Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thunderbird - Revisit

I hadn’t been to Thunderbird since shortly after it opened, and had enjoyed my visits then. I had heard since that the menu had changed a lot and was more toward a sandwich and fries genre, which wasn’t exciting me to try again. So when I heard they had gone back to a more interesting menu again, with someone new in the kitchen, I looked forward to going back. 

We started with some cocktails because that’s their thing at Thunderbird right? So I had the Murder City Devil ($10) with two kinds of rum, Ancho Chili liquer, lime, grapefruit, and pomegranate demera (a sweet simple syrup). And it was on fire. Well, my lime was on fire. It was tasty—a little heat and a fair amount of acid and sweetness. I couldn’t drink more than one though and switched to wine after. One friend had the “Roppongi Sour” ($10), a lighter drink made with gin, Midori, lime, sugar, egg white, cucumber, salt and bitters. It was tasty too, although maybe a bit on the sour side for some. They do a nice job with cocktails here, and the cocktail service is speedy.

Since we were with friends so we started right off with an order of the deviled eggs ($2 each) of the day. Luckily they were with us, because hubby is hard to convince of deviled eggs on most days. According to the menu, the preparation of the eggs changes daily—on this day they were doing a smoked whitefish version and they were really, really outstanding. In fact, we ended up ordering a second order because we liked them so much (and because the kitchen was a bit overwhelmed and it was a little slow to get our food). They tasted extremely fresh and the eggs were cooked just right so the white wasn’t over hard and the filling was light and fluffy with just the right amount of the fish flavor and a fair amount of acid (lemon I am guessing.) These were the best deviled eggs I’ve had out.

They also brought us a plate of an item that was not on the menu—something they’re trying out I guess. They were crispy polenta sticks with a cheesy sauce. They were super crisp on the outside and very soft on the inside—a fun take on a version of a fry. I enjoyed them.

Sadly, I really wanted to try the chicken liver nuggets, but they were all out. Apparently they are very popular and they go through a lot. I still need to try them. We did try the pimento cheese grilled cheese ($9), the fried chicken ($18), the pork belly ($14) and two sides—the mac and cheese ($8) and the “Kill Lettuce” ($5). By far, the favorite was the pimento cheese grilled cheese.  They give you a nice toasty sandwich filled with a pimento cheese and it’s is sitting on top of a mustard slaw  with some bread and butter pickles. I really enjoyed the mustardy heat and acid from the slaw with the sandwich. I just wish I got to have more than one quarter of it—I would get this again.

The pork belly was pretty good as well-the meat tender with a decent amount of flavor. We kind of argued about how much everyone liked it. Some definitely more than others. The stuff underneath was a bit underwhelming for me. There was a waffle, collards and apple butter as well as a fried cheddar cracker. There was just not a good balance here for me with the sides, all of it was a bit sweet, but also a bit bland.

The fried chicken was the most disappointing for me. It suffered the fate of not very good fried chicken in that it was overcooked. The white meat was dry and the dark meat a tad rubbery. The sides here, biscuits and more slaw weren’t helping much. The slaw is good, as it was with the pimento cheese sandwich, but the biscuits were super floury and dry. They were crying out for some gravy to cover them. The crust on the chicken was nice and crisp and had some decent seasoning, but not enough to save the chicken inside. To be fair, the place was slammed, particularly the kitchen and I think they were a little overwhelmed.

Speaking of sides, we also got the mac and cheese and the “kill lettuce”. I really liked the kill lettuce, which is a bowl of nice fresh leaf lettuce topped with a warm vinaigrette with big dices of crispy bacon in it. The lettuce wilts down and the vinaigrette was pretty spot on with lots of, well, vinegar. This was a perfect balance to all the other richer dishes we had ordered. The mac and cheese was pretty solid with caramelized onions and green chiles, another good accompaniment to the other items, and honestly, I preferred it as a starch with the pork and the chicken.

The beignets we had for dessert reminded me more of doughnut holes than beignets, but they were tasty cinnamon and sugar coated doughnut holes and we enjoyed them.

Overall, we had a really fun time. The friends we took had never been to Thunderbird and really enjoyed the place—they have done a great job with the interior of the place and it always seems to have a good buzz. I’m glad to see the menu has gone back to the sort of “creative southern” cooking that they started with and several items were very good. I look forward to trying some other things soon. And as always, it’s a great place to get a cocktail.

