Monday, February 27, 2012

Petite Chou - Revisit

I’m back on the fried chicken thing ever since those wings from First Wok the other day.  After having several conversations about the duck fat fried chicken from Petite Chou (in Broad Ripple only) with several people, I finally figured out a Wednesday night, with babysitting to try it (they only do it on Wednesdays).  There were four of us, and we all wanted it—we mentioned it to the server right away, which is advisable because it takes about 30 minutes to cook.  Get your order in, and in the meantime, order a starter and enjoy your drinks.  Also, I am pretty sure they only do so many, so it is a good idea to order before they run out. I am pretty sure the table next to us didn’t get any because they had already run out (us getting 4 orders probably didn’t help.)
To start though, hubby and I shared the wild mushroom duxelles ($6.95).  Friends of mine (including the ones we were with) had had a version of this before and really liked it.  The version they offered on this night though was different from what other people had told me about. This was more like a dip/spread of mushrooms and cream with a sprinkle of fresh parsley on top (it also said that it included shallots and wine).  Unfortunately, it suffered fairly significantly from under seasoning.  We all grabbed for the salt and pepper.  It definitely needed salt and I had an overwhelming desire to squeeze lemon over it to brighten it up.  It was just too one-dimensional of richness.  And I love mushrooms.  We also shared an order of the duck fat frites ($4.95) between the four of us, and these had a great flavor (who doesn’t love duck fat flavor) and they were good and salty.  Putting some of the mushroom stuff on top helped the flavor of the mushrooms a lot by amping up the salt. Pretty sure the duck fat didn’t hurt there either.  The fries on their own were unfortunately a little soft and wimpy.  The flavor was good, the crispiness was not.  I really like their aioli though—nice and garlicky.  There was also a Dijon/mayo blend that was good.  When you’re giving me fancy fries, I like a fancy sauce. I appreciate they weren’t giving us ketchup.  I also really enjoy the bread service at Petite Chou.  Crusty bread slices with nice soft, salty butter. My favorite.
Ok, on to the main reason for our dinner, the duck fat fried chicken ($17.00).  So with this dinner, you get two pieces of chicken (a breast and a leg), mashed potatoes, and a side of green beans.  Hubby was a little sad right away because he’s a thigh man (and he really likes wings as well). We were sort of wondering what happens to all the wings and thighs, but guessed they must just order these particular parts for this meal.  Anyway, as for the chicken, it was really quite good.  And really very HOT! You had to give it a good few minutes to cool down before you could safely take a bite.  But the first thing I noticed when I finally did bite into it was that it had FLAVOR! So many well known fried chicken places in this town know how to fry a tender bird, but seem perplexed by the idea of actually seasoning it before they fry it.  There was some good seasoning in the coating here, as well as the richness that just inherently comes from something being fried in duck fat.  And the outside was super crispy and delicious.  My one complaint is that the breast meat was just a bit dry. The potatoes were served under the chicken and were good with it—nice and buttery.  The green beans were fresh green beans (not those grey-ish canned things) served with diced tomatoes.  They were pretty tasty too (although I’ll admit I didn’t eat much of them, too focused on the bird).
So I enjoyed the fried chicken and would go back for it easily.  I think I would try a different starter next time (I know I would), unless it was more the way it had been described to me before (whole sautéed mushrooms with seasoning).  But there are several lovely sounding salads, and I know Patachou can do a good salad, so that might be a good start next time.  All in all, it was a very successful fried chicken excursion, and worth a trip if you have a strange fried chicken fetish like I do.
Petite Chou
823 Westfield Blvd
Indy 46220

Thursday, February 23, 2012

U.S. Adventures: Vegas, Baby! (Part 2)

English: The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas SignImage via Wikipedia
And...the first part of a post of which I have already posted the second part. Enjoy....

Some people go to Las Vegas for gambling, some go for the shows (and apparently some go for the very short skirts). Me, I go for the food.  And to meet up with a very dear friend who I met when I lived in San Francisco, and who remains one of my closest friends. She needed to get away, I was tired of everyone telling me about how great the food is in Vegas, so it seemed perfect.   She was happy to let me plan every meal and accompany me as my date.
Upon my arrival the first night, it was dinner time in Vegas (even though it was like 10:00 p.m. Indy time) and I was excited to start our marathon of food!  I quickly checked in to the room and went down to have dinner at Jaleo, one of the restaurants in our hotel, The Cosmopolitan.  Jaleo is a restaurant from Chef José Andrés, and is a Spanish tapas restaurant.  We caught up, drank (too much) and enjoyed some food.  Honestly, the food highlight was probably our simplest dish, which was toasted bread with a fresh, light tomato spread and white anchovies ($10) with some Jamon Iberico ($15) and Manchego ($9) alongside. I loved the tomato spread.  We also had the Ensaladilla rusa con atun en conserva (a salad type dish of conserved tuna, potatoes and egg ($9) and a Brussels sprouts salad with Serrano ($10).  But truly, the real highlight of this meal was the girl talk.  It is a fun lively restaurant, but nothing food-wise totally wowed me.

