Monday, November 28, 2016

Road Trip: Breakfast/Brunch in Chicago: Publican and Little Goat

A couple of recent breakfast/brunch experiences in Chicago. Both superb.

First, hubby and I ate at the Publican for brunch on a recent trip. I had never been—it’s a big space with just lots of giant communal tables pretty much. We were seated at the end of one and fairly quickly ordered our food.

I ordered the red wine poached eggs ($13)—sort of Publican’s version of deconstructed eggs benedict. The eggs are cooked in red wine and have a great additional flavor coming from it. They are served on top of toasted sourdough and with a bunch of shaved prosciutto on the side, as well as some lightly dressed greens. There was also a béarnaise sauce topping the eggs. I sort of made bites combining bits of everything and it was really delicious. There was so much acid coming from lots of places (the béarnaise, the greens and even the eggs) and when combined with the protein of the pork and the egg, it was a great combo.

However, it was hard to say which was better between this and the pork schnitzel that hubby ordered ($15). It was perfectly tender and fried pork tenderloin, and huge, on the plate topped with an herby corn chimichurri type sauce. There were also two perfectly cooked sunnyside up eggs. We were both so undecided about them (as to which was the best), we gave up and just switched plates halfway through the meal. They seem to change up the toppings on the schnitzel seasonally, but I’m pretty sure you would be well served with whatever goes on top.

The other breakfast I had a few weeks ago when I went to Chicago with my friend Suzanne and my daughter to see Hamilton (go see it!!). Suzanne and I had both been to Little Goat before, but we both loved it, so it was an easy choice for a return visit. Plus I knew my teenage daughter would love it. I was right.

I had the okonomiyaki ($13), which they now describe as “kimchee & bacon & eggs & pancakes breakfast tasty thing” on the menu. They are right. It is super delicious. It is a savory Japanese pancake made with bacon and kim chee and some sort of flour and eggs and topped with a slightly spicy mayo and a poached egg. Oh and these little crispy fried tempura bits. Seriously, this thing was so freaking good. 

I was a worried because I knew Suzanne was ordering the parathas burrito ($13), which I have had before and know is really good. I was worried I’d be jealous. But I would say I would be hard pressed to choose which was better. I love the tangy kick from the burrito from the dressed salad of greens, pickled peppers, beans and avocado, but I also loved the pure richness of the pancake. Thank goodness she’s a sharer. Actually I am pretty sure on any return visits, I would insist on ordering for whomever I am with and getting both. This is a great balanced combo. And if you’re wondering about the rest of the burrito, it is an Indian flatbread filled with two sunny side eggs and sitting on a slightly spicy Indian red sauce.

We all shared a side of the hash browns too ($6), because I have had them and they are so yummy. I think they spiralize them or something—they are super thin and super crispy….and yes, stuffed with cheese, which is slightly genius. They add a nice side of crunch to everything else.

My daughter got the dark chocolate chip crunch pancakes ($12) that yes, come with a side of chocolate malt butter. Whoa, if you like sweets for breakfast, you certainly can’t go wrong with this either. Because of the dark chocolate chips, it was like biting into a softer warm chocolate chip cookie. There were also little crispy malty bits on top of the pancakes. Honestly I am not much for sweets in the morning, but I couldn’t stop taking bites of this. I highly recommend Little Goat for a hearty, but interesting breakfast (they do have some simpler items as well).

Both places are great, and both take reservations, which I love.

The Publican
837 West Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

The Little Goat
820 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60607

Monday, November 21, 2016

Rook - Revisit

Rook, you guys, is one of the most creative and tasty places we’ve got going around here. Hubby hadn’t been to the new location so we headed over there on one of those nights when it was still unseasonably warm and sat outside—they’ve done a nice job with the outside seating. Even though it’s pretty near the street, it feels a little calmer than many places.

We started out with the steamed pork bun ($5). A friend had insisted we get the Spam bun because she says it is amazing, but hubby couldn’t be swayed from the pure pork version. And it is really delicious. The soft doughy bun and the just right crispy pork belly with no too much fat. My favorite part is the homemade pickles giving it a fresh crunch and some acid. There’s a sprinkle of peanuts and some hoisin sauce too. So good.

