Monday, March 26, 2018

Red, The Steakhouse

We had a gift certificate to Red that we had been sitting on for awhile, so we decided to use it before we just totally forgot about it.  The kids are always in for a steakhouse, so we took them along.

As we looked over the menu, our server approached. She was nice but so soft spoken, we really couldn’t hear a word she was saying. The restaurant is kind of loud and she was so quiet, not a good combo when you’re trying to hear the specials. Anyway, we decided on a few appetizers and ordered those. We shared the beef tartare ($14) at my daughter’s insistence, even though lately I just keep being disappointed with beef tartares around town, and we also got the tuna poke ($16). I enjoyed the tuna poke—it was nice chunks of tuna with compressed pineapple and cucumber with a sweet chili vinaigrette. Apparently it was supposed to come with plantain chips, but we never got any. I ate it with the toasty crackers that came with the steak tartare or just on its own. It had a nice acidic flavor from the pineapple. It would have been better with plantain chips I am guessing. The tartare, as usual, was a disappointment. It had a few capers mixed in with the beef, and some shallots, but no real flavor. It was totally flat. I even asked for some lemon wedges to try and give it something, but even that didn’t help (I’m thinking mustard here people, and some more capers). We didn’t even eat it all. Just too boring.

We had a couple of salads as well. My son ordered their blue cheese wedge (no tomatoes) ($12), and to be honest, it was the best thing on the table all night, and one of the best wedges around. I liked it because it had plenty of blue cheese and dressing. So often once you cut into the lettuce, there is just not enough dressing. Not so here. There was actually more blue cheese than there was lettuce. My son asked if it would be rude to ask for extra lettuce. It also had pickled onions, crispy pancetta and croutons. And seriously large hunks of blue cheese. Really good. Much better than the house salad ($11) that hubby and I split. It was mixed greens with candied walnuts, goat cheese and raspberry vinaigrette. So in this salad, there was very little cheese and the dressing was more sweet than vinegar-ish. I would always get the wedge here if I went again. I did like the mixed cheese and olive oil that they gave you with the complimentary bread, which was warm and delicious.

For my main, I just ordered a shrimp appetizer, because I could tell that there was going to be way too much food (I was right). I had the lemon garlic shrimp ($19). It was large shrimp on top of a slice of bread with a very rich buttery sauce and some very thin lemon slices. It was a good dish, but still a lot of food considering I ate some of everyone else’s. The shrimp was cooked pretty well and I liked having the bread underneath to soak up the sauce., which did have a touch of acid from the lemon.

Hubby had the carbonara pasta ($34), which was enough to feed all four of us. It was a giant bowl of pasta with a creamy sauce, more of the shrimp and some pancetta and peas. It was a little heavier and creamier than most carbonara we have enjoyed, but it wasn’t bad.  Although it wasn’t great either. Hubby did get several meals out of it in the following days.

My daughter had the tuna tataki dinner ($38), which was a large portion of tuna that was sesame crusted and sliced, and served with ginger, scallion and a ginger lime soy. The tuna was good—cooked rare as it should be and the sauce was nice. It was also really big and she made a couple of meals out of it as well. I thought it was weird that it didn’t come with any type of side dish such as rice or something. I mean, I know steakhouses want you to order sides separately, but with a dish like this, the typical steakhouse sides don’t really match up.

My son had a prime filet ($49), which we all shared. It was a good cut of meat, but was cooked too rare (even though he ordered it medium rare). It was still good because it was such good quality beef, but it would have been better if it were just cooked a little bit more. Didn’t seem to overly bother my son who ate every bit of it before we could barely sneak a few bites. We did also order some sides—the mac and cheese with bacon ($13)(you can also get it plain or with lobster or with crab) and the au gratin potatoes ($11) at the suggestion of our server. The au gratin was really good, sliced potatoes in a nice creamy, cheesy sauce. The mac and cheese was not good. I don’t know if it was the bacon aspect, but it was overwhelmingly smoky—almost like it had liquid smoke in it.  It was a huge portion that went mainly uneaten.

Finally, we shared their doughnut holes with chocolate sauce, salted caramel sauce and raspberry jam ($13 for the large order). These were sort of like beignets—with lots of powdered sugar. Not bad, but not as good as an actual beignet, and not as soft as you might want for a doughnut. A little more of the sauces would have been helpful too, especially with the larger order. They do have a nice dessert wine menu with several nice options by the glass.

All in all, not a place I would probably look to go back to, but if I did, I would definitely get the wedge salad.