The Cosmopolitan
3708 Las Vegas Blvd., South
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Our lunch the next day we ended up at China Poblano, which is another venture of Chef Andrés, and also in the Cosmopolitan.  I really enjoyed this one.  I liked the seemingly completely incongruous menu of Chinese and Mexican small plates.  The flavors in the dishes were flashy and I really liked everything.  We had several tacos, my favorite probably being the carnitas taco ($4.50) with a little avocado and fried pork rinds on top, although the fried fish taco has an amazing, and quite hot, salsa verde hiding under the fish.  And there were chipotle pickled red onions across the top. We also had a lengua taco (tongue) ($4.00) and scallop ceviche ($12.00).  The ceviche was fun—little scallops stacked on top of a seasoned lime half which you popped in your mouth together to squeeze the juice out of with your teeth.  My favorite of the Chinese items was probably the “dancing eggplant” ($9.88) which was a lightly fried whole Chinese eggplant (you know, the ones that are more long and skinny) which was served in a teriyaki/soy thick smoky sauce with black garlic, and had wispy flakes of bonito laying all over the top, and any slight breeze (just from the airflow in the room) made them dance.  Not only was it visually beautiful, but it was delicious.  We also had some lovely pork belly/shrimp dumplings ($12.88). For dessert, there was a dish called “Giggling Buddha taking a bath” that involved blood orange sorbet and because of the name, I just had to try it.  It was really cute.  There was pomegranate gelee (fancy name for jello) shaped like a Buddha head, belly and feet swimming in a bowl of "tequila air" and bubbles and with scoops of blood orange sorbet.  It was fun, and refreshing (and I love blood orange).

China Poblano
The Cosmopolitan
3708 Las Vegas Blvd., South
Las Vegas, NV 89109

China Poblano (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

Dinner that evening was Raku, which was a place my friend was really excited about.  This is a really interesting place—it is not a restaurant on the strip. It is a few miles off the strip in what is essentially Vegas’ Chinatown.  It was really cool just to experience another part of Vegas, a more local side.  Anyway, it is a Japanese robota (charcoal) grill restaurant and one of the first things you notice about it is the extreme soothing and well-thought out décor.  The walls and table are all warm woods, and even the containers of sauces on the table were beautiful.  Don’t even get me started on the bathroom, where there is grass with stepping stones and a tree with birds that are singing and rose petals artfully arranged on the floor.  I would go back just for this.  But the food was a piece of art in itself as well.  Again, it is a small plates shared style of eating, which suits me just fine.  One of the food highlights was the agedashi tofu ($10) which is their own housemade tofu that is somehow very lightly fried on the outside edge and served in a lovely broth with teeny little mushrooms.  When you break the tofu with your spoon, it is like the richest creamiest custard you can imagine.  There was salmon roe on top that popped in your mouth with each bite. My friend could not get over this dish. She said she would eat it every day for the rest of her life if she could. The charcoal grilled items we had were buttery scallops ($7.00 each) and Kobe beef skirt skewers ($7.50 each) with crispy garlic.  Both were good, but the Kobe beef was better.  Slightly chewy from the fat content, but still wonderfully seasoned and perfectly bite sized and the garlic was a nice crispy counterpoint. Crunchy asparagus spears were a good side dish to get a little bit of vegetables but with crunchy bread crumbs fried on the outside.  Yellowtail carpaccio ($12) was buttery and served with just the right, slightly spicy, thick soy based sauce and teeny dabs of wasabi and chili paste. Finally, one of the more interesting dishes was the crispy pig ear ($3).  Having had pigs’ ears before, but where the pieces were really thin and deeply fried and crunchy, these were different.  They were crisply fried on the outside, but left in thicker pieces (but still bite sized).  They were slightly chewy from the cartilage of the ear, but not so much that it was unpleasant.  The only downside about this place is that they serve bluefin tuna on their menu which is highly endangered.  I really wish they didn’t, but I thought I would put it out there for your information.  This place is quite small, and quite popular, so make a reservation if you go.

Aburiya Raku
5030 S. Spring Mountain Road, #2
Las Vegas, NV 89146

Raku on Urbanspoon

It was an amazing whirlwind trip to Vegas, and a perfect getaway.  You really can just plan a long weekend around food with a little bit of this and that in between. Can't wait to go again--so many more places to try! 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, February 20, 2012

