Thursday, June 28, 2012

Alibi's Grill

Always looking for good places to take the kids, thanks to a recommendation from twitter, and since it has been on my list for years I think, we decided to finally give Alibi’s a try.  It always seemed more like a bar to me, but they have made it a family friendly pub, and while it was mainly adults, there were a few kids in there besides for ours.  They were having trivia night also which was kind of fun to listen in on—even my son enjoyed some of the questions.

Anyway, I was intrigued by the fact that while it is your standard bar food kind of place, they claim that 90% of the food is made in-house and that they use local ingredients as much as possible.  It’s a big menu though, and we frankly weren’t sure what to get.  Our server was pretty honest and steered us away from certain things (Italian beef) and directed us toward a few others.  We ended up getting the chicken ranch bacon club sandwich ($8.99) and a small pizza with mushrooms and red onions (around $12).

The sandwich was the superior item and you know, it was pretty good.  I don’t know, maybe I just don’t get that excited by a chicken sandwich or something, but as far as they go, this is certainly one of the better ones.  The chicken breast is hand breaded and fried and was really very tender and juicy which is always the challenge with this kind of sandwich.  It was topped with Swiss cheese, several strips of bacon and housemade ranch dressing (according to their menu, they make all their dressings in house).  The bacon was a little soft, but had good flavor—you could really taste it even with everything else going on and the ranch and cheese added a good amount of gooiness so that it wasn’t dry at all.  We also got onion rings on the side for any up charge and they were not bad, although they could have stood to be a little hotter.  And I am guessing they are part of the 10% of things not being made in house.  They were the batter-type though with a decent flavor.

The menu also says the pizza crust is all homemade as is the sauce.  We got the extra thin crust and I liked that it was nice and crispy—not soggy at all.  There was nothing about it that I had any real problem with—there just wasn’t anything that made me get overly enthused either. I guess I was hoping for a little more flavor from the crust, but it seemed like most of the flavor of this pie came from the cheese which was just kind of boring.  Also, I am not sure why no pizza place ever puts a decent amount of mushrooms on a pizza (what, because they are so expensive or something? Give me a break), but this one was no different.  There were ample red onions, although $1.50 per topping seemed a bit much for two veggie toppings.

It is definitely a neighborhood place, and I can see why people would frequent it over similar chains.  Not only is it local, but the food is certainly better than those places.  People were pleasant, although the service was a little slow.  Our server had way too many tables to really give everyone good service.  Anyway, I would of course love to know if you all have been here and had something you really like in case we decide to try it again.

7381 North Shadeland Avenue
Indy 46250
Alibi's on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 25, 2012

Naked Tchopstix

I don’t know if it was because it had been so hot or what, but lately I am craving sushi.  And we needed somewhere that had a wide enough menu to make the kids happy too (meaning, they have not developed their true love of sushi.  Yet.)  A friend of mine really likes Naked Tchopstix so we thought we would give it a try.  

They certainly meet the criteria of a large menu—our server came back like 4 times before we were ready to order—and even then I didn’t feel like I had enough time to really read through everything.  They have a lot of sushi and Japanese food, but they also have a lot of other things—Korean, Thai, Chinese etc.  Everything from soups to noodles to rice dishes. 

We settled on trying their tuna tartare ($9.99) because in many places it is one of my favorite things, so I always want to try it somewhere else.  This one was different from most in that it was more like the tuna mix that is used in rolls that list “spicy tuna” as an ingredient.  It is more of a finely chopped mix of the tuna mixed with spicy mayo—it isn’t the large raw pieces of Ahi that are my favorite thing.  So it was this “spicy tuna” mix combined with mango and tobiko (fish eggs) with deep fried wontons on the side to eat them with.  There seemed to be a sweet sauce on top as well. This one wasn’t for me—I guess I like either a soy based sauce or an acid based sauce with something like this.  And something about just scooping up the prepared tuna made me think of canned tuna fish.  I don’t mind it inside a roll as much along with other ingredients, but just eating it straight up like this seemed strange. Hubby liked it better than I did.

We also got two rolls. Again, we were having a hard time deciding because there are a lot of choices.  I like there to be some contrasting flavors in a roll—something with some crunch or texture as well as something creamy (either the fish or the sauce). I am also always partial to a roll that includes avocado.  The first one that grabbed my eye was the corona roll ($10.99). It included avocado, more of the spicy tuna (I didn’t realize they were going to have the same ingredients), and tempura chips and was topped with white tuna and lime.  It had a light wasabi mayo sauce as well.  I really liked this.  It had a nice citrusy flavor and wasn’t overly sweet.  I personally like a crunch from something tempura in my roll and the little chips did the trick.  The white tuna was pretty tender.  I like the flavor from the lime on top, but ended up picking most of them off because I just don’t like chewing on the skin of the lime slice, even when it is really thinly sliced.  This roll was the best thing we had.

