Review: Dish

23 July 2022

What a terrible sleep. You end up in these hotels and they sometimes look good, but you get a crazy patron in the room above you. This one decided to STOMP ALL NIGHT. At midnight. At 1.30am. At 3am. At 4.15am. I gave up by then, so got to enjoy the Nebraska/Iowa/South Dakota sunrise. Tired, but full of recharged energy, and I headed south-west.

I spent the day snaking through Nebraska, through windy and dirt roads, visiting small towns few have heard of. I eventually rounded out to Grand Island, and started to head back east on smaller highways before arriving in my final destination of the day, Lincoln.

I first visited Lincoln during my first cross-country drive back in 1992, and ironically it’s nearly 30 years to the day that I last did an overnight here in Nebraska’s capital city. I had a few places to visit in town before an earlier dinner tonight at Dish — probably the most interesting restaurant in town.

Parking in the busy downtown area, despite the students being gone (Lincoln is Nebraska’s capital city, but also home to the flagship campus of the University of Nebraska), was very busy — not made any easier by the excess construction. But found a lot nearby and walked through the very warm and thick air to my dining destination. It’s cooled off from the 104F (40C) a little, but not much — and it’s gotten more humid…

I arrived at the door and what? There was a bouncer?

Must be the cutest bouncer, ever. I wish I had some food to feed it, but clearly it knows where to wait when the students are out of town!

I evaded its sad, hungry eyes and headed in. I took a seat at the bar, not wanting to take up a two-top on a busy Saturday night. I relaxed with a cocktail. The bar staff seems to be overwhelmed not from orders, but covering a lot of bar back work. But it was nice and relaxing for patrons, so I was relaxed. I ordered, enjoyed my drink, and soon my first dish arrived.

This is a nice start. The pork pâté is done quite well, delicious with a hint of excess and rustic. I like when pâté is not ultra-refined, when it has the consistency of pet food. The tomatoes brings it home nicely, all going down well with the crackers. An excellent start.

I switched up to a wine and relaxed. The place was nice and busy, and I shifted to let a group of four into the bar — which turns out to not be necessary as they got their table within 5 minutes. Shifted back just in time for my main.

I have to say this is one of the best duck I’ve had in many years. Blows away many a Michelin-starred places. Absolutely tender and rich, cooked perfectly. It’s almost fluffy, not a tinge of that “livery” thing you get from a second of overcooking. With a rich variety of carrots — from pickled to grilled — it adds a wonderful touch to this fabulous dish. A complete winner!

I was in a very good mood, so I decided to look at dessert. I ordered and relaxed with some coffee and rye. Also began chatting with some fellow patrons, which was fun. However, I was a little surprised that at a relatively early hour, when the walk-ins sat down at the bar, they were told the kitchen was no longer taking any orders. Really? On a Saturday night when the place was packed? Wow.

My dessert was a nice combination of three scoops I picked out. The “chocolate xtreme” was nice and rich, with the addition of chocolate cake crumble. The black sesame was okay, but it really made me miss Japan and the intensity of their version. And finally, a cherry lemonade sorbet, which was refreshing. All of this with some rye, which made for a fine way to close this evening.

I wished my fellow bar patrons luck with finding food, and headed out the door. The comedy with that was the only real hitch of the night, but the food was fabulous. This is one excellent kitchen, so I feel bad for those people who didn’t get to enjoy the food from this excellent back of house team.

Still blazing hot as I headed back to my hotel, hoping for a better sleep. Home tomorrow, after another 500+ miles of driving!


