Mini Review: Topo's 403

We were smitten the moment we walked through the door of Bloomington newcomer Topo’s 403 (403 N. Walnut St., 812-676-8676). The grand entry of this restored 1870s townhouse has the kind of amber, Art Deco glow that could put Instagram out of business, for starters. Then there is the high clustered chandelier illuminating deep-blue wallpaper festooned with stylized jellyfish and the whitewashed spindles of the stairway, and the hallway that opens onto high-ceilinged dining rooms with white tablecloths, tall windows, and refurbished fireplace mantels. It’s an elegant entry point for a restaurant that seems to have put just as much meticulous thought into its Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Dave Tallent, of Bloomington’s Restaurant Tallent fame, helped craft the menu, which takes some creative liberties with Greek favorites such as spanakopita (done inside a filleted rainbow trout) and skewered meat (pork souvlaki plated with plump, creamy gigante beans). Even the little gratis dish of house-marinated olives—tender and oily—are herb-flecked gems.

The saltiness of starters like baked feta with a chutney-like tomato relish and goat-cheese–stuffed medjool dates goes nicely with handcrafted cocktails that keep the bitters and absinthe bottles in heavy rotation at the glass-backed bar. Topo’s sturdy, lemony frites (perhaps a play on the Greek lemon potatoes) are an iteration that could revive the exploited glorified french fries trend. Among the entrees, paella brilliantly ladled over crisp Italian rice balls; Greek spaghetti with a sweet meat sauce countered by the sharp bite of myzithra cheese; and Hawaiian swordfish brightened with olives and caramelized fennel over orzo show that the kitchen knows what it’s doing. Plus, almost everything we ate here was ready for its close-up.

Meanwhile, a hulking Viking Farms lamb chop, busily plated with greens and roasted-artichoke sauce, and a few discordant dollops of sauce here and there suggest that some of the plates still need some fine-tuning. And we were not nearly as impressed with the dessert course’s Loukoumades, doughy fried balls rolled in sugar—Greek doughnuts—as our handsomely persuasive server had been. But this was nothing that a dunk in salted caramel sauce and a hit of strong Greek coffee (stylishly poured from a sliver pot) could not fix.