Red, The Steakhouse
14 West Maryland
Indy 46204

Monday, March 19, 2018

Cobblestone Grill -- Revisit (Lunch)

The other day I met a friend for a quick lunch at Cobblestone.  I haven’t been there in ages—and they have remodeled the inside since then. It’s much darker and feels more modern than the last time I was there.

We ordered two things and shared. The first thing was the Southwestern chicken sandwich ($12) and the southern BLT ($11). Both were very good and had some nice touches. The chicken sandwich was a grilled chicken breast topped with avocado slaw, Gruyere cheese and Sriracha aioli. It was all on a brioche bun. The first thing you notice when you bit into this sandwich is the acidity of the slaw. And mixed with some hunks of creamy avocado? It was so good. The cheese and aioli rounded out the flavors nicely too, giving it some heat and some rich saltiness. It was a touch on the messy side, but tasted very good. I upgraded to fries for my side. They were good fries—maybe could have stood just another minute in the fryer though, some were kind of soft. And they served them with ketchup, which is kind of boring. I should have gotten some extra Sriracha aioli on the side.

The southern BLT was also very good—they use fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, bacon, and bib lettuce. I always worry that the tomatoes will be too thick, but these were nice and thin. The pimento cheese added nice flavor and a little bit of spice. The bacon was very crisp, so depending on how you like yours; you may or may not like this as much. I like my bacon super crisp, so I was good. My friend wished it was softer.

Both of these sandwiches were very good. They have the sandwich thing down. I like a mix of flavors and you gotta have some kind of sauce to keep it from being dry and to keep it interesting. Both of these had all of those things, and to be honest, I’d be hard pressed to say which one I liked better. 

The service was friendly and prompt, although the place wasn’t very busy. So, who else has been there lately?

Cobblestone Grill
160 South Main Street
Zionsville, IN 46077

Monday, March 12, 2018

Blue Sushi Sake Grill

You know I am on my search for a new favorite sushi place, so I was excited when I got some emails about the opening of a new place in Ironworks, which is conveniently located near my house. I have been twice since they opened. They may still be working on some kinks with consistency, but I am pretty sure this is a place that I will return fairly regularly based on what I have had so far and the its proximity.

On both trips we had the tuna tataki ($13) and the truffle salmon ($11). These are both sashimi style presentations—or like a crudo. They were both thin slices of the fish. The tataki was seared with pepper on the edges, crispy garlic chips on top, and in a light sauce. The first time we had this, we really enjoyed it. The second time, while we enjoyed it, it was much more peppery, almost to the point of making it not enjoyable. Almost. I’m not sure which is the way they intend it to be, but I am  hoping it was the first version. I am sure we will try it again and find out. The truffle salmon is really good—and unique. Again, thin slices of fish, topped with hot sesame oil, salmon caviar and sitting in ponzu. These are both also on the happy hour  (HH) menu—you can get them for $10 and $8.50 during that time.

On both trips we also had the crunchy rice cakes with spicy tuna ($11/$8.50 HH). Again, they were a little different on each visit—the first time the rice cakes on the bottom were a little over fried and overly crunchy, but we really enjoyed the flavor of the spicy tuna. So we wanted to try them again. This time they were perfect and probably my favorite thing we had. These will be a regular thing. Basically, they are fried bits of rice cakes, topped with spicy tuna, scallions and ponzu sauce. They were definitely a favorite at the table with our friends. The first time we also ordered the blue balls ($7/$4.5 HH). This was one of the items that made us realize we do not care for their spicy “crab” mixture. It was a tofu skin stuffed with spicy crab and deep-fried. Now, the fry on these was so good, and I love tofu, but the fishy taste of the spicy crab was not good. Again, it was the classic problem of a place calling something crab that was decidedly fishy.

So I guess this didn’t bode well for our luck with the “thriller” roll ($11), which was shrimp tempura inside and spicy crab mix, creamy “thriller” sauce and ponzu. It was broiled on top with the spicy crab and creamy sauce. The heat did not add to the already questionable taste of the spicy “crab.” However, a friend told us you could substitute real snow crab, which we did the second time (for an upcharge) and I really enjoyed it the second time. It had a touch of heat on the top of it, and the fresh crab was much tastier.

That second time we also had a couple of other rolls. Probably the most popular one at our table was the “spicy gringo” ($8/$5.50 HH), which is salmon, tuna, white fish, ginger with garlic chips and a barbeque wrap and shallots on top. It had interesting flavors and texture and like I said, everyone enjoyed it. We also enjoyed the “beach,” ($13+ $3 for snow crab substitution). It was albacore, spicy tuna and in our case, snow crab (normally spicy crab), burdock root, and avocado on the inside. It had ponzu and Serrano peppers on top. It was also tasty, although again, we subbed out the spicy crab for snow crab. I didn’t really care for the burdock root, as it was really hard—didn’t add to the texture component to me. So, it’s weird because the spicy tuna is really tasty, but the spicy crab is too fishy.  Finally, we also tried the maguro tuna nigiri, just because it’s a good way to see the quality of the fish in comparison to other places. It was excellent. 
The service was good on both visits, and I like the atmosphere of the place. There are people of all ages, and the restaurant has a modern feel. The wine and drink list is decent, and like I said, it’s close to my house.  They also take reservations through yelp, so that’s always a plus in my book.
It’s solid, and easy, and will probably go into my regular rotation, even though I wish it wasn’t a chain. But it’s a pretty small one anyway.  I also wish that it was a little more consistent, but hopefully that will come with time.  There are a lot of interesting things to try, and lots of good happy hour specials. The menus are a little overwhelming between the happy hour menu and the regular menu (if you are there during happy hour). And the print is so small; it makes me feel like I need to remember to bring some reading glasses, which just makes me feel old. Boo. But overall, I enjoyed the food and experience.

Blue Sushi Sake Grill
2413 East 86th Street
Indy 46240

Monday, March 5, 2018

Vanguard -- Revisit

For whatever reason, it has taken us awhile to get back into Vanguard—not sure why. I have always enjoyed it and they have a new(ish) chef (Adam Ditter) who came from the now-shuttered Longbranch (hard to believe that already two restaurants have closed in that same space). Anyway, hubby and I stopped in recently without a reservation and scored one of the last tables.

We started with the salmon pastrami dip with house kraut and house made pretzel bites ($7). This was a really tasty share plate. You have to really enjoy the seasonings in pastrami, as they are strong here, but a bite with the acidic kraut and the absolutely wonderful, soft pretzel bites was great.  It is a unique dish and quite tasty…Perhaps just a couple more of the pretzels would be great though, as the dip is quite plentiful.

Next we shared two starters—the gnocchi salad ($11) and the carnitas ($12). I loved the gnocchi salad. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but it was truly most like a green salad with gnocchi mixed in. And tomatoes, peppadew, banana peppers, red onion and nice hunks of feta. There was a sherry vinaigrette on it, and it was dressed all the way through (hallelujah). I read this menu descrition and thought, it sounds like it will have nice acid, and it did. It was very good.

We also shared the carnitas, which was presented very attractively. There were two crusts that were described as cheddar piecrust, which was filled with the carnitas. There was also apple sauce and crème fraiche served with it—the apple sauce was on the dish, the crème fraiche on the side. I sort of wished it had been reversed. I didn’t care for the sweetness that the apple sauce gave the dish, but I liked the slight sour flavor of the crème friache. The meat was very tasty. It was hard to really get a full feel of the taste of the crust because of the apple sauce, which was a little bit of a bummer, because I was very intrigued by the idea of the cheddar crust.

For our dinner, we split the fried chicken ($21). We were torn between it and a tuna special that came highly recommended, but I hadn’t had this new version of the fried chicken and wanted to check it out. They brine it in adobo and it is served along with coconut cauliflower rice. The dish has a decidedly Asian flair to it, and I really enjoyed it—especially the chicken. It had a great spicy, sort of smoky flavor that went all the way through to the tender meat. The dish was served with several lime wedges, which were good both on the “rice” and the chicken itself. I love a dish with extra acid on the side.  You get four pieces of chicken, so it is certainly easy to share. I’m a little undecided about how I feel about the cauliflower rice. It is certainly different, and lent a unique flavor….but still tasted like vegetable rather than a starch.

We decided to get dessert because it was Texas sheet cake, which is a family favorite. What makes it “Texas” in my mind though is the addition of a fair amount of cinnamon, giving it a slightly spicy flavor. That seemed to be missing from this version. They also put nuts in the icing, which I skip when I make it, because I prefer it with a smooth texture. It was a fine dessert, but not outstanding. They served it with a scoop of ice cream.

All in all, if you haven’t been, or haven’t been in awhile, it’s worth going back to Vanguard—especially with so few grown-up restaurants in Broad Ripple. 

The Vanguard
6319 Guilford Ave
Indy  46220