The other roll was the Tokyo roll ($12.99) which had eel, avocado and crab inside and tuna and spicy mayo on the outside as well as various flavors of roe. It normally comes with cucumber inside as well, but cucumber isn’t our favorite thing in sushi, so we had them leave it out.  That is probably not a good idea because it probably gives it the extra crunch that the roll needed.  It was good, but nothing that I would crave again.  The ingredients were good, and the tuna on the outside was nice and fresh, but it just didn’t wow me for anything.  The corona roll was much more memorable.

We also shared a small order of frites ($4.99) with the kids, which seemed like a weird thing to get at a place like this, but they wanted them, so we tried them.  They are pretty good—the really thin kind that were nice and hot and crispy.  They served them with 4 different sauces—all things that I think they are using in their other food items—a teriyaki type sauce, a sweet chili oil, a spicy mayo and a wasabi mayo.  Honestly, none of the sauces were really necessary—the frites were fine on their own.  I am guessing these are on the menu for the late night Broad Ripple bar scene.  But the kids liked them.  The kids split a chicken teriyaki dinner ($11.99) which they were fine with but my daughter informed me the all white meat was “a little dry.” I had one quick bite and would say she was right about that.

All in all, I would say this is a good place to go to meet a sushi craving, even though there are other places that I like better.  They do have a nice wide-ranging menu though to appeal to many different tastes.  So what have other people had non-sushi wise that they really like? Or do you have a favorite roll there?

Naked Tchopstix
6253 N. College Ave.
Indy 46220
317/252-5555 (why do restaurants not put prices on their websites?)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Nickel Plate

My Dad sent me a message the other day telling me how much he liked the tenderloin at Nickel Plate, and so have several of you, so I figured I would give it a try.  This was the place that we walked into for lunch at the same time a group of people were all leaving complaining about a lot of stuff, particularly that the beer wasn’t cold.  Probably not a good sign, but we continued on because that is my duty right?

Anyway, the kids were happy to sit outside and they have a decent-sized area outside although it is very close to the road and a little noisy. Our server was prompt and brought us our drinks. I have to say, hubby’s beer was in fact not very cold. He was annoyed enough that he reminded me to mention it here, so there you go.  The kids both ordered burgers ($4.49 each with cheese), and hubby and I split the tenderloin sandwich ($7.99) and the fish and chips ($7.99), which seems to be our standard in a place like this. I don’t know, easy to compare and judge the differences I guess.

I also had a house salad to start (actually subbed it for the fries in the fish and chips for $2).  It was your standard salad with a lot of shredded cheese on top.  I got the blue cheese dressing and it was pretty good, but not one that stuck out in my mind for any reason.  I wanted a little salad and it met my needs. It was mainly iceberg, but had the crunch I wanted. Honestly I didn’t need all the cheese on top, but my kids liked it.

So the best thing on the table that day was definitely the tenderloin sandwich.  The bun was good and soft, and not too big (although toasted would have been nice) and the tenderloin met the desired qualifications—it wasn’t too thin or too dry, but the breading for me wasn’t my favorite of the ones I have had.  It was more, well, bready I guess than some.  I liked that they gave you really thinly sliced red onions to put on top and included the mayo on the side.  It was a good sandwich.  Was it the best I have had? No. I would put it squarely in the middle of the pack, but worth ordering.

As for the fish fillets, they didn’t fare as well I am afraid. I am not sure what it was, but the fish just really had very little flavor. Unfortunately it was also kind of dry—I think the breading was the same as what was on the pork but without any moisture or flavor in the protein, it just wasn’t working for us. We left quite a bit of it.  I did like the rather chunky tartar sauce served alongside and I am not always a fan of tartar sauces.  It seemed homemade and had some heft to it.

The kids were happy with their burgers, and the baked beans are now my daughter’s favorite. So naturally, they want to go back even though it wouldn’t be at the top of my list.  Oh well, my Dad loved it too so maybe they can go with Grandma and Grandpa.

Nickel Plate
8654 E. 116th Street
Fishers, IN 46038

Nickel Plate Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 18, 2012

Room Four - Revisit

Wow. As you can probably tell, we go out to eat a lot, and while I have a lot of good meals, I am still always excited when I have one that really makes me repeatedly say things like “this is sooooo good” throughout the entire meal.  Anyway, this meal was one of those. And makes me regret not going here more. It was a random Wednesday and we ended up with a sitter—I had seen the Room Four menu earlier in the day and had thought that it sounded good so off we went (some days certainly sound better than others).  We were seated right away, although the place was probably 2/3 full and people continued to come in the whole time we were there.

