Basically, the scenario could be summed up in a math equation:
$30 prix fixe menu + (high ratings + rave reviews) = high expectations
*Don’t forget your PEMDAS*
1464 W 86th St
Indianapolis, IN 46260
Northside Nights 2013 Menu: http://www.northsidenightsindy.com/menus2013/oakleys.html
- The ambiance is rather formal and romantic with most of the customers wearing at least business casual attires, although don’t be surprised if you see someone wearing hooded sweater and some sweat pants. The dining area is dimly lit with soft music playing in the background. The wait staff is friendly and the kitchen staff is visible right away even before entering.
- While waiting for the order to arrive, we were presented with two bite-size pieces of sliced baguette (forgive me for forgetting the exact kind). Along came a three-slotted rectangular plate, each containing something different:
- Carrot Puree – nice, gentle carrot taste that gave a sweet contrast to the spice herb included with it
- Olive oil – …
- Something with kalamata olive puree – strong olive taste as soon as the tongue caught it.
- The menu technically only included the soup of the day but since Wade-o doesn’t like any kind of potato soup, we tried to ask whether we could get a substitute even if we had to pay extra for it. Our server was gracious enough to allow us to substitute with Butternut Squash Soup without any extra charge.
- Potato Leek (pic 1) = Mild potato taste with a few leeks here and there, a couple of potato chunks, and lots of weird, small, spherical globs of something. It wasn’t overly creamy and granulated but not completely watery either. Gently balanced but was missing something as the flavor didn’t pop.
- Butternut Squash Soup (pic 2) = Sweet background with a buttery aftertaste from the squash. Also had squash pieces that were aplenty in the soup. Very good taste-play with the combination of sweetness, buttery taste, and light seasoning. This was the better choice and I thank our server for letting us get this.
- Shrimp Corndog: Served on a raised wooden block, this was the embodiment of taste and texture balance. The sweet, crumbly cornmeal breading served as a springboard for the firm, ocean-reminiscing, plump shrimp. Served with a drizzle of light-colored honey to enhance the experience. They were so hot that I decided to just slice it with my knife and use my fork to eat it. These babies were technically not on the Northside Nights menu, but at $1.75 a pop and its (good) reputation preceding it, I thought it would be injustice not to get some.
- The obvious star of the dish here was the duck leg quarter accompanied with mushroom, frisée, and arancine. The meat was tender, the vegetables (endive and beans) provided the snappy texture, and the butternut squash arancine along with the goat cheese provided the necessary sharpness that tied everything together. Each spoonful of all these ingredients together, when swished around on the miso dressing, yielded a harmonious combination of texture and flavor. Eating them by themselves, on the other hand, wasn’t as eventful. The vegetables and meat didn’t have anything to distinguish themselves with, while the arancine sometimes got a little too rich and creamy to be enjoyed by itself.
- Well, honestly… Let’s just see what “the man who doesn’t eat a lot of vegetables” has to say about his dish of choice:
They should have put lasagna in quotes. The tomato was prominent; it was rather juicy and was cooked a bit to help bring out the natural taste. The lasagna was presented in squares with a cornbread top layer covering a whole variety of vegetables. The most distinct taste I got was from the cornbread and the tomato. The whole experience texture-wise was very hard to chew through because the vegetables were all too firm to go together (it was hard to cut even with a knife). The tapenade was a bit of an odd case; I didn’t have it on the lasagna itself, but on its own it had an intentionally bitter taste. The baby bok choy simply was not my cup of tea, not to mention the huge lump of it sitting on my plate. I really should have picked the duck, but even then I expected something better than this.
- The crème brulée itself had a nice crunchy top covering the custard below. It came with a scoop of mango sorbet which was good but not that creamy. Eating them together gave a good combination of taste but the mango flavor overpowered the whole spoonful at times. Topped with three different kinds of berries.
- It’s time for the Cheesecake Saga. (Enclosed in a block quote for aesthetic purposes)
The plate had a raised, rectangular center that I thought was a huge bar of white chocolate. Imagine my happiness, and then imagine a meteorite falling down to Earth at about ~500 miles per hour. Oh, sorry. Did I say meteorite? I meant happiness. That was my happiness falling down to the ground with a velocity of 500 miles per hour after discovering that the center wasn’t white chocolate, but rather just another part of the plate. Please believe me when I say that I tried on five, yes five, different occasions to see whether it really was chocolate or not. I don’t know if that qualifies as desperation, but I do know that’s sad.
White chocolate fantasies aside, the whole dessert was three small squirts of milk chocolate mousse, one squirt of dark chocolate mousse, a triangular slice of strawberry, one raspberry, roughly half a tablespoon of pickled pineapples, some incredibly mild-tasting vanilla crème anglaise, and the almost-not-there cashew soil. The mousse technically wasn’t mousse but cremoux; it’s just easier for me to say mousse since that’s how it tasted like to me. The small chocolate shavings placed on top of the cremoux wasn’t anything special (I would have been happier with some Lindt shavings).
Now I understand why cheesecake was enclosed in quotation marks, but still…
- I don’t deny the fact that the food was good (for the most part) and the quality of the ingredients superb, but it was more of a miss than a hit. The meal started out really strong with the soup and the shrimp corn dog, effectively getting us even more excited for the main course. Unfortunately, the main dishes did not meet our heightened expectations. Even though Wade managed to bounce back with his dessert, mine just flopped even further.
- Apparently, the menu here changes every season to make use of seasonal ingredients, so we might visit this place again in the distant future. It’s just a little scary because I just never know whether I’ll get a perfect harmony of taste or if I’ll get a nasty discord until my taste buds process it. If I want an epicurean delight for myself, I shouldn’t have to be on pins and needles when trying to decide.
The quality of the items we liked still warranted this place a 3.5 on the Creepachoo-meter.