Room 4--Revisit

Recently, I had the opportunity to take advantage of Recess/Room 4’s special lunch hours during Super Bowl week.  Even though technically, by the time you read this, you won’t be able to take advantage of it yourself, since they were just offering their normal Room 4 fare, I figured it was game for a post (even though we were actually sitting in Recess) because you can always go to Room 4 and get some similar types of stuff. 
I was with the BFF and we both started with the “hangover chicken soup” ($11) which was perfect for me because I felt like I was getting just a touch of a cold, and the spicy rich broth was exactly what I needed.  The soup was loaded with pieces of seasoned, tender chicken and a ton of veggies—celery, carrots, onions, jalapenos, tomatoes and zucchini.  There was a nice little garnish of cilantro on top. The veggies were tender, but not tasteless mush, like so often happens in soup.  But seriously, the thing about this soup was the well-seasoned broth.  It had so much flavor, a nice amount of heat, tasted good, and seriously helped out the sinuses. I also liked the lime wedge alongside to add to the freshness from the cilantro.
The grilled fish tacos ($16) were great.  I think this was the first time I have had monkfish in a taco, and it was really nice. The fish was grilled, and very slightly charred on the edges, but the fish was really tender and I love the way monkfish has such a sweet taste.  But my favorite part about these tacos was all the flavor from all the toppings. There was mashed avocado, a tangy cabbage mix with lime and fresh sliced jalapeno.  They were topped with a seasoned crema, which had a little spice, but still gave you the creamy coolness that made the whole thing a perfect combo.  I had just a little taste of my friend’s carnitas as well, and it had a nice meaty taste (had cotija cheese and salsa on top) but if I were going back and had the same choice, pretty sure I’d be going with those fish tacos. They were bright and delicious.  There was also a black bean salad along with the tacos, and while it was good, I enjoyed the tacos (and soup) so much, I didn't have much room for it.
I was glad to hear that several of our Super Bowl celebrity guests got up to Recess to try the food here.  It was good to see a few of them venturing outside of the chain-zone downtown.  I am looking forward to a return visit soon for dinner.
Room 4
4907 North College Ave
Indy  46205

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Eggshell Bistro

If you read my blog regularly, you know I have a thing for eggs. Put a runny egg on top of just about anything, and it gets better.  So of course I was instantly intrigued when I heard about Eggshell Bistro, where just about every item on the menu features eggs.  When I couldn’t get one of my male friends to meet me there because it was, ahem, “too girly,” I convinced my parents to join me. 
The interior is quite cute, and I have to say, possibly a little girly (think “shabby chic”).  Lots of antiques and cute little wrought iron tables (my one gripe being that in our particular case, the chairs seemed too short for the table and you felt like you needed a cushion to sit on).  The tables for two can also be quite small, but as it turns out, the dishes are on the petite side as well, so it probably all works out.
I ordered the truffled egg brioche  which was a fairly thick slice of brioche bread (a slightly more eggy, buttery bread) with a slice of Fontina cheese melted across the top, a very soft poached egg, sprinkles of asparagus and a bit of truffle salt I believe (could have been truffle oil).  It was a nice light lunch, not for someone looking for a large meal, but the type of midday meal that I quite enjoy.  The egg was certainly not overcooked, which I appreciated, although it actually may have been just a little undercooked even for me—the white was still just a wee bit too runny (not that I didn’t eat every bite, being a woman who will eat a raw egg without blinking an eye).  But still, when you want a poached egg, you have a certain expectation.  The flavor of the dish was very good though, all the flavors complimenting each other.  The asparagus gave it a little crunch and earthy flavor.
I also had a side of Smoking Goose applewood smoked bacon with my dish though, and I have to say, it really made my meal.  Alone the egg dish was nice, but with the bacon, I was very happy.  That bacon is superb, and they cooked it perfectly.  My Mom said something like, “how do they make this bacon taste like bacon used to taste?”  It was so good.  You must get some of this (or one of the other Smoking Goose meats—I have heard the lamb bacon is amazing too, although I have yet to have it) alongside whatever you order.  Just make sure you get enough, my parents kept trying to eat mine.
The menu is somewhat small—a few egg dishes, salads and sandwiches, but I have no problem with that.  They are focusing on what they want to do and doing it pretty well.  I also like that they are utilizing very fresh, and often local, ingredients.  My only other complaint is that it took quite awhile to get our food after we had ordered.  I would be a little worried if the place was really full that there might be quite a long delay. 
So is it a manly place?  Um, probably not.  Were there men in there? Yep, at just about every table.  If you want a giant, greasy, hangover-curing breakfast, this isn’t your place.  If you want a lighter, thoughtful breakfast or lunch with some wonderful ingredients, give it a try. And tell me what you think.
Eggshell Bistro
51 West Carmel City Drive
Carmel, IN  46032