I ended up getting a starter that wasn’t actually on the online menu-- so sometimes there are additional or slightly different variations of things once you get there.  My starter was a salad of thinly sliced prosciutto, fennel, and green apple on top of a blue cheese mousse and topped with crumbled pistachios ($10).  There also seemed to be a very light vinaigrette on top as well.  This salad was superb. Seriously—definitely one for the mental bank to try and re-create at home.  On the bottom of the plate was a fairly thick blue cheese cream that was topped with the little mounds of prosciutto, several slices of tart apple and lots of the fennel. I was worried the fennel might be overpowering, but it wasn’t. It was all light and crisp and went really well with the meaty softness of the meat and cheese.  The pistachios also gave it a nice teeny bit of crunch. (Side note though, I was surprised to see them since they weren’t listed on the menu—and as a mom of a kid with some severe nut allergies, these things stick out to me).  It was really, really good though. A bunch of ingredients that I probably wouldn’t have thought to put together, but which I will be in the future (with something else to replace the nuts).

Hubby had the rabbit rillette ($12) which was also really, really good.  It was basically like a light pate made from rabbit—and served on top of the perfect pickled carrot mustard—I like some mustard with things like this to cut the fattiness, but sometimes it can be too sharp.  This was perfect--and without the pickled carrot flavor it wouldn’t have been as good.  There were also hearty sunflower shoots on the side that gave a nice crunch with everything else.  The thinly sliced sourdough bread that was toasted and buttered was great too. We only wished for another piece or two.  We had a hard time deciding which appetizer we liked better, but honestly they were the perfect two things to split.

For my main, I had the fried pork tenderloin tonkatsu over soba noodles ($16).  I absolutely loved this dish.  It was thinly cut, breaded and fried pork tenderloin that was sliced across a bowl of noodles that were slightly cold.  There was a ton of flavor in the noodles from the ginger scallion sauce—lots of small bits of ginger and scallions in there and maybe a bit of heat from some jalapeno?  The pork was perfectly tender and the breading also added some nice, slightly salty, flavor.  Hubby really liked it too, and honestly I had a hard time sharing it.  We ate every single bite.  If this was a dish available regularly somewhere, it would be one of those dishes that I would crave and buy a lot.  Fairly simple, but perfectly executed.

Hubby got the both the tacos of the day ($6 each). The first one was a chicken version with avocado, arugula and chipotle salsa.  The other one was with black olive picadillo, roasted poblanos, queso fresco, and cilantro cream.  We both really liked the chicken version—and I have to admit I kind of like the gooey more “fancy” tacos quite a bit that you get at places like this and H2O.  All that cream and stuff may not be totally authentic, but it sure is tasty.  The chicken was super tender and the salsa gave it just a kick of heat.  Not too much, but enough you could feel it.  Honestly, neither one of us was as big of fan of the other one—there was something strange about the consistency of the filling for us.  It was even spicier than the chicken one—although I did like the cilantro cream which I have had before on other tacos at Room 4.  The taco menu changes daily but they almost always have some flavors—I look forward to trying some of the other flavors.

We were on such a food high, we went ahead and got dessert because we pretty much knew it would be good because it is usually the only offering at Room 4 and it has always been good.  The candy bar cookies ($5) are basically big gooey chocolate chip cookies with bits of random candy bars in them. Pretty sure there was some Kit Kat in ours.  They serve them with some whipped cream dusted with chocolate.  If you like warm, gooey, chocolate chip cookies, you are going to like these. (And really, who doesn’t?)

All in all this was up there as one of the best Indy meals I have had in awhile and is going to remind me to think of Room 4 more often when we are going out.

Room Four
4907 North College Ave
Indy  46205

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Canal Bistro - Revisit

The other day hubby and I wanted to go out to eat somewhere for lunch where we could sit outside. We wanted something good to eat, to not be right on a super busy road AND to have a drink with our lunch.  A lot to ask I know.  We settled on Canal Bistro.  We hadn’t been there together in a long time and it was the perfect day to sit along the canal.

We were having a pretty big dinner that night so we didn’t want to eat too much. We had the Mediterranean pizza ($11) and the spinach pie ($6) to share.  I have had the pizza before and I really quite like it.  It is basically a pita that is topped with kalamata olives, red onions, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, lots of herbs and feta and baked so that it is crisp on the bottom and everything on top is warm.  It is a fairly simple idea, but with great flavors from the olives and artichokes and crunch from the onions.  This one had maybe just a little too much cheese, which made it dominate the other things maybe just a little too much, but all in all, this is something I really enjoy. Particularly with a glass of wine.

