Thursday, February 11, 2016

U.S. Adventures: Palm Beach, Florida

I’m going to try and make this pretty quick, because it’s a post from outside Indy, but no promises. For my birthday, hubby took me and the kids to Palm Beach for a little getaway. The thing that excited me about this place when I started researching restaurants was how many great options were.

For my birthday dinner, we went to my number one choice—a place called Buccan. It had great ratings and a great sounding menu. I so wish Indy had a place with a menu like this. Highlights of the appetizers (besides for the amazing bread plate) were Hamachi sashimi ($16) andbeef tartare ($14). On top of that wonderfully seasoned tartare was a breaded and fried poached egg. It had lots of acid and even my daughter loved it.

Highlights of the main part of the dinner were hubby’s pork tacos ($5.50) with avocado crema and salsa verde and the short rib empanadas ($6 each) with salsa criolla and aji Amarillo. They flavor profiles of these small plates were intense. Honestly better than my birthday splurge of house made pappardelle with shaved white truffles, which was fun and tasty and rich, but just didn’t stand out the same way. The other highlight believe it or not was my son’s roasted half chicken “Boudin” with mustard jus ($29). Wow, that skin on that chicken was amazing for real. So much flavor and so super crisp. I would actually order it myself if I went back. I loved this place. We even watched Dr. Oz have a few words with the hostess at the table next to us.

My next favorite dinner was at Echo. This is a Japanese restaurant—they do sushi but so much more, and while both the rolls we had were quite good (gotta love a roll with some real fresh jumbo lump crab in it (the Hurricane roll at $17) and a roll with spicy conch on top (the Palm Beach roll at $16))—the highlight of the evening for me was the two hot entrées that my kids chose. My favorite was the sweet and sour halibut ($32) which had large chunks of tempura fried halibut (perfectly juicy on the inside and crunchy on the outside) all tossed in a slightly sweet, but not cloying, sauce. It had a good tang to it and I loved it. We also enjoyed sharing the wagyu flatiron steak ($35) with bulgogi marinade. Ok, really what we really liked about it was the kimchi fried rice underneath. That stuff was amazing. I mean the beef was good—a touch chewy, but that rice was fabulous. The entire table also enjoyed the Peking duck buns ($22). The biggest letdown was the salmon and tuna tartare duo that hubby and I ordered—it was really pretty bland. This restaurant was DARK though. Really dark. I never use my phone as a flashlight in restaurants and there was no other way here.

We also went to dinner at PB Catch, which is your basic seafood place. There was nothing wrong with this place, but nothing stood out in the same was as the first two. I also realized those giant stone crab claws just aren’t that special for me. Give me a Dungeness any day. (We did have a couple and they were really expensive and just ok). Hubby and I shared everything we ordered and the grilled oysters with paprika butter were very good. The oysters here were very fresh. I also ordered another appetizer as my entrée and it was very unique—and one of the best things on the table all night. It was a dish with bay scallops that were deep fried and served with spaetzle, compressed apple (in little balls that almost looked like scallops themselves) and little bits of braised oxtail ($20). It was a wonderful dish. My daughter’s tuna ($42) contained lots of olives and was tasty as well. Hubby’s fish and chips were not good. That crust was soggy.

We also ate lunch in Del Ray Beach one day when we wanted to check out another area (it’s a cute little beachy town with lots and lots of bars and restaurants and a few shops). We ate at City Oyster and had a nice meal there as well. Hubby and I shared the carpaccio of tuna with fennel, capers, and basil ($13.75) and the salmon BLT ($16) served on housemade challah bread with caper aioli. The BLT was heavy on bread, but we ate it open-faced and it was delish. The tuna was unique in presentation and all the sauces along the edge made the dish. The kids were also happy with their clam chowder (son) and seared mahi mahi (daughter). Also, we splurged and had dessert. The key lime pie and chocolate pudding with sea salt ($7) also both very good.

Other than these, most of the meals were in the hotel gazing at the ocean and were wonderful because of the views—and the food wasn’t bad either, although not quite as stellar as the other things we had out. We stayed at Eau Palm Beach if anyone is interested hearing more about it, drop me a line.

