Monday, October 29, 2018

Tinker Street - Revisit

Hubby and finally got back to Tinker Street after the big coup a few months ago—the ownership has changed, and the menu style has been mixed up a bit too. The chef is the same, but he is now part owner, and seems to be varying a bit from the way the menu was organized in the past.

It was a nice night to sit on the patio—which is one of the best parts about Tinker in my mind. We started with an order of the tots with cheese sauce and caviar ($19). They were large homemade tater tots sitting in cheese fondue and topped with caviar. I liked this dish and was happy just with the tots and the cheese sauce. Hubby thought the amount of caviar was a little weak considering the price of the dish. Overall, I thought it was enjoyable and I appreciate a restaurant making its own tots! 

We also had the heirloom tomato salad ($15) with Moon Rabbit cheddar, fried pickles and shaved fennel. It was served on a creamy ranch type sauce. I enjoyed this dish but would change it up a little. It was hard to get the sauce on the tomatoes because they are so slippery, you can’t really get the dressing on them. To remedy this, I would drizzle the dressing on top for taste, even if it wouldn’t look as pretty. I would love a couple more of the fried pickles too—they were truly delicious. Overall it was a well-seasoned and tasty dish with nice ripe tomatoes, I just wish it had been easier to get the dressing on my bites.

We had decided to make our entire dinner out of appetizers, so for our next course, we had the foie gras special and the mushroom steamed buns ($12). The foie gras was the best thing on the table all night. It had been a long time since hubby and I had had any (goose liver is not exactly the health choice), but it was worth the splurge. There was a nice rich, buttery piece of foie with plums, and slices of brioche French toast. Wow, was this good. If they have it as a special, I highly recommend.

We also had the mushroom buns and while I liked the flavor of the ginger and bulgogi sauce, these were really big and really filling. The bun part was bigger than many I have had. The insides were tasty, but I could really only eat one of these. It would be a good thing to split between four people to get the taste, but not get overfull. The pickled kohlrabi gave a nice tanginess and crunch to the dish.

We decided to try a dessert too, since we were eating smaller plates for dinner. We had the goat cheese cake with chevre, graham cracker and apricot. This one was pretty disappointing. Our server described a tangy cheesecake type of dish, but this was more like a graham cracker crust filled with apricot jam and served with a topping of a sponge cake that apparently was made with goat cheese, but you didn’t really get the tangy flavor from it…it was kind of bland in my opinion. I have never been disappointed with the s’mores pot de crème here and next time I think I would go back to that. It was a pretty dish, but lacking in flavor. And I love apricot. They do have a lovely dessert wine list by the glass, which I am happy to see popping up more and more around town.

All in all, we had an enjoyable meal with some ups and downs, but I would say Tinker is still a nice place to remember on date night (no kids allowed) when you want something pretty and chef-crafted. Service was good, and so was the wine selection.

Tinker Street
402 East 16th Street
Indy  46202

Monday, October 22, 2018

Burger Study

The other day I found myself downtown with some friends at lunch time and we decided to try Burger Study. It’s the burger place from the St Elmo people. There was a group of us, so we got to try several things, which always makes me happy.

We started with an order of the beer cheese tots ($9). This was tater tots topped with beer cheese, chives, bacon and bits of pretzels. The beer cheese was a somewhat mild flavor, but I really enjoyed these. I have a weakness for tots, and then the salty bacon and bits of pretzel added texture and were really tasty. They seemed to be liked by everyone at the table. We also got a Brussels sprouts salad ($12). This was also a solid favorite. It was shaved Brussels sprouts, pumpkin seeds, onion jam, cilantro vinaigrette and a big hunk of burrata cheese. This was really good. The sprouts were really well dressed (nice and tangy dressing) and were good even without the cheese. But the cheese of course, was great as well. I would order both of these again.

I ordered the “double major” burger ($13), which is described as a burger with two thin patties topped with American cheese, “Study sauce,” dill pickles and shredded lettuce. I changed it to a single burger patty because I was hoping to find a good thin smash burger. The other burgers on the menu are thicker patties. The burger was decent but wasn’t truly the super thin burger I was hoping for. And I think you really needed the extra patty to stand up to the bun. The study sauce was sort of like a thousand island dressing. Everything on the burger was good, but like I said, the proportions were a bit off, but that was really kind of my fault. 

A couple of people at the table ordered the “Semester at Sea” burger ($18). This was a tuna patty topped with ponzu mayo, Napa slaw, wonton crisps, and tomato. The tuna was really high quality and the burger was better than my beef burger. I liked the flavor of the ponzu mayo and the crunch from the wonton crisps. Several people ordered shakes as well and really enjoyed them, even though they take a while to get.

We tried several sides as well from the mac and cheese, to fries, to zucchini straws. I can’t say any really impressed me, but they were fine. I did like the black pepper mayo that came with the zucchini and I ordered a side of it to go with my fries.
The service was pretty off—things were forgotten, and several things took a long time (including the bill) but it’s a decent lunch option when you have a large group with varying tastes. I would go with a different burger next time—a friend had the southern classic ($14) with pimento cheese and bacon, and it looked tasty. Or maybe the double major with both patties. Based on the tuna burger though, I bet the tuna poke is tasty too.

All in all, the appetizers we ordered were my favorite part, and according to everyone else, so were the milkshakes. I would like to try it again though. It’s a nice space in the middle of an area of downtown with a lot of chains, which makes it a nice alternative. What have you guys tried there?

Burger Study
28 W. Georgia Street
Indy. 46225

Monday, October 15, 2018

Road Trip--Chicago: Roister & Pacific Standard Time

So hubby and I celebrated our anniversary in Chicago the other weekend (a little early because I am starting a new job). When we go to Chicago, we sort of just plan our meals and then fill in the time around them. Mainly we just wandered around and shopped. Anyhow, we tried two new places for dinner. 

The first night we tried Pacific Standard Time, which a pretty new place in the old Tavernita space. They lightened the space up and the chef describes the food as home cooking he might have made with his Chinese mom---all with a California bent. It’s an interesting menu—there isn’t a real theme to it, except for the fact that there is a wood-fired oven, so they do make several items in there.

We started with the shima aji crudo ($19) and the wood-fired pita with eggplant ($14). I enjoyed the crudo—it is a mild white fish and was topped with gooseberries, tiny cubes of kohlrabi, lime and poppy seed. I enjoyed the acid from the lime and the gooseberries with the fish. The kohlrabi and poppy seeds added a nice little crunch, but there was maybe just a little too much of the kohlrabi, so I took some off. A nice light starter though. Our server highly recommended the eggplant with the pita (they also have a tuna and a beef tartare version). We went with it, but this was maybe the most disappointing dish for us. The fresh poofy pita was tasty (especially the piece that was more heavily salted), but the eggplant was just ok. There was a lot of skin mixed in with the dip, which made the whole thing a little too chewy and just a touch bitter. It may be also that I am jaded after eating that eggplant dish at Beholder. I wanted it to be that, and it clearly was not. This version did have a creamy robiola cheese underneath it, which helped with the bitterness, but still, not my favorite.

The two dishes we had as our shared main dishes were much better. We both loved the shrimp and pork dumplings ($16). There were six little dumplings and they were in this delicate scallop broth. There was shredded cabbage across the top. These are the kind of things I could have a serious craving for….and the kinds of thing I also wonder why we don’t see on Indy menus. They were light but full of flavor. An excellent dish. We then had the soft-shell crab ($22), which was their take on a BLT. There was tempura fried crab sitting in a leaf of Bibb lettuce. They were topped with pieces of bacon. little tomatoes, pickled onions a creamy ranch-like sauce. This was also really good. The crab was fried just right, and overall the flavors blended really well. The bacon could be a little overwhelming sometimes if you got a big piece of it in a bite, and I wished for a couple more of these—we each only got a half a crab. But knowing we were going to be on an eating binge all weekend, we thought it prudent to take it a little easy. We also wanted to order dessert as I had read that the pastry chef was from the now-defunct Grace. And we weren’t disappointed with our chocolate tart. It was beautiful and really good—it had roasted peanuts crushed on top and this pretty swoop of creamy chocolate on top. 

But the next dinner you guys…. seriously. It was so good. We went to Roister, which is the latest Alinea Group spot—a totally casual place with an open kitchen and a Michelin star. Hubby and I got seats at the kitchen bar and watched all the action. There’s a big wood-fired pit with various meats hanging from it, and then various other stations. I loved watching all the food coming out and the fact that our server always seemed nearby to give us the run down on what everything was. Speaking of which. Our server was awesome. Super laid back and right there when you needed him, but not annoying at all. He was obviously passionate about food as well.

Based on his recommendations, we started with the cheddar rillettes with their house fry bread ($14). This dish is amazing. So much so that I felt sorry for every table that didn’t order it. Hubby and even debated a second order for dessert. So they use this truffle cheddar cheese, mascarpone and mix that up and top it with these tiny pieces of cauliflower that is in a truffle vinaigrette. Oh, and they give you this amazing crisp, salty fry bread to smear it on. SO GOOD. If you ever go, and this is on the menu, this is a MUST ORDER. Wow. I am going to try and recreate it at home. I can’t stop thinking about it. 

We also ordered the smoked oysters ($19), which were tasty, and were quite the production—they serve them in the cast iron skillet they smoke them in (wood chips right there in the pan) They are just barely cooked and topped with chipotle butter and epazote vinegar. They are extremely smoky in flavor as well. There were only four of them, so it’s a small portion, but it is loaded with smoky flavor if that’s your thing. They were fine, but my least favorite item of the evening.