We also got an order of the fried pigs’ ears with fermented black bean mayo and a 63-degree egg ($8). We have had tasty pig’s ears before, but they are often too chewy. THESE WERE SO GOOD. You couldn’t sop eating them. It was almost like eating light fried pork skins—super crispy and not at all chewy. That mayo had a little tanginess to it as well, and well, you know me, put a perfectly runny egg on top of that mayo and it may just be the perfect dish. No way we would ever pass this by if it’s on the menu. Dipping the pigs’ ears into that runny egg and mayo was just perfection.

For our second round, we had the Ora King salmon poke ($18) and the Vietnamese crepe ($17). We really enjoyed the salmon—really nice-sized cubes of raw salmon—and if you aren’t familiar with Ora King, it’s super buttery and delicious (you can get it at Caplinger’s if you want to experiment at home). And then the salmon was served in a bowl on a bed of rice and flavored with soy, charred seaweed, sesame seeds and an avocado cream. There was also a big egg yolk in the middle of the dish, which made it into a rich, decadent dish. We really enjoyed it, but it was so rich, I was glad to be sharing it. I don’t think I could have eaten this whole thing on my own.

If I was going to pick a least favorite item of the evening, it was the Vietnamese pancake. And these are typically one of my favorite things in Vietnamese cuisine. It was stuffed with a large amount of duck confit, boiled egg, bean sprouts and bacon. It was drizzled with fermented chili aioli and had a side of a fish sauce-based sauce to season with. I’m not sure what made this dish a little lackluster for me, but I think it was the fact that there was a little too much of the filling inside (you couldn’t really appreciate the crepe itself) and the fillings were on the whole cold. When I have had this elsewhere in the past, the fillings are quickly sautéed or something so they are warm. Maybe they just put so much in there, it couldn’t all get warm before the crepe was totally done. The boiled egg was a new thing for me in a crepe like this. I appreciated some of it, but still, there was just a little too much.

All in all, this was a really good dinner. The first two items blew us away and we were also really impressed with the salmon. I love the way the menu varies from visit to visit. Hubby was also really impressed with the new (ish) digs, as they just feel more sophisticated, while it remains casual and approachable still.

If you haven’t been to Rook, you owe it to yourself to check it out for sure. It is certainly one of the most interesting places we have going and the food quality (and service for that matter) is very high. Can’t wait to try some other new things.

501 Virginia Ave
Indy 46203

Monday, November 14, 2016

Louie's Wine Dive

The other night hubby, my daughter and I headed to Broad Ripple to eat at the new Louie’s Wine Dive. It’s a small chain with restaurants in other small cities such as Des Moines, and Kansas City. They use this app, Nowait, where you check in and the app will tell you how many parties are ahead of you. We arrived with an apparent three parties ahead of us but because they were larger we were immediately seated. The atmosphere in Louie’s is funky and fun, large shabby chic chandeliers with bottles on them hung from the ceiling and rows of orange back-lit bottles line the walls. Overall there was a very independent vibe about the place and hubby was surprised that it was a chain. I had enjoyed a set menu wine dinner at the Louie’s downtown a few months ago, so I was looking forward to trying the regular menu items to see if they were as good.

We were quickly served drinks. Hubby ordered an Old Fashioned ($9) and I ordered a glass of Pieropan Soave Classico ($10). They arrived promptly and although hubby disliked the small ice cubes used in his drink (they diluted it too much) I enjoyed my wine and didn’t hesitate in ordering a bottle. However, when the bottle came it tasted very different than the glass I had ordered originally, I brought it up and they checked and it was the same wine. I kept the new bottle and they took the first glass off our bill.

To start we ordered BLT Deviled Eggs ($6) and their version of Poutine ($14). The eggs were good, very creamy and salty although there seemed to be a somewhat sporadic placement of arugula on them. The poutine was seafood themed, with crab, seafood gravy, Portobello mushrooms, green onions, fries, cheese curds, harissa, and a fried egg. Like with the eggs the placement of crab and cheese curds was sporadic and many bites didn’t have either in them. Some bites of the poutine had flavor and others, well, just didn’t. This could have in part had to do with how small the fries were, personally I like bigger fries on Poutine, they hold the toppings better. The spice of the harissa was nice and added a touch of heat—the bites with the harissa were some of the best ones. Overall I’d say this dish was fine—not particularly good or bad.