Eggshell Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Libertine-Revisit

So, if you have been following me lately, you know I am a fan of The Libertine.  I have been excited to see they have been pretty well fully booked with reservations a couple of times when I have tried to make a reservation lately (so happy they are taking reservations now). It makes me happy to see a place I really like be successful, even if it means I can’t go that night. 
But the other night, we did get a table reserved and went in to try out the latest menu.  We started with the artichoke fritters ($8) and the famer’s cheese and olive tapenade crostini ($10).  Both were good, but the artichoke fritters were our clear winner of the two.  There were 5 little crispy fried balls that were chock full of artichoke and artichoke flavor.  There was a distinct lemon flavor as well and a wonderful cilantro aioli to dip in.  We really liked these, to the point we had to cut the last one in half to make sure we were exactly even (often hubby eats more than I do).  This was something I don’t think you would want to split between more than 2 people.  If I only got one of them, I would have been very, very sad.
The crostini was also good, but is something that I actually could have handled a little less of—it would be a good thing to split with a larger group.  It was toasted bread slices with substantial dollops of olive tapenade and the cheese scattered around.  It was topped with blood orange oil and fried capers.  I enjoyed several pieces, but there was something sharp, almost bitter (the blood orange oil perhaps) that made me only want to eat a few, and not lick the plate clean.  I loved the fried capers though—that was a nice touch to add some crispness to all the soft toppings, as well as more saltiness.
For our main dishes, we shared the one-eyed jack ($8) and the chicken thigh confit ($16).  If you read my first review of the Libertine, you know I love the one-eyed jack, which is bread cooked in fat with an egg cooked into the middle of the bread.  There is roasted garlic on top (which we had to exactly evenly divvy up as well) and fig butter on the side.  This was once again, executed perfectly. I only use a teeny bit of the fig butter, because I think too much of the sweetness detracts a little, but I love this dish.
The chicken thigh confit was something I have wanted to try since I saw it on the menu.  It is nice pieces of dark meat chicken (no bones) served with celery root hash and a little bacon for flavor as well as a nice handful of fresh parsley on top.  I liked it quite a bit, but a few of the pieces of chicken had some tough edges—the celery root hash and the divine rich dark stock in the bowl were my favorite part of the dish actually.  And this is exactly why I like the Libertine so much, the dishes are thought out with several different ingredients but that work as a team. They aren’t putting a piece of chicken on your plate with a side of potatoes and some wilty veg. 
I also like that even though they  have changed the menu format somewhat from the opening to reflect a more traditional menu style (there are starters, small plates and large plates), you can still do what we did and mix it up and share what is basically a combination of smaller things. We did also get a dessert this time, which was their chocolate ricotta pie in a jar and was quite tasty—it was like a slightly lighter cheesecake .  There was a bit of a crust on the bottom and the chocolate layer and then a creamy top layer.  I liked it a lot.  It wasn’t overkill on the chocolate and it wasn’t ridiculously large, but still enough to share.
It’s obvious I like this place, and will continue to look forward to future meals there.
The Libertine
38 East Washington Street
Indy 46205

Saturday, February 11, 2012

U.S. Adventures - Las Vegas (Part 1)

Vegas from the Air
Ok, so I totally screwed up and accidentally posted this earlier today, but when it was only half finished and edited, which put it out on lots of people’s readers, so I am just going to re-post it properly today and post what was actually the first half of my recent trip to Vegas on another day, and this, which was the second half of the trip, today. Clear as mud? Good. (I just hate having a half finished thing floating out there).

So recently, I got to go to Las Vegas with a close girlfriend from California (more on that in my next post).  And for our last lunch in Vegas, I had chosen RM Seafood just to get something different, and to visit some other casinos, so we headed to Mandalay Bay, which turned out to be much further than it looked to walk.  (The Strip seems to do that—you can see that resort, it looks so close!).  But as soon as we settled in, we noticed that our server Cliff was exceedingly helpful and knowledgeable about the menu and the wine.  He was mellow, but extremely enthusiastic about food, and the restaurant in general.  We chatted with him quite a bit about various options and decided to share a couple of things (as usual).  We shared a lobster roll ($27) and tuna poke ($20).  The lobster roll was completely lovely.  Served in a wonderfully buttery, crunchy but light rolls, the inside had mainly lobster and was seasoned with celery, fennel and instead of your usual mayo, they were using crème fraiche which gave it a wonderfully tangy, creamy richness that made it seem more “Vegas.”  Our server had recommended we trade out the chips that usually came alongside and get the fries that are tossed with herbs.  He was totally right about that.  The fries were wonderfully crisp and salty and a nice balance to the creamy sandwich. And it was cut into 2 nice sized halves, making it extremely easy to share.

The poke is cubes of raw tuna (they have an extensive sushi menu as well) that are seasoned with soy, and served in a sort of salad with lots of crunchy shreds of veg-- green onions, red onions, radish and some microgreens.  This was nice and light and refreshing.  I really enjoyed it as well.  Around this point, the manager came over to chat with us for awhile (they weren’t very busy, it was Sunday) and he was also exceptionally friendly.  As we talked more (and they both gave us lists of restaurants to try as well as their contact information if we had questions) we discovered that the manager (Chris) was also the Chef Rick Moonen’s son.  It explained why he was so interested in customer satisfaction—I mean he was great at his job.  So as we were talking, and he was explaining how the restaurants started as a seafood place, but has so much wonderful beef as well, I told him about how I had read somewhere about the beef tartare and how wonderful it was (but it wasn’t on the lunch menu).  He and our waiter agreed and then he disappeared only to return with a special (and complimentary) little taste of the tartare.  I was amazed at the customer service.  While I found nearly everyone in every restaurant very friendly, helpful and professional, this restaurant was the clear winner in the service experience.  And really, the food was just as good.  Everything was perfectly prepared and presented.  And yes, the beef tartare was perfect.  Smooth and rich with capers, cornichons, mustard, crispy onions and even a couple of slices of black truffle on top.  And this was just a little sample, an amuse bouche ending, as it were.  I can only imagine an entire order, which I hear is served normally with those lovely fries…. Oh well, next time.  And if you go, be sure and ask for Cliff to be your waiter. This place has got it down, both food-wise and service-wise.