100 East O Street
Lincoln, Nebraska


Review: Table 32

22 July 2022

I’m not sure what got me to take a 550 mile (880km) drive west on Friday morning. We had a day off from the office (wow, a 3-day weekend) so I decided I need some solo thinking time…and the best place to do it away from the house is in my car. So I headed west, getting up at 5am to beat the traffic…

I got into Iowa from Davenport, then went by Iowa City and Grinnell and Ames (why am I stopping at all the college towns?), bypassing Des Moines. Then snaked around various parts of north-central Iowa, including Fort Dodge, before I rolled into my destination at the north-west end of the state, Sioux City. The last time I was here was in the spring of 2017…

I always find places that straddle three states interesting. My hotel was in South Sioux City, which was in Nebraska. I had to run quickly to North Sioux City, which was in South Dakota. But dinner tonight was in Sioux City itself, which is in Iowa, of course.

I had found Table 32 by accident while doing some research, and it looked good. I got there on a still-bright 8pm and took a seat at the bar. Relaxed with a cocktail and looked over the menu. The small plates all look interesting, so I decided to order a pair. I nursed my cocktail and thought, well, the thinking time I needed worked over that 550 mile trek. I sorted some stuff out mentally so it was easier to relax.

Food has arrived, and first up was the calamari. Not bad, a bit too much breading for my liking. But a huge plate, and the thin zucchini and squash strips were useful. But a BIG portion. Then I also had the chislic…

Well, chislic is the quintessential South Dakotan dish, a corruption of the south Russian “shashlik” over a century. Sadly, this Iowa version is a little too healthy, missed out on the artery-clogging aspect of this local treat. I should have got some when I was over in North Sioux City, oh well.

I was in a good mood, and was hungry having not eaten since an early dinner last night. And I wanted to take the veggie parts of the calamari back with me as a snack, so I ordered more food. Relaxed with another drink and soon it came. Oops, too much…

The cheesesteak egg rolls were not very good to be honest. The meat was a mess, with the weirdest texture. But it’s filling. I ended up eating two and putting the rest into the container with my calamari-less veggies.

But this, the Korean BBQ strip, turned out to be the best dish of the night by far. The beef was cooked perfectly, tender and juicy. A misnomer as the sauce was a derivitive of Japanese eel sauce, but it was really good.

I was full and had food to take home, so I just enjoyed a final drink and thanked the friendly staff before I headed out into the muggy and still somewhat bright evening. I think overall this day was a success, from the trek to the feast. A good start to the long weekend!

Table 32
100 South Virginia Street
Sioux City, Iowa

Review: MingHin Cuisine

4 July 2022

One of the most crappy aspects of living in Peoria is the lack of real Chinese food. On a good day it takes nearly 90 minutes of driving just to get to something remotely genuine, so one of the best things about taking in a few days in Chicago is being able to drop into Chinatown for some food.

It was July 4th, so it was busy. Plus, the horrible news about what had happened up north in Highland Park — where I was just a few weeks earlier — was making things difficult to swallow… I arrived in Chinatown after another extremely busy day around the South Side. I knew Chinatown was not happy either, having endured a shoot-out just a few days earlier. My trek here today involved a violent incident on the Dan Ryan that nearly disabled my car (and a few others near me) — which, sadly, is no longer uncommon.

What happened to the Chicago I used to love visiting? Having visited over 3 dozen times over the decades, it was always one of my favourite places to be. Now I feel trepidation, especially on this hot holiday weekend. I knew I didn’t want to eat in today, so luckily I had ordered ahead at MingHin Cuisine before I got here.

Parked semi-legally and had a bit of a wait, but I got my food and headed out. Fought through some minor traffic out of the city but luckily the Eisenhower was not very busy west-bound, so I got back to my hotel on the quick side. I headed to my room and unpacked my rather oversized order…

I can always take stuff home with me as I head back home tomorrow, so let’s hope some of it keeps. First up, something I always love, shumai.

Simple, nothing special, but good. Not pricey either. In fact, this is so much more affordable than the DC area, and better quality. Next up, a treat I’ve not had in awhile, honey-glazed roasted eel.

Delicious, it’s been ages since I’ve had any eel. Surprisingly decent quality, with the sweet-savoury sauce working pretty well without overwhelming the flesh. I’m pretty happy so far.