All in all, a great trip, great weather, and a perfect way to spend my birthday.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Byrne's Grilled Pizza

I took my daughter to see Wizard of Oz at Clowes Hall the other day—I needed somewhere we could eat an early supper nearby before the 6:30 show time. No idea where her love of musical theater comes from…but that’s another story.

I remembered hearing about Byrne’s Grilled Pizza taking over the old Oh Yumm spot on Illinois and thought it would be perfect. They are also open all day and on Sundays. Check and check. Byrnes started its life as a food truck that many people had mentioned to me, but I had never gotten a chance to try. Nice to see they have done well enough to move into a brick and mortar spot.

Because it was so early, we were the only ones there for a while, but our server was exceptionally friendly and helpful.  We started with an order of breadsticks (2 or 4 per order, we had 2) with a side of garlic olive oil for dipping (there are several dipping options) ($3.25). The breadsticks are their pizza dough done in a chewy breadstick and topped with salt. Interesting, because their pizza crusts are the super thin type, but these were pretty good. I really enjoyed the garlic dipping sauce, which was a pretty simple combo of good quality olive oil and minced garlic. The garlic was yummy, as garlic tends to be.

Their pizzas come in two sizes—the smaller one being a personal pan size. We each got one of these. It was a good way to try two completely different pies as well. I had “The Californian” ($10) and my daughter the “PBS” ($10). We both enjoyed our pizzas. Mine was topped with red sauce, spinach, bacon, plum tomato slices and avocado. And cheese of course. The crust here is very thin and crisp—almost more like a flatbread. I enjoyed the nice change of pace. I also liked that they gave you just enough of each topping, and not so much that the pizza became soggy or overwhelmed. They also liberally season their pizzas with dried herbs.

My daughter’s PBS had pepperoni, Smoking Goose jowl bacon and sausage (and cheese and red sauce). She really seemed to enjoy it. She ordered it because it had Smoking Goose bacon and she “only eats bacon from Smoking Goose.” Seriously. It’s kind of a problem because there’s a lot of bacon in this world that isn’t Smoking Goose. Anyhow, she ate almost all of it, which is a sure sign that she enjoyed it. She prefers the crumbly bits of sausage on pizza and that is the kind they use here. Again, super crispy crust. 

I was also happy to see that Byrnes had also acquired the Oh Yumm chocolate chip bread pudding recipe. Whenever hubby and ate there, we always looked forward to this dessert. It was still delicious—studded with lots of chocolate chips in a very moist bread pudding topped with vanilla and raspberry sauce and a couple slices of strawberry. It was nice to see it passed along. Apparently Byrnes hired several of the staff from Oh Yumm as well, which was also nice to hear.

The interior is a little more stark, with some wooden beams added to the ceiling and a counter from which you can order carry out (which seemed a popular option as people were coming in the whole time we were there to do just that on a cold Sunday evening). If you like that cracker thin type of crust, and more creative topping options than many places are offering (would like to try the Mexican pizza), you should check this place out. Let me know what you think.

Byrne’s Grilled Pizza
5615 N. Illinois Street
Indy 46208

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Recess - Revisit

This week’s quickie post is about Recess. I saw in their social media that they were doing the Room 4 cheeseburger for a couple of nights and I needed to eat it. The kids are also fans, so we trekked over as a family.

That burger? One of the best in town (fat burger wise anyhow). Tender meat, cheese, Dijon/mayo, lettuce, onions, pickles (I had to get them on the side because I was sharing with hubby) and a Brioche bun. Perfect.  And the crispy fries (more like slices) are strangely addictive. There were fights over them at our table. Those burgers were just pouring out of the kitchen all night.

We also ordered the chirashi, or scattered sushi bowl—the first time I have really tried the new raw bar menu. There was tuna, Hamachi and salmon sashimi served over sticky sushi rice with chunks of cucumber (could have lived without those personally) but I loved the shaved lightly pickled cucumbers on the side. Wonderful fish, delightfully simple, but great dish.