Tartare dessert

RM Seafood
Mandalay Bay
3950 Las Vegas Blvd., South
Las Vegas, NV  89119

Our last dinner was L’Atelier de Joel Robouchon.  Hubby had just been recently on a business trip and wouldn’t stop talking about it, so I thought I needed to go and see what all the fuss was about.  It is a completely open kitchen, and the majority of the seating are bright red bar stools around the kitchen.  There are a few tables (maybe 6-8?)  but I think it was more fun to sit at the bar.  Although, if there were more than 2 of you, you may want to ask for a table because I think it would be hard to talk amongst yourselves.  So they have a large, small and larger plates-type a la carte menu as well as two different tasting menus.  We went with the smaller 6 course “club” menu (7 really if you include the amuse bouche) at $97 per person.  Ok, these are fancy French items with many layers and ingredients and I shall endeavor to remember them all as well as possible, but just keep in mind, it is hard to remember all the nuances, with so many things going on in the dishes. The amuse bouche was a foie gras parfait with a port wine reduction and parmesan foam.  Wow, this was amazing.  You dipped your little spoon deep down to get some of the custardy foie flavor and came back not only with it, but the port and cheese flavors as well.  Amazingly rich and decadent. 

The first official course was mussels and mimolette veloute with croutons.  So, it was an intensely rich, but not thick, soup with several whole juicy mussels at the bottom. There were dots of red pepper on top and some little crunch saffron croutons alongside.  The saffron flavor with the mussels was perfect.  Although, my friend and I decided we needed even more to soak up all the drops of the soup, and also used large hunks of bread from the wonderful bread basket (that puff pastry roll was divine.)

The next course was the one I was looking forward to the most I think after talking to hubby.  It was a langoustine, which is sort of like a teeny tiny lobster, but so much better.  The meat of the langoustine was wrapped in a light pastry wrapper with a couple of basil leaves inside and fried just crispy.  The thing about langoustines is they are so sweet and don’t seem to have the tendency to get overcooked the way shrimp and lobster so often do (not that you would likely have that problem at L’Atelier).  There was a little basil sauce (they called it pesto, but to me it was more like the pure essence of basil with maybe just a touch of oil) and a teeny little salad of baby green on the side that was dressed with a lovely acidic dressing that was a perfect balance of the sweet shellfish.  I saw a regular a la carte order come out of the kitchen and it had three of the fritters.  Hmmmm….next time perhaps.

The main course was a choice of beef cheeks or John Dory.  I went with the John Dory and it was lovely as well. Two small pieces of fish that are cooked on the hibachi right in front of you.  Each piece of fish was topped with chopped tomatoes and capers and served alongside was the most amazing buttery Napa cabbage. It was so tender and buttery, you sort of forgot it was a vegetable.  And of course, you get the side of the famous “Robouchon potatoes” which are whipped potatoes which are basically made in a ratio of one part potato to one part butter. True story.  And delicious.

A lovelysmall cheese plate was next (and you know that always makes me happy). There were three nice pieces. An Epoisses, a creamy goat cheese, and a third I can’t remember.  It was simply served with just some slices of bread, and I would have loved just little fruit or jam, but the cheeses were perfectly a temperature, which seems to be something that very few places pull off.

Lastly there was a dessert course, which was a choice of a selection of tarts or a selection of ice creams and sorbets.  We got one of each to share.  Honestly, I thought dessert was the weakest part of the meal, although it was fun to try all the different things.  My favorite tart was one that involved caramel, chocolate and big salty peanuts.  The two best sorbets were the raspberry and the pear.  Both tasted of the pure essence of the fruit which is what I enjoy in a sorbet. 

L’Atelier is an interesting place though.  You would have to be an intensely disciplined to make that kind of food all night in front of your customers I would think.  And there’s no yelling and cursing like I sort of imagine a lot of kitchens are like.  And watching one of the staff pick celery leaves with tweezers and place them around a fancy dish is an experience.  The Chef would make an appearance frequently and mutter lowly about things, rarely smiling.  A very serious man for sure.  In fact at one point when my friend and I were sort of laughing about some random thing, he sort of turned and glared a little.  Eventually we had a chance to speak with him for a moment and tell him how delighted we were with the food and he seemed to soften a bit.  But it made the meal memorable for sure, as if the food wasn’t enough.

MGM Grand
3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (MGM Grand) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 9, 2012

First Wok

On the recommendation of a friend, I stopped in to First Wok on the way home from downtown. I needed something fast and on the way home, and it fit the bill.  Plus it was new (to me), which always makes me happy.  Also on my friend’s recommendation, I got the chicken wings ($3.45) and a spring roll ($1.20)—and on my own I got some hot and sour soup ($1.85) because a girl cannot live on fried food alone, right?  It’s totally a little hole in the wall kind of place, only a couple of tables inside--it is mostly a carry out place.

I was a little hesitant about the wings. I don’t know that I have ever ordered wings at a Chinese place, but am always willing to give something a try.  He was right—they were really big, whole wings (not the sad little things you get at so many bars) and they were fried in tasty, crunchy batter.  Basically, just some really nice fried chicken.  There were 4 in an order which was pretty generous given the price and their size I thought.  And I was even kind enough to let hubby eat one of them.  He pretty much has been asking for them since.  Every time I say, “what should we get for dinner from out?” he is suggesting First Wok just so he can get some wings.

