No. 5 — Sensu (now closed; click for details)
Editor’s Note, June 22, 2012: Sensu announced early this month that it will no longer serve dinner. It will, however, remain an upscale nightclub and special-event venue, with Asian-inspired catering services available.
No one visits Sensu on a Saturday night for a quiet meal. This downtown restaurant-nightclub treats dining the way Vegas traditionally does: as an excuse to get dolled up, drink, dance, and maybe share a light bite or two. Restaurateur Jeremiah Hamman (of Mo’s … A Place for Steaks, Detour—An American Grille, and Mo’s Irish Pub in Noblesville), creates eye candy with his chic, 15,000–square-foot Jetsons-modern space. Along one wall, huge plasma screens stream a trippy loop of anything from wine splashing to foliage scenes. The lower level buzzes with thumping beats and bumping bodies—among them, a fair share of scantily clad 30-something women and men in tight black T-shirts. Meanwhile, the most surprising thing about Sensu is the food served upstairs: It’s actually great. For dinner service, a young and distracted hostess on the downstairs level radios up to a manager donning a wireless headset to find out if a table’s ready. Guests are escorted up a curvy black staircase and directed to high-backed, curvaceous banquettes, or front-and-center tables against the railing, the prime spot for taking it all in.
Sensu’s refined pan-Asian fare is clean-cut and extraordinarily poised, with more than a dozen maki rolls and several hot and cold sharable dishes. Standout starters include roasted shishito peppers drizzled with a ginger-infused yuzu vinaigrette and rock shrimp tempura with a creamy, spicy sauce. Among the larger shared plates, caramelized black cod with a melt-in-your-mouth white miso sauce should not be skipped, even at $28 for the nibble. The crab-and-shiitake-crusted filet mignon, served with hoisin jus and wasabi mashed potatoes, sounds like too much of a good thing, but the assemblage is so skillful, you won’t mind.
>> SIMILAR TASTES
While Hamman and his team may have glitzed up the formula, they aren’t the only ones dishing out polished Asian-inspired fare. H2O Restaurant & Sushi Bar (1912 Broad Ripple Ave., 254-0677, h2osushibar.com) is a favorite due to starters like the bright, clean tuna tartare served with wonton chips > Bu Da Lounge (148 E. Market St., 822-8522, budalounge.com) wows downtowners with its cigar-bar swankiness and sauced-up, Western-style rolls, like the Hot Blonde with tuna, Sriracha, and jalapeño > Naked Tchopstix (6253 N. College Ave., 552-5555, tchopstix.com) is our go-to spot for octopus salad and flaming sushi > Winner’s Circle Pub, Grille & OTB (20 N. Pennsylvania St., 656-7223, hoosierpark.com/winnerscircle) serves those roasted sweet Shishito peppers.
>> MORE: See our July 2011 review of Sensu, which is no longer serving dinner as of June 5, 2012.
Photos by Tony Valainis.
This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue.