me a comment on the blog. I like having that record here so that everyone who reads it can read your comments too, even if they read the post 6 months later.
So, for me, I am asking a question of you--have you ever gone to a new restaurant solely based on one of my reviews? I would love to hear if you have and if so, where (and what did you think?). I want to hear about how my blog might have helped get people to try new places around town. And of course, feel free to leave any other comment you wish as well, and as always, keep all your recommendations coming! I seriously go to probably 80% of the places I choose based solely on reader recommendations. And any thoughts about ways to improve, etc. are welcome too.
Thanks for reading!
Monday, January 9, 2012
This one’s been on the list awhile. You know I love Fountain Square, and as the friend we were with commented as we drove towards Prospect Street, “now you really feel like you are in a city.” I agree—I love the way Fountain Square feels and I love the fact that nearly everything there is an independently owned restaurant or store. This is a gem of a neighborhood. AND the construction is just about totally finished, and you can even park!
Anyhow, we walked into Revolucion about 6:30 and there were some people at the bar, but the rest of the place was pretty empty. This is a place where you just find a place to sit and then go up to the bar to order. I knew this ahead of time from reading a few things about it, and so wasn’t a big deal for me, but might be confusing to some. We started with a margarita—they were o.k. In general, I really like margaritas (on the rocks with salt) but these were just a little too tart for me. Whatever mix they were using (it was in a big vat at the bar) wouldn’t have been the one I would have chosen, or maybe I just needed more alcohol in mine to smooth it out or something. They were offering $2 tequila shots—maybe I should have added one of those to my drink. I also can’t tell you how much the margarita was because it wasn’t listed on the menu, and I never saw an itemized receipt.
The started with chips and guacamole and salsa ($5.95). The chips were nice and salty, as I like them, and fairly thin. The guac was clearly homemade and was good. It was super chunky with avocado, which is how I like it, but if I were making it (and I like to), I would have added more seasoning. Onion, jalapeno, cilantro…. There were some obvious bits of tomato in there, and a little cilantro, but I didn’t see or taste much else. I would personally like it spiced up a bit. Or maybe offer it mild and spicy or something. With all that said, we licked the little container clean and would have eaten more. The chips and salsa were about $3 if I recall correctly. They list a choice of 3 salsas on the menu, but just had the regular red salsa to serve. It was just o.k.. a little watery. I would probably stick with the guac.
We also ordered the patatas bravas ($4.95) which were basically fried potato wedges (skin on) that were tossed in a somewhat spicy, chipotle chili sauce. I have had a similar version of these at several tapas places before, although usually they were more like chunks. These seem more like they found some decent foodservice fries and then tossed in their own sauce. Honestly though, they were kind of addicting. Especially the smaller ones that were a tad more crispy. I had a hard time not eating them. If they fried them all a little crispier, I would have a hard time not ordering them again.
So, now we moved on to the tacos. The menu here is pretty small, which I appreciate. Other than the few starters, they basically just offer tacos and burgers. I generally think this is a good thing and gives them a chance to hopefully really shine. We had the beef, the pork, and the shrimp. Meat and veg tacos are $5.95 for two and the seafood are $6.95 for two. And just an FYI, you can’t mix and match flavors. You get 2 of the same flavor per order.
When they brought them out, the nice man working in the kitchen also brought us out a large sampler of housemade hot sauces. When I saw his enthusiasm about the different sauces, I started to see there was some passion in these for sure. There was a green sauce that was half regular jalapeno and part pickled jalapeno that was my favorite (and likely the most mild, but still had great flavor). There were several others including a pink one that he gave with an extreme warning. He also advised us to try all the sauces on a chip first, so we didn’t ruin our tacos. That made me laugh. The tacos were all fine. I am trying to think if I had a clear favorite and I can’t honestly say that I did. The shrimp was seasoned nicely with lime and garlic and they were not overcooked. There was a bit of cabbage on top, and they were served with a mango salsa and lime. The beef had a nicely seasoned flavor and were served with a pico de gallo topping and lime. The pork was kind of interesting. It was almost more like eating a pulled pork taco then an al pastor taco, if you know what I mean. It was more shredded and heavily seasoned with what was almost more of a sauce than what you see on your typical pork taco. Like I said, they were all pretty good, but none of them really stood out to me for any particular reason. We did enjoy experimenting with the sauces.