Of course I’ve also ordered some larger items, and this was overkill — but enough for breakfast, and probably lunch the next day…

First up was some BBQ pork ribs. It’s basically char-siu rib tips. Tasty, easy to eat. Then the other main was steamed minced pork.

Now this was an excellent rendition. Although without the usual salted fish, this version included some nice herbs to really bring out the flavours of the meat.

And before you ask, I did misfire on the online order. I thought I had ordered one of the chive dishes, but now looking back I forgot to click the quantity of it, so I ordered 0 portions of it. Oops. This ended up being a little meat-centric. But it was a feast, and made a quiet July 4th evening the relaxing one I needed.

Lots of extras to take home tomorrow, hoping it all survives another long trek through Illinois and what has been advertised as a horribly hot and humid day…

Much recommended for eat-in or take-out in Chicago’s too-underestimated Chinatown.

MingHin Cuisine (Chinatown)
2168 South Archer Avenue
Chicago, Illinois

* I did end up enjoying some more of it in the morning before I set off, but sadly the last of it did not survive the journey home in a state I would attempt to consume — as I do have to go into the office tomorrow…

Review: Tryzub Ukrainian Kitchen

3 July 2022

I wasn’t planning on spending as much time in Chicago over this long holiday weekend, but decided to head up there a day early. I had plenty to do, but what I really wanted was to visit Tryzub Ukrainian Kitchen in Ukrainian Village.

It’s been ages since I’ve had proper Ukrainian food in a Ukrainian environment, and I miss it so. Tryzub and other Ukrainian restaurants are not open on Monday (July 4th) so I made the quick decision to shift my travel. Planned everything late Saturday evening into Sunday morning, and was out the door just after 5am with almost no sleep…

A very long day later, I drop into Ukrainian Village. I must say it’s far, far different than it was during my last visit — before the war began in 2014. I am so glad to see all the flags flying, the pride in Ukrainian culture can be seen everywhere. I hate that a horrific war was what it took, but no one will dare question Ukrainian culture’s vitality again.

I sat at the bar during the quiet time before the dinner rush. Relaxed and poured through the menu. I went with a cocktail…it was named Bayraktar, so I had to have it. If you don’t know what a Bayraktar is

Delicious. And after I enjoyed it, I switched to some house-infused horseradish horilka with my snack…

Salo…it’s been so long since I’ve had ones that passes for good. I do like them a little thicker than this, but this was wonderful. Lovely to use those green onions to eat the curling slices like some magical core.

That was good. I almost got a second plate, flashing back to Kyiv several years ago…sigh…

A second cocktail — named Javelina (you can guess the inspiration) — required more food. So I ended up getting one of their party platters, albeit for myself…

It came soon and it was a nice selection of varenyky: sauerkraut & mushroom in spinach (green), potato and onion in tumeric (yellow), beef & peppers in beet (reddish), and pork & plum in carrot (orange). Quite interesting. A little understated, especially with some heavy saucing, but always good with some sour cream.

Oooh, some of the last ones nearly killed me. I had yet another cocktail, the “new fashioned”… They were delicious and refreshing. BTW here are the three in order…

Was nice to chat with my bartender from Sumy. He certainly got a kick out of my Instagram tribute to John Deere tractors

However, I was running on 3hrs of sleep for the past two nights so I was starting to run low on energy. I ordered a closing treat — a shot named “Glory to Ukraine” that appropriately layered blue curacao with vanilla liqueur. Forgot to take a photo…

I got it, toasted “слава Україні!” to my fellow patrons and staff, and immediately received the “героям слава!” reply from everyone. This made my heart warm and my eyes watery…and my blood boiling…

I thanked them and headed out the door, feeling refreshed despite being so tired. It’s so good to connect with Ukrainian culture again.

