That Ed Rudisell’s sleek third effort, Rook, had ambitions as lofty as his other hit enterprises (Siam Square, Black Market) was never in question. One step inside this Nikki Sutton–designed, post-apocalyptic dreamscape of a deserted Saigon street scene (complete with toppled telephone poles), and you knew it was more than a mere sandwich shop offering funky versions of Vietnamese banh mi. But it took Carlos Salazar, the former Oakleys Bistro sous chef who entered as business partner last fall, to bring the restaurant’s vision into full focus. Salazar’s umami-rich mushroom dumplings, pork-belly steamed buns, and meat-on-meat pig-face hash have raised the culinary bar while channeling the true spirit of Asia’s great street-food snacks.
EAST MEETS SOUTH: Dig your chopsticks into a bowl of karaage, light-as-air cubes of braised chicken thigh dressed up with kimchi bleu cheese, pickled Fresno chiles, and celery shavings: a taste of Tokyo, Savannah, and Buffalo all in one bowl.
FASHIONABLY LATE: Skip the rush of lunch-hour regulars and grab your sandwich midafternoon. Or stop in for an uptown snack after First Friday in Fountain Square.
EXTRA, EXTRA: The sandwiches, including versions filled with tangy sour sausage and perfectly tender Chinese barbecued pork, may be substantial, but don’t miss the eminently crunchy housemade shrimp chips or a last snack of wonton-wrapped black plantain sweetened with jackfruit and brown sugar.
719 Virginia Ave., 317-759-5828, rookindy.com
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This article appeared in the May 2014 issue.