Time After Time
The Times. It is a Changin.
Of all the experiments chef Neal Brown has conducted, whether in his kitchen laboratoire or the culinary free market, none has come as close to successful alchemy as The Libertine Liquor Bar, his shrine to the cocktail in a Washington Street storefront downtown. A shot of Scandinavian austerity, a jigger of pre-Prohibition American frontier swagger, and a dash of orange bitters dosed from eyedroppers by Brown’s exacting barkeeps, The Libertine is a study in contrasts—some logical, some forced—that all mingle, dazzlingly. Take “The Last Word,” one of several clever coinages on Brown’s drink menu. It mixes Bluecoat gin, lending its distinctly piney profile, with Luxardo maraschino and green chartreuse, haute liqueurs as opposite as stop and go. A bracing hit of lime merges these improbable comrades into a restrained elixir that cleanses the palate at the same time it sweetens it, a beguiling medicine you’re all too glad to take.
Fountain Square’s new Mama Irma Restaurant (1058 Virginia Ave., 317-423-2421) is a tribute to the diverse cuisine of Peru. Dish titles are in Peruvian Spanish, but the plates have Spanish, Japanese, African, and Italian influences. Diners can get a taste of that diversity in dishes ranging from citrus-soaked ceviche (the Peruvian national dish) to the native favorite lomo saltado, a warm toss of steak, veggies, and French fries. (And everything tastes better with a dollop or dip of the smooth Peruvian yellow sauce that swaddles the papas a la huancaina and a number of other plates.) The sheer expanse of flavors that Peruvian cooking incorporates is obvious from the seafood feasts, sticky tallarin noodles, fried rice, and battered Yucca root that emerge steaming from the kitchen.
Small is the new big at Mass Ave bar-in-the-works, Tini, scheduled to open in early December next to Chatham Tap. True, it will be a martini bar, but the name speaks to more than the featured beverage. At only 1,200 square feet, this space maxes out at 50 people. Don’t be deterred by the size. The theme is Vodka and Video, with a full bar boasting more than 50 vodkas–including some local and organic labels–and six 40-inch flatscreens showcasing music videos. “Part of the whole concept is to bring back what I consider a lost art of music videos,” says owner Brad Kime, who envisions themed weeknights (such as a One Hit Wonder Night or Lady Gaga Night), with corresponding beverages. “It’s going to be a little more fun,” adds Kime, an Indy native and long-time local barfly. This is his first venture in bar ownership. “I know about the business from sitting on that side of the bar,” he says. “Now there are a lot of things I’m going to learn on this side of the bar.”
1. Fin & Shellfish Stew in a spicy Pernod broth at The Oceanaire Seafood Room (30 S. Meridian St., 317-955-2277).
2. The banana-and-Nutella crepe at Petite Chou (823 W. Westfield Blvd., 317-259-0765).
3. Eddie Merlot’s (3645 E. 96th St., 317-846-8303) Trio of Medallions—a mini steak flight of four-ounce filets. One has a bubbled crown of bacon and Gorgonzola, the second an elaborate Oscar treatment, and the third a mild peppercorn sauce.
4. The Vietnamese beef bun at the recently expanded Egg Roll #1 (4576 S. Emerson Ave., 317-787-2225). A deep bowl of cold vermicelli noodles is layered with fresh greens, veggies, sprouts, and strips of caramelized meat topped with crushed peanuts and the most delicate fried egg roll hacked into bite-sized pieces. Addictive.
5. Extra chunky potato soup at Kitley Inn (825 S. Kitley Ave., 317-357-3160).
Ali Baba’s Cafe is now up and running in the northwest corner of the Block Building just off Market Street. The cozy little Greek and Mediterranean restaurant serves a bit of everything, from all-American french fries to falafel, and includes a discounted Express Lunch Combo menu from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. We stopped in just past the lunch hour (rats!) and gobbled up a large order of hummus topped with ground lamb and pine nuts, served with steaming hot pita bread on the side. Large orders of shawarma sandwiches came with grilled and marinated chicken or beef on two round pitas and a choice of taziki or tahini sauce, or sour cream. Dessert was a delectably sweet order of baklava.
We had to fight through the traffic on US 36 west of I-465, but once we got to Avon, we were impressed that there are a growing number of independent, international eateries, not just chain restaurants in strip malls. The newest player is actually a remake of the former Green Leaf Vietnamese restaurant, which is now called Pho Asian Grill (10240 East US Highway 36, 271-7999). True to its name, this cozy, shotgun eatery with seating for only around 30 people offers Vietnamese standards such as the iconic spiced soup pho. We tried one with rare beef that had a good depth of flavor and the usual accompaniments of sprouts, basil, mint, jalapenos, and lime. But the restaurant also offers a small selection of entrees that span Asia, such as Chinese stir-fries, Korean barbecued ribs, even the Japanese fritter tonkatsu. Spring rolls, both fried and fresh, came with flavorful dipping sauces, a peanut version and a rice vinegar dressing, and cream cheese rangoons seemed a bit more homemade than some, if without much (or any?) crab. “Shaken” beef was perhaps the hit of the evening, with surprisingly tender beef the menu suggested was filet in a rich soy-based gravy with a nice kick of chiles. Lemongrass chicken was a bit more timid but did have an aromatic undertone of ginger and garlic. We might not trade our favorite pan-Asian takeouts inside of I-465, but if we’ve got a reason to travel west of town, we know we can find some freshly made Asian favorites amid the franchises.
The Red Velvet cupcake from Parcha Sweets (2101 Broad Ripple Ave., 317-254-2000). The One-Eyed Jack at The Libertine Liquor Bar (38 E. Washington St., 317-631-3333). A familiar crusty egg-in-the-hole taken up a notch with the addition of garlic confit and fig jam. Mate’s Mozzarella at
If you’re a little worn out on the autumn-themed drinks at your favorite corporate coffee store, there are five perfect-for-fall concoctions brewing at the South Bend Chocolate Company on Monument Circle that we can’t get enough of. Don’t let the Halloween-y names fool you—these drinks are for the big kids, too!
If Sensu (225 S. Meridian St., 317-536-0036), and The Libertine Liquor Bar (38 E. Washington St., 317-631-3333) taught us anything about downtown’s eating-and-drinking habits, it was that we are nowhere near our saturation point for attractive spots to comfortably sip cocktails and people-watch. Brothers Binh and Steven Phan, co-owners of Mass Ave’s teeny lucky-red Bu Da Lounge (429 Massachusetts Ave., 317-602-3643) are tapping into the game. By Nov. 11, they hope to be in their new 5,000-square-foot space on East Market Street.
That ubiquitous Asian appetizer, the egg roll, has many interpretations. Some are tiny and crisp, perfect for a little dip in wonton broth. Others are so plump with veggies that they could almost count as one of your daily fives. We sampled them all, from Sawasdee to Siam Square. Here, a pupu platter of our favorites.