1127 Shelby Street
Indy 46203

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bento Café

My friend Suzanne and I often seem to be swayed by Asian places, and a couple of people had mentioned Bento Café in Fishers to me so we decided to give it a try. It’s a cute place inside—nicer than a lot of Asian restaurants, with some modern décor and a fairly spacious dining area. If it was a little closer, it’s a place I’d try for dinner with the kids.

We started out with an order of the seafood gyoza ($4.50) and Suzanne got a bowl of egg drop soup ($2). The soup was pretty standard egg drop—a thickened chicken broth with wisps of egg in it—it had a lot of egg in it. Not really anything else in there. The gyoza (6 in an order) were really, really good. If you aren’t familiar, gyoza is just the Japanese name for dumplings—they are basically like pot stickers, only the wrapper on these is super thin and light. You can get them with various fillings, but the seafood we chose was really good and I would recommend it. It was a light mix of seafood that was probably dominated by shrimp. They were served with a light soy based sauce that had some vinegar in it. A little lighter version of the sauce you usually get with potstickers. You could tell they were housemade and very fresh. I would get these again in a second.

We also ordered two sushi rolls. They have a pretty extensive sushi menu, from really simple to very complex. We ordered the “Sweetie” roll ($11.95) and the “Oh My God” roll ($9.95). I think my favorite was the Oh My God roll even though it was enormous. It had shrimp tempura and avocado on the inside and then (a lot of) spicy tuna and tempura crunch on the outside and was topped with masago (those teeny fish eggs), eel sauce, and some scallions. Generally these are all some of my favorite items in a sushi roll. It had the right amount of crunch between the fried shrimp and the tempura bits. The tuna wasn’t the super high quality you sometimes get with spicy tuna—more of a fine, almost puree. But it still tasted good, even if we had to cut them in half with a knife to eat them.

The sweetie roll had avocado and salmon inside as well as some tempura crunch (you know I like that crunch). It was topped with thin slices of salmon that I think were lightly seared (or torched) and then spicy mayo and salmon roe. Maybe this one didn’t have quite enough variety in taste or something, because while it was good, I didn’t like it as much. I am not a huge fan of salmon roe either because sometimes it tends to be a little too fishy. This roll was a little smaller, but we still tended to cut the pieces in half to eat them.

All in all, I was intrigued by this place. Those dumplings were good enough that I would want to go back and try more of the non-sushi side of the menu (even though there are lots of other interesting sushi rolls on the menu too). There are some noodle dishes that sound good as well as bento boxes that have lots of different combos you can try several things.

Bento Café
9778 E. 116th Street
Fishers, IN 46037

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Road Trip--Joseph Decuis Revisit

It was hubby’s birthday and if he has any say in it, we usually try to go to Joseph Decuis in Roanoke, Indiana. We also splurged a fair amount and overstuffed ourselves a bit!

Hubby really wanted to start with a charcuterie board ($18). They do a great job with these—there were a couple selections that were made in house, and some from Smoking Goose here in Indy. They also pair them with lots of great things, from grainy Local Folks mustard to pickled deviled eggs and a couple of kinds of pickled veggies. I loved the one with the celery tops and cornichons. Hubby was very happy. 

For my starter, I ordered a special that was smoked salmon served unlike any I have had—it was just such a surprising use of smoked salmon. It was a Mexican kind of dish with a cumin cream on the bottom, black beans, some lightly pickled cucumbers, some jalapenos, and some mango. I loved that there was lots of acid in this dish. I just loved this dish. The salmon was great quality and all the flavors and textures were great together. Unusual and delicious.

Hubby ordered the sweetbreads for his app and they were good as well, but not as good as my salmon (I won this round!). They were fried and served in a sweet maple glaze on top of really well seasoned and tender greens. This was a good, rich, wintry tasting dish and very good, but I liked the lighter more acidic salmon dish.

For my main, I ordered another special of the night that was actually an appetizer. It was chipotle seasoned pork tenderloin. Hubby ordered the rabbit ragu ($12) (also an appetizer. Ok, in this round he totally won. While I enjoyed the flavors in my dish, particularly the goat cheese to add creaminess and some tanginess, his rabbit was amazing and my pork was a very small tenderloin, and a bit overcooked. The rabbit was a bowl with extremely creamy mascarpone polenta, some braised San Marzano tomatoes, and that amazing, tender rabbit ragu. And a dollop of ricotta cream on top—again, just the perfect thing to bring out another layer in what was a warm, rich dish. This would be on the must-order list again.