I can’t wait to go back to Ukraine one day, a free and liberated Ukraine…

Tryzub Ukrainian Kitchen
2201 West Chicago Avenue
Chicago, Illinois

Review: Mint Mark

19 June 2022

I headed out of Milwaukee early in the morning, spending a little time in Fond du Lac before turning south-west and rolling into Madison mid-afternoon. I always enjoy visiting Madison, and have had many a good dinners here.

Sadly my usual place in Madison, Forequarter, is no more, so I had to find another. After that lacklustre dinner last night at Amilinda, I almost decided to just go get BBQ or something. But it was relatively early in the evening, and having skipped lunch again, I decided to give Mint Mark a try.

I got a ride there and goodness it was getting very warm. I had a long hike in the afternoon as well in the sun, so I wanted some relief. Inside Mint Mark was comfortable, and I plopped down at the bar. My friendly bartender showed me the menu and I went with a cocktail to start.

I relaxed and followed the barman’s suggestion by ordering just a pair of things to start. I like the vibe of this place, and it was quite busy too this Sunday early evening. Soon the first item arrived, the biscuit.

Oooh, this was good, lovely honey with that salty butter. Only problem is that it made my hands a sticky mess! But I got it sorted just before the terrine appeared.

Again, excellent, lovely quality stuff. Now I’m glad I decided to come out for dinner!

I enjoyed another cocktail, feeling liberated for not having to drive (I miss having Lyft!). I ordered some more stuff and soon they came.

The turnip dish was quite delicious, the chili crisps adding just the right kick to this dish — unlike last night’s blandness. The miso-ish broth was also quite nice, complementing the nicely-cooked turnips perfectly. More cocktails, and more food!

The pierogi was a unique Polish-Korean fusion, with kimchi ramps. Fabulously odd, but fabulous.

More cocktails! And I heard there was an off-the-menu special sausage, so I went with that to close the night.

Excellent stuff, you can always get great meats here in Madison, even if my meal tonight was less focused on meats. But finally I was full and happy.

I had a bit more booze, enjoying High West’s “bourye” as a nitecap.

This was a wonderful evening, but I’ll be paying for it in the morning I’m sure! But again, Madison comes to the rescue for a mediocre Milwaukee experience.

Mint Mark
1929 Winnebago Street
Madison, Wisconsin

Review: Amilinda

18 June 2022

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve visited Milwaukee, a city I’ve always enjoyed. Now with my car behaving somewhat nicely, I decided to take the long weekend away north. Slowly snaking through the Chicago suburbs and avoiding toll roads, I eventually hit the shores of Lake Michigan and headed north.

Ah, got there just in time to fuel up. It’s about 50 cents a gallon cheaper in Wisconsin…

I eventually rolled into Milwaukee and headed to my rather shady motel next to the airport. Why did I choose this? Well, it’s next to the bus stop straight into downtown, so why do I need anything luxurious if the only thing I need is to sleep? It’s safe enough, no bugs or anything, so…

I took the aforementioned bus towards downtown. Oops, I forgot there was a mask mandate on public transportation here…amazing how when you live in no-mask Peoria you forget people still use them elsewhere…

Got to downtown and dropped into my dining destination for the evening, Amilinda. I read some nice things about this place and it was convenient. I thought of going to my usual, always-safe Ward’s House of Prime, but I decided to take a chance.

I sat at the not-too-busy bar. Strange this place isn’t more busy on a Saturday night. I told my friendly server I was hungry, so I looked through the menu and he brought me my cocktail…but no bread. He forgot. Oops. Oh well, after a quick reminder it came.

I wolfed it down. Hungry.

I ended up ordering two mains as I hadn’t eaten since an early dinner the night before. I asked them to not bring them out together. So soon the first arrived, the braised beef tongue.

So so, a little neutral. I’m never a fan of tongue sliced too thin like this. You lose all the unique flavours that the tongue offers by doing it this way. No texture either. Blus it’s mostly lentils and greens beneath, an inflation-driven portion I guess. Overall so so, I just wish it wasn’t this bland.

But two things that started to bother me. In an unbusy restaurant, it’s annoying when you have to try so hard getting your server’s attention. Friendly, but he seems to be talking to his friends now. And secondly, they brought out my second dish while I was eating the first — when I asked them not to…

And this duck rice was also rather bland. I can see it being good, but it was extremely bland. Even the slices of duck breasts really didn’t do much for this dish. Sigh. And of course, I couldn’t get my server’s attention again with an empty wine glass…

That’s that. I decided to forego the dessert and just get out of here. What could have been a nice experience turned into, sadly, a rather sub-par one. I really should have gone to the reliable Ward’s

315 East Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

* I decided to walk the few blocks to the aforementioned Ward’s. Too full to have a prime rib of course, but had a few drinks and snacked on some goodies, so the night was saved. Should have come here in the first place…

Review: iNDO

7 May 2022

I had been planning this return weekend overnighter to St Louis for awhile now, with the priority of catching the performance by violin great Akiko Suwanai at the St Louis Symphony Orchestra. Sadly, a COVID outbreak within the symphony kiboshed those plans at the last minute, so will have to go without hearing her magnificent rendition of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1, as well as the underrated Symphony No 1 by Mahler.

But with a hotel room prepaid, I decided to just go down anyway, as I needed a weekend away after a rather crazy week at work. Isn’t it all crazy these days? Sigh… Looped around on another route that took me across the river at Louisiana (Missouri) and went slowly into the STL-area early afternoon. It was already getting warm…

But when I had planned my weekend earlier, I had already made a booking at highly-regarded iNDO — albeit at a very early hour (to accommodate my concert plans). I nevertheless got there as they opened at 5pm, and it was already quite busy. A good sign?

I was a little hesitant about tonight, having been burned at Hinata in Indianapolis. I chose to sit at the counter when I saw Chef-owner Nick Bognar working there. A good move. I relaxed and chatted with my friendly server and Chef, and ordered some stuff to start. I’m not all that much of a fan of the 2-hour ticking clock, but when dining solo it’s relatively easy — especially when much of the food is made to order in front of you.

I ordered a set of nigiri and it actually began to appear before my cocktail, as Chef Bognar got to work quickly. The hamachi wasn’t bad at all, nor was the saba.

The latter was a little light for my taste, cured in-house for a day, but that’s just because I miss the absolutely intense mackerel prep I used to get in Japan. And finally, some toro.

Quite good, but the first piece was extremely fibrous, which is always a possibility with this. But so far so good. And my cocktail had arrived just before the saba, so enjoyed all of this to start. Nice.

I nursed my cocktail a little before switching into wine. I had put in some hot food order as they bussed my sushi plates, and soon the first arrived — fried tofu.

This was delicious, done perfectly — crispy outside, soft inside. Lovely with the black bean sauce too. Shows this kitchen is quite good too. Then some ribs…

Delicious, sweet without it being overpowering, the meat done perfectly without it falling off the bone. Reminds me of the ribs my friend and business partner Chef Akhtar Nawab did back in our beloved Elettaria…

Another excellent dish, is my St Louis curse being lifted? I’ve always had trouble finding food that blew me away here that wasn’t BBQ, and after over a dozen trips this may be the best dinner I’ve had in this town.

I was chatting with Chef a little and he ended up comping me this kinmedai, which was quite nice of him. Good, but the various Japanese breams never really resonated with me. But I decided to switch back and have another set, and Chef Bognar got to work alongside his assistants as it was getting busy.

The set arrived and it looked good. First was hotate, which was pretty good.

A nice little treat from Hokkaido. Then we have some seared hamachi belly.

Delicious, perhaps even better than the raw one I had earlier. The torching was done quite well here by the assistant chef. Then finally, some Santa Barbara uni.