The spring roll was just ok I thought, it was hot and crunchy, but there was some flavor inside it that kind of bugged me—not sure what it was--maybe some certain spice. It was a little sweet almost.  The soup was squarely in the middle of hot and sours I have had. It wasn’t totally thick and gloppy like some are, and it had a decent flavor, although not so much heat.  Lots of the usual things in there—tofu, mushrooms, egg, and bamboo shoots.  I liked that they gave you a little bag of fried wonton chip to go with it (nothing like a little more fried right?)-- I like the crunchiness in my soup.
So, this wasn’t so much a meal as it was a random collection of items to snack on, but the wings are totally worth ordering, and I think it is now the closest fried chicken place to my house, even if it is a Chinese restaurant.  And I am inspired to try a few other items as well.  Anyone else ever been there?
First Wok
6219 Allisonville Road
Indy 46220

First Wok on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 6, 2012

King Ribs

Hubby got in the mood for barbecue again (this happens every so often at our house).  It is one of the rare categories of restaurants that he seems to have an overwhelming desire to try all of, so I am always willing to indulge. I am not sure why he was so geared up for King Ribs other than I think he likes the fact that it is in an old car wash. Hubby is a car guy.
Anyway, they just do a carry out thing at King Ribs, so we got online and picked out what we wanted. We got the rib dinner (on Sundays it is on special for $7.78 with two sides), some barbecue chicken (half chicken is $4.50) and pulled chicken (1 pound is around $10, but not sure because it isn’t really on the menu).  (We wanted the pulled pork, but apparently they were out).  We had sides of mac and cheese,  potato salad and baked beans.
Here’s the thing. It wasn’t very good. I feel like I say this a lot about barbecue, but honestly I have had some good stuff, and this wasn’t it.  The best thing was the half chicken, the meat was not completely dried out and the skin tasted pretty good. But the thing about all of it (and you can tell from the pictures), is that it was completely drenched in the sauce, and the sauce was thin and runny and not the way I like barbecue sauce.  It almost seemed like a thin tomato sauce or something.  It didn’t have any smoky flavor or and depth at all. We did get the mild, and if I were getting it again, I would certainly get the hot (we got mild because the kids were eating it). 
The pulled chicken was dry, and again, just soaked in the sauce.  There was a lot of it though.  The ribs were actually the worst thing I think—they were the big spare rib type ribs, which don’t tend to be our favorite anyway, but these were exceptionally dry.  Literally, I think we each ate one, and then gave up completely.  It was sort of a bummer you couldn’t taste more smoke in the meat too—when you drive by you always see those big smokers going outside which has always intrigued me.
The sides were actually not bad.  Not amazing or anything, but better than a lot I have had around town.  The mac and cheese was probably my favorite.  It was made with real cheese, and it had some of those crisp edge bits in it which are my favorite part.  My next favorite was probably the potato salad—it had mustard in it and some peppers and pickles maybe?  It was at least something to balance the meat, which is what I like in my barbecue sides.  The baked beans were pretty standard, although they had some hunks of pork in them.
All in all I would give this place a pass, I have certainly had better barbecued meat elsewhere.  I am still on a quest for a place that can do it all well, although maybe that is just a pipe dream.
King Ribs BBQ
4130 N. Keystone Ave
Indy 46205

King Ribs Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Super Bowl Restaurant Guide for Indianapolis

Hey Super Bowl fans! If you found me, you probably want to know where to eat in Indianapolis, so here’s the skinny on our local food scene (at least my version anyway).  I would personally be devastated if you come all the way to Indy only to eat at mediocre chains (and trust me, it wouldn’t be hard). Local friends, help me (and our visitors) out and add your additional suggestions in the comments.  Obviously, there are other good places, these are just a few of my favorites.  For the restaurants’ websites with information about location, etc., click on their names below.
Downtown Restaurants 

One Eyed Jack-The Libertine
The Libertine:  This place is a bar with amazing food.  It is small, so if you want to go, you better book it right this very second. (Since it’s a bar, no kids). They are going to be open for lunch throughout the Super weekend as well. Do it, you won’t be sad. My review is here.