For our mains, I ordered the Champagne Fish & Chips ($14). Let me just say the sauce, “Louie’s Dressing,” was amazing, one of the highlights of the meal--really all the sauces were. It was sort of a cross between a Tartar Sauce and a Shrimp Louie sauce, tangy, with a hint of chili sauce maybe? Compared to the sauce the fish itself fell a little flat. The fish was dry and the champagne batter that I was looking forward to wasn’t as poofy and light as expected. I subbed out the "chips" that came with my dish for patatas bravas, which again, had a very nice sauce, but the potatoes were a little big so you didn't get enough crispy edge with each bite. I liked the slaw served with the fish.

Hubby ordered a salad, the Blackened Atlantic Salmon Wedge ($15). Again, the dressing was the highlight. It was perfectly executed green goddess dressing. I thought the salad was fine (not a lot to it other than the lettuce, but that was okay because the dressing was so good. The salmon was tender and had pretty good blackened flavor, although if it were up to me, I would have cooked it a little more medium rare. 

Finally, my daughter decided on the 4 Pork Gnocchi ($15). The gnocchi were very tender and light, it was lightly sautéed and drenched in a lovely tomato marinara sauce. The pork on the other hand was meh. Some bites were good but most were very chewy, not a pleasure to eat. Perhaps, it cooked a little too long once it was put in the marinara sauce? It was probably the best dish though.

All in all, I would describe the place as an interesting ok chain. The menu was intriguing, the atmosphere exciting, and the staff friendly, but the food just wasn’t executed as it could have been. 

I’m glad that finally a friendly, slightly more sophisticated restaurant moved into the space instead of those dark, smoky bars the Broad Ripple seems so fond of, but I can’t see us rushing back, although I am sure we will try it again here at some point for the friendly service and atmosphere and proximity to our house, if nothing else.

Louie’s Wine Dive
701 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy 46220

Monday, November 7, 2016

Metro Diner

Ok you guys, I have had a lot of people ask me about Metro Diner—it’s in my neighborhood and you guys know it. I have only had a chance to have breakfast here a couple of times and here are my thoughts.

It’s a traditional diner for sure and they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu is huge. You can order from whichever part you want whenever you want, which I appreciate, because you now I like my eggs. My first experience involved the Frisco breakfast sandwich ($6.49) (please people, please stop saying “Frisco” just because it involves sourdough. No one in San Francisco says “Frisco”). It was grilled sourdough with grilled ham, scrambled eggs and cheese. I had a side of hash browns. I enjoyed this basic, yet tasty sandwich. A lot of eggs on there for sure (they have very large portions overall). I particularly enjoyed the very crispy hash browns—I love hash browns and I particularly love them extra crisp. 

My son’s basic deli sandwich looked and tasted a bit boring. He ended up eating half of my sandwich instead. My daughter was happy with her egg breakfast.

So going off of this experience, hubby and I decided to check it out again one day for a breakfast—one of those days when you wanted a greasy breakfast after an evening involving a lot of wine.

On these occasions, I want my classic traditional breakfast, and that’s what I had. Two eggs, bacon, sourdough toast, and hash browns ($7.49) (I was really looking forward to these). So, they do the eggs well—perfectly over easy. But I wasn’t overly wowed with anything else. Well, the toast was good (a little thicker than I like because I like it super crunchy) but it doesn’t come buttered, which is a bummer to me (hard, cold pats of butter are no fun to spread on toast). The bacon was pretty flavorless and the hash browns were sadly, not at all crispy like they were the first time. There was a little crisp edge, but it was mostly mushy potatoes in the middle. I had a couple of bites and gave up. 

Hubby had the corned beef hash, which is one of his favorite breakfast items. He enjoyed the corned beef aspect—and they cooked it with diced red potatoes. He was missing some onions or peppers though---again there was a problem with not a lot of flavor. His poached eggs were done well, but he had the same complaint about the toast (and cold butter).

So….. well I can’t say it will be a go to breakfast place for me. I had been excited about the hash browns, but the consistency issue has put me off. And when bacon doesn’t have flavor, I just don’t understand it. It’s bacon!

I feel like there’s a blandness problem here. Although, I did see someone having fried chicken and waffles…and you know I am going to have to get in there and try the fried chicken at some point. And the pork tenderloin sandwich sounds interesting too. But we’ll see.

The service is very friendly and efficient—they get your food to you very quickly. The atmosphere is chain-feeling diner style. 

Who else had been there? I know several of you have been. I am really interested in hearing what you had and your thoughts.

Metro Diner
3954 East 82nd Street
Indy 46240