I chose these over the Hokkaido ones partly due to price, but also I think SB ones are as good in a different way, and after a night of eating various dishes it worked better. And it was quite nice, the first urchin I’ve had since I came out to the Midwest perhaps, and my eyes got watery…

This was an excellent night, and since I am not rushing for the door for the symphony, and the bar wasn’t filling totally up yet as it was a lot of reservations rolling over, I had a little more time. Reverted to a cocktail…

Oh, I didn’t have 2, just a composite of my first and this… But I still had time, and the weather demanded it…

Ice cream on a warm day, whisky in one hand, black coffee in another. This was a wonderful way to end the evening, albeit it was just after 7pm. I was spent, after this long week. But what a wonderful treat to end it on — and my St Louis curse has officially been broken!

I thanked Chef and the wonderful staff for the awesome service. It was definitely not inexpensive here especially if you go nigiri, but it was not as high as Hinata and the food was so much better. I’m more than happy to spend my limited funds if a night goes as well as this, so I walked out the door extremely happy.

Ah, if it wasn’t for the cancelled symphony this would have been a perfect evening…

Highly recommended!

1641D Tower Grove Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri

Review: Edge

It has been about a stupid of a week as it gets, it’s like sprinting downhill with a rolling boulder nipping at your heels. Just absolutely uncomfortable, draining, and ripe for a shitty end any second. At least it ended in a semi-cluster way with a mutual gripe session that left everyone off a little more relaxed than the start of the week…

I, however, needed to unwind. I left the location where my colleagues and I parted and walked up the road. I had thought of going somewhere to eat a block or two up, but I looked into the window of a place I had looked at before — Edge — and it was not busy at the bar, so I walked in.

Wow, this looks pretty good. My idiotic Google Maps told me it was crazy busy, which usually means I avoid. But I lucked out, and set myself down at the bar. A cocktail was in hand soon, and I ordered from the nice-looking menu. Relaxed and gabbed with my two excellent servers and soon my first arrived.

Ah, now this is more like it! An excellent dish, pasta cooked perfectly, and a nice assortment of seafood. Always a good test of a kitchen, and this kitchen more than passed. A fabulous first! Now for the second, which arrived alongside a generous pour of red, is the pork chop.

Again, cooked very well, the sourcing of the chop from the relatively local Kilgus Farmstead shows how important that aspect is for true farm-to-table restaurants. Beautiful dish, love the selection of asparagus and peas as well. Another excellent dish!

Well, this was a good discovery by chance! I am so happy I stopped in this strange evening! I have been doing more dessert courses lately, which I’m not sure why — am I getting a sweet tooth after almost 50 years? Anyway, I do always pick ones that are not as sweet…

This was a delicious slice of carrot cake, channelling my inner bunny I guess. Quite nice, especially with a wonderful rye to go with it. A perfect way to end an evening!

I thanked my two excellent servers and headed out in the warm evening, just before the downpour was due to start. With this crazy week now gone, I’m glad it ended so nicely. It needed to end so nicely…

Highly recommended!

4500 North Prospect Road
Peoria Heights, Illinois

Review #2: Epiphany Farms

17 April 2022

After that very lacklustre dinner at the “kaiseki” restaurant in Indianapolis, Hinata, I was not thinking of doing any more serious food on this trip. I was snaking back towards Peoria from Indianapolis, including many stops like Terre Haute. These drives are my saving grace these days…what’s keeping me sane.

But as I rolled back into Illinois I decided to have an early Easter dinner, stopping at Epiphany Farms in Bloomington (Illinois). I had a rather nice dinner here a few weeks back, so I thought why not.

A quiet night when I arrived at about 4.30pm, and I parked myself at the bar. Nice to see some familiar faces! I relaxed with a cocktail as I looked through the menu and pondered my choices. I made them, and chilled out.

It’s so nice to have some time to enjoy my cocktail before they throw food at you — unlike at Tempus in St Louis a fortnight ago. I switched to a nice white when my starter arrived, the mussels.