The spinach pie (or spanikopita) was great.  I have had it before and didn’t remember liking it as much as I did this time (but spanikopita in general is one of my favorite things at Greek restaurants).  Basically they are little triangles of phyllo dough wrapped around a filling of feta and spinach.  What made this one so great was how wonderfully crispy the phyllo was without being burned at all.  It was perfectly browned all over.  Honestly, it was almost like it was quickly deep fried, it was so evenly crispy (usually this dish is baked, and is often not so uniformly browned and crisp).  I also love the little salad underneath of pickled red onions, olives and parsley (as well as a little chunk of fresh feta).  A little bit of the salty, tangy flavors from this with each bite of the pie was perfect.  I would get this again in a minute.  It has everything that makes me crave something—crunch, saltiness, tanginess, smooth cheese and the savory flavor from the spinach. Makes me want to go pick up an order right now actually.

Anyway, a great place to grab lunch—and I could order off the appetizer menu for days.  But what do you guys like here? Maybe next time I will delve deeper into the menu.

Canal Bistro
6349 N. Guilford Ave
Indy 46220
Canal Bistro Mediterranean Grille on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 11, 2012

Late Harvest Kitchen

This technically isn’t my first visit to Late Harvest, but I have held off writing about it til now because the first visit was so close to their opening date, I felt it wasn’t fair to review it so soon. I will tell you, I wasn’t overly impressed with that first visit, other than I loved the feel of the place.  This visit started out with being seated in a far back room which seemed a little strange in a nearly completely empty restaurant, but when we left, we saw pretty much the entire rest of the restaurant was full with a private party eating non-menu items, so then it made more sense. And I have to say, the back room at Late Harvest is kind of nice because it has big windows looking out onto decent greenery.

The menu has a decent variety of items on it, but I noticed that a lot of items had not changed (much anyway) since our first visit.  We decided to get different things in order to give it a completely fair shake.  We started with the caviar pie ($16) and the brandade ($10); both things that I think have been on the menu since the restaurant opened.  When our server set the brandade down, I was a little worried—it looked sort of dry. But it was really quite good.  The bread served alongside was soft but toasty, and the brandade (which is a spread made with salt cod and various other ingredients, depending on the recipe).  I have had it made several ways in many places, but this one was very good.  Even though it was on the dry side in some ways, the fish itself was very tender and wasn’t overly fishy.  We enjoyed this one quite a bit. 

The caviar pie is a really great idea but, which to us, had one major problem.  Basically, this is a “pie” made with chopped boiled egg as the “crust,” a layer of what we were told was sour cream and cream cheese, and then topped with various types of caviar.  Alongside was a garnish of chopped red onion, more egg and capers.  Sounds great.  So here was the problem for us—when I think of sour cream and cream cheese, I think of a savory, slightly tart flavor.  This was noticeably sweet. I had to ask the server to tell me again what was in it to make sure I wasn’t remembering the ingredients wrong.  It was almost like it was made with whipped cream or something.  That part bothered us both.  Hubby was also annoyed that the toasted baguette pieces served alongside weren’t particularly toasty.  We both ended up mainly using the bread from the brandade which was much better.   If it was truly savory, I would have really enjoyed this, but as it was, we ended up eating around most of the creamy part. Maybe it’s just me—maybe other people like this flavor combo better.

For our main course, we shared several items. We had the halibut, which is a main course ($28), the beef carpaccio which is an appetizer ($12), and the asparagus ($8) and the potatoes Minneapolis ($9), which are both sides.  The halibut was outstanding.  The fish (which was a very large portion) was nice and crisp on the bottom but tender and juicy.  It was served with melted leeks (you can almost always get me with these) and chunks of pancetta on top (not going to hurt either).  But the key was the fish was cooked really well.
The other really great thing that we had was the asparagus.  It was also a generous potion, cooked exactly right—tender but with a little give.  It was served on top of a Hollandaise sauce that was nice because it wasn’t overly gooey and rich.  And there was a great sunny side up egg on top.  I know this is a dish that is very popular right now, but this is one of the best versions I have had in recent memory.