R Bistro: This is fine, local dining at its best. Local chef, local ingredients, ever changing menu, cool spot on Massachusetts Avenue.  You want a nice place for dinner, this is your place (not overly formal though). One of my reviews here. (There are more if you look).
Goose the Market: Where to begin? Goose is an amazing place to grab a sandwich for lunch or groceries or have a drink and a snack in the evening downstairs in the enoteca.  Their “Batali” was mentioned by Bon Appetit in an article featuring the best sandwich shops in the country.  And trust me, you will be a happy camper with that sandwich (or any of their other daily specials). Check out my latest review here.
Siam Square: Want something a little different?  Really great Thai food located in one of my favorite downtown neighborhoods, Fountain Square.  It’s hip, and not overly expensive. Love their noodles.  Here’s my reviews. Speaking of which, other charmers in Fountain Square include Mama Irma (Peruvian) and Naisa (Chinese).
Shrimp Po Boy at Mesh
Mesh:  Technically, it is part of a local restaurant group, but Mesh offers up some quality, familiar food at reasonable prices right on Mass Ave, which is a great place to shop, eat and drink.  You can get steaks, sandwiches and pasta dishes along with good drinks in a relaxed, but polished atmosphere. You can check out my posts about Mesh here.
Ball & Biscuit: B&B is another really cool place that while it is mainly a bar, offers great small plates from Indy chef Brad Gates.  If you want a great (non-smoking) bar to enjoy some retro cocktails and some medium sized nosh, check them out.  Or go have a drink after dinner. You will love this place.

St. Elmo: Want a steak?  This is our local Indy legend.  Again, good luck getting in if you don’t already have a reservation, but give it a try if red meat is what you want.  You might get lucky.  And according to locals, you have to try the shrimp cocktail (although, I have to say honestly I am not a huge fan of the insanity-horseradish thing, but that’s just me, apparently.) And here’s my review. If you can’t get in, give Harry & Izzy’s a try—it’s St. Elmo’s more modern little sister (or brother) and you can check them out here.
Sensu: If you want a hip, night clubby feel (this place turns into a night club later in the evening) and good Asian fusion food, Sensu is a good option.  This is also a good place to go if you are looking for a little privacy, as it is dark and has several private-ish booths. We had a very nice meal there and it has been on our list to return to ever since.  Read my full review here.

Ceviche- Black Market
Black Market:  Indy’s gastropub.  Also located in the Mass Ave area, Black Market is one of Indy’s newer restaurants and serves hearty comfort food but with a gourmet twist.   Also a bar though, so don’t bring the kids.
Downtown Lunch
Several of the above restaurants are open for lunch and several are going to be specially open for the Super Bowl weekend, so you can check them out as an option. But if you are looking for a more causal place for lunch (and in some cases dinner as well), here are some of my favorite downtown lunch spots.
City Market: Indy’s City Market has undergone a great transformation over the last few years and now features mainly local foodservice vendors.  This is an amazing place to grab lunch, conveniently located right downtown.  You can get local pizza, Greek food, homemade soups and pastries, Mexican food, French crepes, soft pretzels, ice cream, po boys, and food from one of my favorite local chefs, Brad Gates.  I have done a few reviews of a couple of the places and you can check them out here.
Hoaglin to Go: Back on Mass Ave, if you are looking for a great breakfast or lunch, check out Hoaglin to Go.  It’s a little place with amazing fresh made items like quiche, pancakes, egg dishes and my personal favorite, their egg salad.  I also hear they have a killer grilled cheese. Here’s my review.
Tacos at La Parada
La Parada: In the mood for some cheap Mexican food that is really, really good?  This is a gem of a place where you can get a ton of food for just a few bucks and think, “wow, that was an awesome taco.”  Try the ceviche too. Delicious.  Warning, it’s a bit of a dive, but a charming dive. See what I ordered in my recent post. (Since they don’t have a website, their address is 1638 East New York Street, Indianapolis 46210 and their phone is 317/917-0095).
Workingman’s Friend: This may possibly be the best burger in Indianapolis.  It is an old bar, but on any given day you will see every type of person from blue collar workers to businesspeople in here enjoying a fantastic burger (oh, and get the onion rings, skip the fries).  Here’s my review. (Again, no website, but they are located at 234 N. Belmont Avenue in Indy and their phone number is 317/636-2067).

City Café: This place is a little gem hidden away downtown.  Everything is homemade and the ingredients are top notch. Best steak sandwich I have ever had. Tip: Normally, they are not open on Sundays and are only open for breakfast and lunch, but a little birdie (ha, twitter, get it?) told me they will be serving dinner over Super Bowl weekend as well.  Here’s my review.
Outside of Downtown
If you are willing to venture a little outside of downtown, we have some amazing restaurants in various locations.
Broad Ripple
Just north of downtown is the Broad Ripple area (probably a 10-15minute drive from downtown).  Hit any of these places and you will have a happy belly.

H2O-Tuna Tartare

H2O Sushi:  This is one of my all around favorite restaurants. And don’t let the name fool you. While they do serve spectacular sushi, my favorite things are the daily specials listed down the middle of their menu.  Wonderful noodle dishes and great tacos.  The chefs like to mix it up here, with various Asian influences as well as fun twists on food from other cultures too.  I love this place (read more here).  If you want to check it out, my advice is make a reservation.
Goat Cheese Quesadilla-Room 4
Recess/Room 4: One of Indy’s most prized restaurants is run by local chef Greg Hardesty.  With a new daily menu that is set, you may try some things you wouldn’t normally try, and you will enjoy them all. The focus is on fresh, local ingredients.  If you want to dine at Recess, you need a reservation for sure.  But if you just want to stop in, give Room 4 a try.  Room 4 is the sister restaurant of Recess which is located in the same space, but is more casual, fun, and very approachable a la carte menu. Check out posts on both here. Tip: Both will be open for lunch during Super Bowl week, which is not normally the case.
Taste Café & Marketplace: My favorite lunch spot in the City.  Great for breakfast too (and a tip, they serve dinner a couple of nights a week too).  Favorite item here by far: the BALT sandwich (bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato).  They add dressing to the lettuce and an herby aioli to the bread. Best sandwich ever.  And don’t forget a side of their fabulous frites with basil aioli dip.  A perfect lunch. Read more about it here.
Mussels & Frites- Brugge
Brugge:  A local favorite for mussels and frites and house brewed beer.  Their fries may just be the best in town and with a choice of about a dozen dipping sauces, it’s hard to decide (I like blue cheese, regular garlic aioli and the Sherry vinegar and salt). Check out my review. Open for lunch too!