The interior of the place is quite large, and is extremely clean. The service, such as it is, was fine (and I mean as far as going up to the bar and ordering). The drinks were made quickly and the food came out of the kitchen promptly. My favorite part was when they guy from the kitchen came out—it’s clear he enjoys his job.
So overall, we had a fun night with a friend, and it was fun to try everything. Would I personally make it a destination for dinner? No. If I wanted some kick ass tacos in this genre, I would head over to La Parada and get them for about half the price. If I were out in Fountain Square, maybe checking out a band at Radio Radio (love that place and I think it is owned by the same people who own Revolucion) and wanted something to eat, yep, I’d go again. I would probably stick with beer though. And I’d like to try the fish tacos as well. Also, I heard there’s a cool tiki bar in back, although it was cold when we were there and we didn’t check it out. And I am glad to see more and more things opening up in Fountain Square. I love that part of town.
1132 Prospect Street
They’re on facebook, although difficult to find a menu anywhere online
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Tomo is another really close restaurant to me that I have never been to—and recently has been recommended by a couple of people, so we thought we would check it out. The first thing I noticed was how well it was doing on a random Tuesday night—nice to see a small business like this with such good business. The other thing I noticed right away was the interior is pretty darn nice. I guess for a strip mall outside of Wal Mart, I didn’t have high hopes. But they have done a good job on the interior. There are a few teppanyaki tables (a la Benihana) and then a larger restaurant area with a full bar. We figured if we liked what we had, we may bring the kids back for the teppanyaki as Benihana is one of their favorite places.
The menu is quite large—the regular sushi type items as well as lots of other Japanese options (teriyaki, udon, etc) and even a few Thai dishes. Of course huge menus always worry me, but you never know. We started with an order of shrimp tempura ($6.95) for an appetizer (they have it as a dinner and an appetizer, we got the appetizer portion). It was pretty good actually. I always find it interesting to see how much tempura can vary from place to place, but their batter was very light and extremely crunchy. My favorite part was that along with the shrimp (there were 2), they served several veggies, as is usually the case, and they served broccoli as one as well as eggplant, which are two of my favorite things to be done in this style. I’m not sure why, but in San Francisco, they almost always offered both, and I got used to it—I get tired of the traditional squash and carrots you seem to see so many places here. The zucchini was also really good.
We almost didn’t order the tempura, because it didn’t seem that exciting, but I am glad we did because it was probably our favorite thing of the evening. We had some miso soup ($1.95) which was your standard miso soup, totally fine, nothing out of the ordinary. Then we had the beef tataki ($9.95). Normally I wouldn’t order beef in a Japanese restaurant (well a sushi place anyway), but because they did all the teppanyaki stuff, I knew they would turn over beef (and all of those tables were full while we were there). It was lightly seared on the edges, and sliced thin, served nearly raw (except for the sear on the edges)and cold. This dish was fine, but nothing about it made us really excited. The beef was pretty tender, but there were some pieces that were a little too fatty. The “chef’s special sauce” was a little overdone—the beef was really almost floating in it. It was soy based, with some sweetness to it as well. A little less of it would have been better. There were lots of chopped chives on top as well, which I liked for some texture. It is a very generous portion though.