The carpaccio was also pretty good—the beef was tender and properly thin, and had many of my favorite accompaniments—more boiled egg, capers and sliced shallots.  There were some nice light, but crisp French fries on top that had a nice amount of salt to go with the beef.  What I missed was just a little bit of dressing and/or mustard or something just to give it a little bit of extra moisture and/or pizzazz.  It was fine, but not great.
The potatoes Minneapolis were also pretty good—they were basically fresh hash browns that were topped with large chunks of bacon and sour cream.  You can’t really go wrong with that combination—the only thing I would change is the amount of crispiness on the potatoes.  There was a lot of potato in the middle that didn’t have any crispy to go with it.
One of the best things going at Late Harvest, and the one high point of our first meal, was the sticky toffee pudding we had for dessert both times ($8).  We fell in love with sticky toffee pudding in England and it is hard to find it this well done in the U.S.  It is basically a very dense moist cake covered in a toffee glaze and topped with whipped cream (and it is served warm).  This one is great. The cake is super moist and the whipped cream-- just light enough to not be too much. A must order.
All in all, we were fairly happy with this meal.   If it had been our first meal, I think we would have, on balance, been pleased.  We were both glad we ventured back in.  I am really curious though about what everyone else thinks, since we have had such differing experiences.

Late Harvest Kitchen
8605 River Crossing
Indy 46240

Late Harvest Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 7, 2012

City Café - Revisit

The BFF and I had been trying to plan a trip to City Café for quite some time. She had wanted to give it a try since she read my first review of it awhile back.  And she ordered the tenderloin (as in, beef) sandwich that I had that first time and loved it just as well as I did the first time. That sandwich is really good.  But, because I am a dedicated blogger, I ordered something different this time (hubby would tell you that once we discover something really good, I never let him eat it again because I always have to get something new, but I would say that isn’t exactly true.)

Anyway, I had the BLT wrap ($7.00) mainly because it featured Smoking Goose bacon which I have a thing for.  It also had chopped tomato and romaine lettuce, avocado and chipotle aioli. I am particular about wraps and will only order them in certain places now because they usually suck, but this one was pretty good.  (In theory I like wraps because they aren’t as bready, but usually they aren’t very well seasoned either and on the whole contain too much lettuce).  The main ingredient in this one was the bacon which was a mighty good thing because that bacon is so good—it is Applewood smoked and they cooked it perfectly.  Tomatoes aren’t really that good yet unfortunately and they didn’t have a lot of taste. I liked the aioli, although I decided I wanted a little more on the wrap, which they kindly brought.  Also great for dipping the housemade potato chips. The avocado was perfect and ripe (in my opinion, you can’t really have too much unless it isn’t ripe)

This is a great little lunch spot. I wish it was near me so I could try everything. But I am pretty sure the next time I am going back to that beef tenderloin sandwich. One of the best steak sandwiches ever.
City Café
443 North Pennsylvania Street
Indy 46204

City Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 4, 2012

One World Market

At Castleton the other day because I had to be, and trying to figure out a place to eat lunch that a) wasn’t a chain and b) didn’t suck. I threw it up on twitter and I have to say, you guys came through for me big time with some really good ideas. Sushi sounded good though, so I decided to try the One World Asian market which also does sushi and other Japanese dishes. 

I liked the whole “build your own roll thing” and decided to go with that ($10.55 for a roll with soy paper, one fish, two veg-type ingredients and a sauce—tempura crispies free). So I chose tuna, avocado, and tempura asparagus in soy paper with some crunchies and some spicy mayo on the side. It included a cup of miso soup as well. I also got a tempura shrimp on the side ($1.50). I liked that you could just order several things like this a la carte—I wish more places did this. It gave me the chance to try something else. 

So, as for the roll, it was fine. The asparagus was quite tasty actually—still warm from being freshly fried. The thing I didn’t like about the roll though was its size—the circumference of the pieces was about the same size as the bottom of a soda can. Ok, I know I complain about this issue a lot, but who can eat that in one bite? Or maybe you aren’t supposed to—but when you have to take 2 bites for each piece (which I did), you don’t get all the ingredients in each bite which is a bummer. The tuna was a little mushy too—not sure how else to explain it. I only used a little of the spicy mayo—it was your classic spicy mayo. Anyway, I guess I like my rolls a little smaller in size so you can just pop them into your mouth without fighting with it. 

The soup that came alongside was your classic miso soup with seaweed and lots of hunks of tofu (my favorite part). The shrimp tempura was crazy fried. The fried part on the outside was as thick as the shrimp was wide. Honestly, it was fresh and really crunchy, but it was almost hard to taste the shrimp for all the fried stuff. 

The thing I probably most liked about this place was how nice and welcoming the staff was—all greeting you when you walked it. The place is really a food market with a little corner of seating, so the atmosphere is minimal, and sort of school cafeteria in feel. But in Castleton, with so many chains, it was nice to support a local place with such a friendly staff. And I got some of my favorite Japanese gum afterwards. 

One World Market 
8466 Castleton Corner Drive 
Indy 46250