From the day Ed Rudisell opened the original Rook in Fletcher Place’s ultra-mod Hinge Building in the summer of 2013, there was a sense the modest effort wasn’t all he’d had in mind. Designer Nikki Sutton’s realization of a deserted Saigon street scene, complete with felled telephone poles, was perhaps the restaurant-decor feat of the year, and the eight banh mi offered on the original menu definitely extended the trend in funky, tasty ways. But when chef Carlos Salazar came in as a partner just three months later, bringing his edgy prowess with Asian street foods, it was clear the cramped kitchen at the back of the 1,400-square-foot storefront could never contain his creativity. Nearly three years later, Rudisell debuted Rook’s second incarnation in the newly constructed Slate Building two blocks north. Since reopening in February, the fully open kitchen (cooking’s equivalent to theater in the round) in the airy yet cozy new spot has been putting out some truly impressive bites: a Korean tostada with tender beef cheeks and a generous underlay of avocado; lightly breaded pig ears plated with an egg so soft it makes an ethereal sauce. A rich pork meatloaf atop rice comes gilded with Spam and foie gras, and Salazar’s avant-garde Okonomiyaki burger features a patty inside light crepes with kimchi, Tulip Tree Creamery Foxglove cheese, plum mayo, and a root-beer barbecue sauce. Just don’t try to pick it up to eat it.
TIP: Rook takes reservations online now. Make yours for the next First Friday so you can have a table instead of standing in line.
DON’T MISS: A host of mostly gin-based drinks, such as the fruity Missionary’s Downfall, shaken up by an all-star bar staff.
PREVIOUS MENTIONS: Best Restaurants 2014
501 Virginia Ave., 737-2293, rookindy.com
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