Finally, we went with the sweetheart roll ($12.95) which was spicy tuna crunch on the inside (tuna mixed with little pieces of tempura bits) and then topped with fresh tuna, which was served in a cute way (it’s upside down because they put the heart facing hubby, go figure). The heart was actually made up of several sauces, which were good with the rolls, and kind of necessary, because the roll on its own wasn’t that exciting. But while I thought the whole thing was a creative presentation, I think I would have preferred the whole thing served as a regular roll with some sauce dressing it. The “spicy” tuna in the middle didn’t really have a lot of flavor and the first piece I ate had a large piece of tempura that was quite hard and made me think for a second I bit into something else. This roll would be a skip for me.
The service was good all night—not super friendly, but extremely efficient and they never let your water glass get more than 1/3 empty before they were refilling it. I also really really like the fruit flavored Japanese bubble gum they give you with your check. But then again I have a weakness for it. Honestly, it is possible I will go back just to get the gum.
Interestingly, the clientele (other than the teppanyaki grills which were dominated by families) on the night we were there was mainly made up of women—probably varying from their 20s to 40s. Not sure why this is, but I was facing the door and just kept watching group after group of women coming in.
We have quite a few good sushi places around us, and several that are better as far as my food experience has gone, but I did like the interior, and I would possibly be willing to go back to try some other things. Recommendations?
7411 North Keystone, Suite A
Monday, January 2, 2012
Hey, Southsiders! Look, I’m doing a southside post! I know, I don’t do that many, but it is a long drive for me after all. But vacation meant we had a little extra time so we decided to try Thai Spice finally. Every time I write about Thai food, several people always mention Thai Spice. But believe me, driving right by Brozinni’s was a test of my will power.
So the restaurant is set in what looks like an old bank, you know those ones that look sort of like schoolhouses or something? And the interior is pretty cute. They have spent some money on it and they have lots of cute glass lotus light fixtures. I liked them. (Check out my shot of the bathroom sink too.) I was a little annoyed that they sat another couple right next to us when there were many other tables available, but that’s just one of my pet peeves.
We were there at lunch, and they have a more limited menu, and each lunch came with soup, a fried spring roll and what I think was a little slice of fried banana with a honey sauce on top (all lunches are $7.80). I am thinking it was lemongrass soup—and there were bits of onion, cilantro, tomato and mushrooms in it, and a touch of chili oil, but honestly, it didn’t have a lot of flavor. Sometimes I really like the little freebie Thai soups and sometimes they are just ok, this one was just ok. The two fried items were pretty good, although not very hot, like maybe they make them up in batches and keep them warm. But a nice assortment of stuff to try before your meal.
Hubby and I shared a couple of things—his all time favorite, the Padd Seuw which is the wide Thai noodles stir fried with Chinese broccoli, bok choy and protein of your choice. He actually asked for pork, but got chicken, but it was still really really good. The chicken was tender and the dish had a great garlic flavor—a tiny bit of sweetness, a little acid, and some saltiness from soy as well. The rice noodles were fresh and so good—we both wished for more of them. I would get this again in a second.
The other dish we tried was the Padd Ped which was a rice dish with stir fried chicken (again, your choice of protein) with eggplant, green beans and basil and bamboo shoots in a red chili paste sauce. Neither one of us cared for this one. This was a new (and unfamiliar) dish for me (trying new things you know) and there was coconut milk in it, and I am not a big fan of coconut milk. If it had been listed, I wouldn’t have ordered it. Also, the eggplant was the little round green Thai eggplant and honestly, I am not sure I have ever had them before, but they were kind of hard as a rock. Not sure if they were just not cooked enough, but I did not care for them. Live and learn. We left most of this dish.
The service was very friendly and fairly fast, and I was impressed when the lady chased us to the door asking us if she could make us something else that we might like better. She was quite distressed that we didn’t like the Padd Ped. I thought that was nice. And honestly, if hubby weren’t in such a rush, I might have just taken her up on it. Of course, she could have just taken it off the bill, but I wouldn’t expect that just because I ordered something I didn’t really like.
Anyway, I can see why people like this place, and if it were nearby, I would certainly add it into my rotation.
2220 East County Line Rd
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