For dessert we ordered a cheese plate ($15), which I think Decuis does exceptionally well. The plate itself comes with a lovely selection of cheeses as well as some fresh fruit (apples, pears and grapes). Then you can add additional accouterments as you see fit, which makes it perfect to turn into a dessert or a starter. We added the oven-roasted marcona almonds ($3), which were super hot and tasty with the cheese. And they gave you a lot of them! The cheese was at perfect room temperature and was a nice variety—we loved the Old Kentucky Tomme goat cheese from Capriole. The semi-firm cheese was Manchego (if memory serves) and there was a lovely soft blue as well. Like I said, perfectly well rounded.

We also stayed at one of the new rooms out by the farm—while our room was small, I liked that you had access to the main house, which is a 1880s farmhouse that has recently been restored. They have started offering small farmhouse dinners there as well and I totally want to go to one of those. We got to meet some of the Mangalitsa pigs which are as cute/ugly as they are delicious. Seriously, it’s crazy. They look like they should be on the Muppet show.
We always have a great experience at Joseph Decuis. The service is always very professional without being stuffy, and the food is always good. We have eaten there enough that I almost always order from the specials (the rest of the menu only varies slightly day to day, but does change seasonally). It’s a great place and a nice little getaway. 

Joseph Decuis
191 North Main Street
Roanoke, IN 46783

Monday, December 8, 2014


I kept forgetting about this place. Unfortunately, I think part of it may be its location. It’s on the canal, which I hope becomes a more well-traversed place, but when the weather is really bad, it’s hard to imagine the location to be a super popular one. Also, it doesn’t help that the parking is a bit confusing. But just so you know, there is a garage that is attached to the restaurant—just drive west on 9th Street until it dead ends. There’s a parking garage there that you can park in for free if you ask for a validation from the restaurant (park on the bottom level and you can park right at one of the restaurant’s entrances).

I met my friend @wibia—he’s always willing to try a new burger place. We ate early and we’re the only ones there for a while. Like I said, I worry about this location—the crowd picked up a bit, but the place was never very busy. I ordered the “Haus burger” ($9). You get to pick your cheese and add additional items if you like. They come standard with bibb lettuce, tomato and sliced red onions.  I just got cheddar (it’s white cheddar) and told them to leave the tomato off because I am wary of tomatoes in the winter. I also asked them to add garlic may—I find often a special sauce on a burger can really make a difference. They also asked how we wanted them cooked. I ordered mine medium and wibia medium rare. I was interested to see how this came out. I liked the soft brioche bun—it held up well to the burger but was soft enough to squish down so it wasn’t so big. The lettuce and red onion were nice and fresh and crisp and I liked that they use bibb lettuce because I like the relative softness of it—I hate when you get a big piece of hard Romaine heart on a sandwich. I also liked the thick cut dill pickle slices served on the side of the burgers.

The cheese was nice and melty and I appreciated the additional moisture from the mayo, particularly since, as it turned out, they did not cook that burger medium. I would say well done was more like it. And @wibia’s burger was at best, medium-well. Sigh. I mean, it was still decent because the beef was high quality, but it could have been a lot better if it was actually cooked to order. 

As for the flavor of his burger, he tried one of their combinations, the Monaco ($13). This had a beef burger, white cheddar cheese, sautéed onions and mushrooms, avocado, arugula and burgundy wine mayo served on a pretzel bun. It sounded interesting and included all things that I like for sure. Not sure how I felt about it all together. It may have been just a little much. It was kind of so many things; you couldn’t really appreciate any of them a lot. I was not a fan of this pretzel bun because it was really dense. I guess in some ways that is good to hold up to so many toppings, but the top of the bun didn’t mush down and it was one that was for me, hard to fit into my mouth. Overall, I preferred mine with fewer toppings and the softer bun.

We both had fries alongside our burgers. They were served in very cute little miniature fry baskets, and were fresh and fairly crisp. There just wasn’t anything about them that really stood out. They were just kind of middle of the road fries. They do offer a bunch of fries prepared and topped in different ways—I’d be tempted to see if they would offer this with the side of fries. Spicy blue cheese or garlic parmesan sounds good.

I’m glad to see a new restaurant going in along the canal. It is certainly an underserved area. As far as the food goes, it was a decent average burger for me. Not sure it was enough to make me want to go out of my way to get another one. There were some tasty sounding things on the appetizer menu—I wonder how they are? And there’s a fairly extensive craft beer list (And I like the way they give you beer pairing suggestions with many of the food items), but you know that’s not luring me in. Anyone else been?

335 West 9th Street
Indy 46202