For our main dish, I convinced hubby to get the chicken ($67) because it was a shared dish, and while he balked a bit, he gave in and we were both very, very happy he did because man, was this good. They do just the right thing to give you the perfect chicken. They take thighs (they give you four of them) and soak them in buttermilk and then fry them perfectly. They’re lightly dusted in salt and were so freaking good. So tender and shockingly crispy. Perfect fried chicken. Some of the best I have ever had. But for the breast meat, they marinate it in chamomile tea and then sous vide it for an hour and then sear the skin at the very end. Oh my goodness, this was definitely one of the most tender and delicious chicken breasts I have ever had. And now I want a sous vide machine for my house (so feel free and give me recommendations if you have one, because it’s going on my Christmas list). They also give you this house made hot sauce made with habanero chilis and melon. It was hot, but not taste bud numbing. It was good with the chicken, as was the sawmill gravy that they also gave you for dipping. Not that you needed wither, but they were good. The only part of the dish that I thought was not particularly mind-blowing was the part they made with the legs and wings. They did these confit style and then made a chicken salad out of it with sunchokes and sunflower seeds. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t worth the calories when the other parts were in front of us. And it’s a lot of food. Probably better shared with three or four people. I am already planning a return trip with more people to get this and try something else. Seriously, you should see the duck. It was also enormous though. Based on what was leaving the kitchen, I’d say the duck and chicken are the most popular. So, so good.

We had to try a dessert after all this amazing food. They just had a few choices and when went with the cookies and milk ($11), which was milk ice cream. It was really light, almost like sorbet made with milk. And then it was topped with chunks of cookie dough and pieces of sugar cookies. It was the kind of thing I would make at home, as a person who has an obsession with chocolate chip cookie dough. It wasn’t fancy, but it was delicious.

Roister was the clear winner of this trip and a place I will certainly return to when in Chicago. And that says something because there are so many places to try, I rarely repeat. I need those rillettes again though. I just hope they stay on the menu. Pretty sure I would have a hard time not getting the chicken again too. I just need to bring more people with me so I can try other things as well.

Pacific Standard Time
141 W. Erie Street
Chicago, IL

952 West Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

Monday, October 8, 2018

Mass Ave Pub

Here’s a quick fun post. A few weeks back, some friends and I went to dinner and then headed to Mass Ave Pub for trivia night (it was “research” for an upcoming trivia fundraiser that one friend was planning). Anyhow, we had already eaten dinner, but after a drink or two, we all decided we needed some snacks to munch on. We ended up ordering potato skins ($6.50) and “tot-chos” ($5.50). First of all, potato skins that are really good are sort of a rarity these days. When I was young, they were one of my favorite things, but then so many chain restaurants started serving them, and I think restaurant suppliers started pre-making them and restaurants were just heating them up. Then they started to be bad. But every so often, you find a bar, or some little place still making them well, and you get excited. This was such an occasion. The skins at Mass Ave Pub tasted really fresh and had lots of cheese and bacon on top and then were served with sour cream on the side. Just as they should be. These are good potato skins.

I think I have mentioned before that I have a weakness for buffalo chicken items. And when I saw that one of their versions of “tot-chos” was done with a buffalo chicken theme, I knew this was the one we needed (executive decision made). So they take tater tots (another personal weakness), toss them in buffalo sauce, and then top them with crumbled blue cheese and served them with a side of ranch. Perfection.

So if you are in the mood for some old school bar food, Mass Ave Pub has you covered. This is certainly not fancy food, but it is trashy snack food done well. They do a fun trivia night on Wednesdays too, although the week we went was mainly about Indy 500 trivia, which was less fun for our group, since none of us really knew much about 500 trivia. It’s a fun environment though.

Mass Ave Pub
745 Massachusetts Ave
Indy  46204

Noise rating: 3 bells (out of 5)

Monday, October 1, 2018

Mandarin House

I met a friend for lunch the other day at Mandarin House in Carmel. It’s so weird because I have never actually even noticed this place before. And I have been in and out of the City BBQ a couple doors down several times. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised with the atmosphere of the place and the welcoming greeting I got.

It’s a pretty standard Chinese restaurant menu, and you can get a decent deal for lunch (most are around $7 and come with soup and two crab Rangoon). I got my usual first dish at any Chinese restaurant, garlic chicken ($6.95). It was curious that there was a garlic pork on the menu listed as hot and spicy, but garlic chicken was not. Anyway, I was impressed with the depth of flavor in this dish. It was a welcome surprise. The sauce was rich and salty and had a ton of garlic in it. The veggie mix had mostly water chestnuts and then a few mushrooms, which were my favorite part. They serve it with lightly seasoned rice and the crab Rangoon. I didn’t love the crab Rangoon, they were a little soft and doughy. I also chose the hot and sour soup. It was a decent version—certainly not the best or worst I had had. Good flavor and some nice pieces of tofu, my favorite part. They also give you those crunchy fried wontons with your soup, and let’s face it, those make any soup better.

My friend had the house beef ($7.25), which was listed as hot and spicy, but wasn’t particularly spicy in my mind. I don’t love beef in Chinese restaurants typically because the beef is always cut small, gets cooked well done, and I usually find it a little chewy. This one was no exception. It couldn’t compare to my chicken in my opinion. Seriously, I was pretty impressed with that garlic chicken sauce. I would certainly order it again.

Their dinner menu is much more extensive, I would be curious to hear what items people think are good. And while it was all pretty straightforward, I would be interested to try some of these other dishes. Let me know if you have favorites.

Mandarin House
1370 S. Rangeline Road
Carmel, IN 46032