Pizza- Thr3e Wisemen

Thr3e Wise Men: Currently, Thr3e Wisemen is making one of my favorite pizzas in the City—fresh dough, crispy crust and a great savory tomato sauce.  It’s a straightforward menu with pizzas, sandwiches and salads and they brew their own beer.  Lots of TVs to watch all the coverage. Here’s what I said about it on my last visit. (Also, the same owner has several restaurants throughout the state, including one downtown called Scotty’s Brewhouse.  If you are looking for bar grub, it is a decent local option). Open for lunch and dinner.

Patachou/Napolese:  This is a local group of restaurants where you can enjoy a great breakfast or lunch.  Basic food, but extremeley fresh and high quality ingredients. Good egg dishes, really nice salads. Napolese is their own Neopolitan pizza restaurant that is quite charming as well.  Petite Chou is their French bistro version. I have done reviews of nearly all their concepts in my blog as well if you want further information. And they do have downtown locations.
Pizzology: Up in Carmel (about 30 minutes from downtown), there’s a great local pizza place owned by the same people who own The Libertine downtown.  It is Neopolitan-style pizza cooked in a wood fired oven.  Great salads and pastas too. Tip:  try the fritters. Delicious.  They don’t take reservations so if you don’t mind a potential wait, you should be able to get a table here. Here’s my latest post.
Squealers: my current top choice for barbeque in Indy (although the quest is ongoing).  Great ribs and those fried biscuits…well, they are things dreams are made of…Here’s my post on them.

Oakley’s Bistro:  About 25 minutes drive from downtown, Oakley’s is a great slightly higher end dining option using seasonal ingredients and a seasonally changing menu.  There’s a little something for everyone here. Here’s my latest review.


Papa Roux: A little bit of New Orleans in Indy.  I personally love the shrimp po boy, but Indy people may tell you to get the pork po boy (also available in the City Market downtown). And here's my review.
Brozinni’s: Ok, really this is my favorite pizza, but sadly, I don’t live close enough to have gotten to go more than a few times.  Huge, delicious New York style slices and amazing garlic knuckles.  If you are on the Southside, this is a must. Check out my post here.
Indiana Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
Ok, you may or may not be aware that the sort of "unofficial sandwich of Indiana" is the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich.  We’re talking a piece of pork tenderloin that is pounded, sometimes very thin and sometimes not, breaded or battered and deep fried.  You will see them everywhere, seriously, but clearly some are better than others.  Here’s a few I can recommend (I have to admit I am relying on friends for a little bit of help on this one, as I haven’t yet sampled every pork tenderloin in town).  The top three are my personal choices and are reviewed in my blog.  The others are from trusted friends.  Also, there is another local person who does an entire blog called “All Tenderloins, All The time” just about tenderloins if you really want to hear about A LOT of different places.

Muldoon's Tenderloin

Muldoon’s:  In an Irish themed bar in Carmel (about 35 minutes north of downtown).
 111 West Main Street, Suite 100
Carmel, IN 46032

Pawn Shop Tenderloin
Pawn Shop: in a somewhat smoky bar about 15-20 minutes from downtown.
2222 East 54th Street
Indianapolis, IN  46262

Chatham Tap: good version I picked mainly because they have a downtown location (no kids downtown though). Also a location in Fishers, about 35 minutes northeast of downtown.
719 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204

8211 East 116th Street
Fishers, IN  46038

Steer-In: This place was featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, and I have been told has a great tenderloin.
5130 East 10th Street
Indianapolis, IN

Sahm’s: Several people have mentioned Sahm’s has a great tenderloin, and they have several locations including one downtown.
433 North Capitol (check out their website for all their locations around Indy)
Indianapolis, IN

Jimmy B’s : in a little strip mall north about 25-30 minutes from downtown
10598 North College Ave
Indianapolis, IN  46280


Finally, Indy has quite a thriving craft beer loving population and there are some great places to drink quality beer (much of it brewed locally) downtown and in Broad Ripple (as well as other places).  This is not my area of expertise for sure, but I know a lot of people love their beer, so I wanted to give you a good place to look to find out the best places to drink.  Check out the Hoosier Beer Geek blog, particularly this page which gives you the run down on different areas and places to check out.  Cheers!

I would love to hear feedback from out of towners about places they visit and their overall Indy experience! And don’t hesitate to email me personally for any other specific recommendations at