My daughter also ordered the goat cheese quesadilla with chicken. It was wee, but mucho delicious. We ended up ordering a second one because everyone wanted some of the first one. 

The food at Recess is always great. The service can get a little sketchy. Prepare for a little more time than you would think is my advice. And enjoy every bite. And if that burger’s on the menu, go get one. 

4907 N. College Ave
Indy 46205

Monday, February 1, 2016

Ramen Ray

Ok, I broke my rule about waiting a couple weeks before going somewhere new here, but I figured with the massive amounts of business they’ve had, they probably have lots of practice by now right? Plus, this place is right by my house and I have been waiting patiently (or not) for months for it to open.

I went with two friends and we tried everything on the menu. There are only three choices on the menu, so it’s pretty easy to do. We each got one of the different flavors of ramen and I tried them all (the bowls are around $13 each). I had the shio broth (which means salt) and my friends had the shoyu (soy) and miso (which is fermented bean paste). I think the shio is kind of the purest of the forms maybe, and the most delicate of the flavors. I enjoyed it and all the little bits of pork that were in there mixed with the noodles, but if you are looking for that big slice of pork on top, this one doesn’t come with it. Instead, there’s a little slice of fish roll. The broth did have a nuanced flavor and the bites with the egg were superb, but if you’re looking for something more in your face flavor-wise, you might want to try one of the others.
The miso (which contains fish sauce and peanuts for those with allergy concerns) tasted heavily of miso—you know, like the soup you get before your sushi. I happen to really enjoy miso soup, so I thought this one was good, and it was certainly a stronger flavor than mine. This one had the pork slice as well as the egg and it’s unique topping was corn, which I will have to say is not my favorite ramen ingredient.
I tasted the shoyu last, and after eating mine for several minutes beforehand, the soy flavor really whopped me. It’s definitely a darker and stronger flavor. Also good. This one also has the egg and pork (and they all had fresh bean sprouts and noodles obviously) as well as some seaweed. Speaking of noodles, they import their noodles from Japan, and apparently age them in the front counter. The noodles were good—they had some toothiness to them and didn’t just kind of dissolve the way rice noodles do. The only option they were offering when we were there was to add extra noodles, but honestly, there were a lot of noodles and I don’t know how they could even fit more in the bowl. You really don’t need extra in my opinion. The half soft-boiled eggs were also just right, with a just set yolk. One friend also snuck in a jar of togarashi to jazz up the soup after reading that it was a good idea. It was. We all used it.
So overall, what do I think? I think Ramen Ray is certainly some of the best ramen in Indy (along with Rook) not that there are really many other places to compare to. I enjoy a nice bowl of noodles as much as the next gal, but I still haven’t found a bowl of ramen in Indy that can compare to the ones I have had in New York and Chicago (honestly, the best so far being Yusho in Chicago). And judging by the enthusiasm and crowds at this place (the entire restaurant was full before they even started serving at noon), Indy is itching for more ramen choices. Hopefully this starts a trend.

I do think they would do themselves a favor opening earlier than noon (the current hours are 12-2:00 and then reopening at 5:00 for dinner). Allowing people to get there earlier than noon, when a lot of people are just starting a lunch break would break up the crush of people all arriving at the same time I think. They are very friendly in there though and do everything they can to keep things moving along. I will certainly go back at some point when the crowds die down, as it is so convenient for me. However one of my friends, who lives near Westfield, said she’d be hard-pressed to come all the way to this side of town for this meal again (she has eaten a lot of the ramen I have had in other cities right alongside me).
the line at noon
I’m sure they will do well though, and it’s a decent ramen option. And I love that they focus so much on just doing the three types of ramen. To me, that shows real passion for the actual product they are making by not overextending themselves into areas where they may not shine. 

On the other hand, if you get tired of waiting at Ramen Ray, head across 71st Street to Long Thanh and get some great Vietnamese food (don’t get the Chinese food though) without any wait. They even have noodles.

Ramen Ray
5628 East 71st Street
Indy 46220

Apparently no phone, no website, but they are on facebook