Now this is a good dish. Lovely flavours, the mussels cooked perfectly — unlike at Cobble Hill in Cedar Rapids a few weeks earlier. Lovely fries too, which is saying something because I usually detest those things. Really enjoyable, I’m glad I made this stop!

I relaxed with a glass of rose before my main course arrived. Nice sufficient timing again as I switched to a red for the day’s pork special, pork loin.

Oh dear, the holiday curse hits. This is cooked way, way too overdone. Sawdust stuff in the centre. Pork doesn’t need to be cooked beyond white these days, folks… Oh well, a holiday short-staff mishap perhaps. But the crusting was nice, and the parts that had some fat were quite nice. Oh well, could have been an excellent dish.

I switched to a nice brown liquor for my dessert…

Oh this is nice! The chocolate was rich, but the jalepeno sorbet had some wonderful kick to it that really made it stand out. So good!

I relaxed, finished my drink, and hung out a little to enjoy some coffee before I headed back to Peoria to close out this very long 38-hour trip. 750 miles later I am home, just beating the downpour.

But I’m really glad I stopped here for dinner, even if the main course was a bit of an exercise in overcooking. It was far more enjoyable than last night’s overpriced mess, that’s for sure. It’s always good to know I have a safe place to drop into east of Peoria when I head back on future excursions.

Epiphany Farms
220 East Front Street
Bloomington, Illinois

I So Miss Japan… (Review: Hinata)

I was not planning an escape during Easter weekend, as I was tired and needed to catch up on some much-needed rest. But as I was playing around online, I got a booking for the Saturday at Hinata in Indianapolis — a coveted slot for a tough-to-book place.

Hinata is a rare kaiseki place in the Midwest, and the reviews have been glowing. However, looking at the menu, I wasn’t as impressed — especially compared to something as awesome as Nasime back in the DC area.

They seem to have monthly offerings, and for April the “Sumire” 9-course menu was the sole choice. I stayed east of town for once, having rolled into the city mid-afternoon. I was knackered, having woken up at 5am and setting off not soon after. I snaked around using small roads as usual, so what was normally a 3hr drive turned into something closer to 7hrs. But it was worth it.

I arrived in downtown Indianapolis on a busy Saturday early evening, and luckily found parking right away. I walked the block to Hinata and I smiled — it’s in an office building. How Tokyo is this? So once I walked in, I was seated at the counter.

The excellent sommelier came and I agreed on the pairing. I relaxed and looked over the menu and soon the pre-appetizer arrived.

The first item was a seasonal carrot soup, which was a nice little treat to start the evening. A little smoke, very tasty. Good start. I guess the pairings will start soon.

Chef Aki Tanigawa makes a very quick appearance to unwrap the already-prepped starters. And quickly disappears even before it’s served. Strange…

The appetiser set sadly was quite disappointing, especially for those who are used to kaiseki dining. This was the first alarm bell of the night (also from the chef disappearing). The bamboo shoot was pretty ordinary, as was the tamago with some very underwhelming mentaiko. The chicken breast (probably not jidori) was also boring in a very strip-mall-typical sesame thing, while the eggplant under the zunda was probably the best of the very underwhelming start.

The pairing of a very good champagne was nice, but for a person who does not like champagne this was wasted on me. But this was not a great start for the food, I must say. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but this was very mediocre — especially for the price of the experience.

The third course came quickly, and this was a dumpling of littleneck clams and assorted other things. Not bad, but this dashi was ridiculously boring. It’s like they took little care to make this broth. That says plenty about the quality and effort put into this experience from the kitchen. I’ve had more than my share of similar dishes in Japan, and although the dumpling was nice, the dashi was really sad.

My mood was starting to sour, even despite having a nice tasting of txakolina with the acid cutting through…tho it would have been far, far more useful if the dashi was better! Oh well. Then we switch to a good sake for the sashimi course…

Again, it was ALL PRE-PREPPED so all the chef did was to take it out of the fridge and hand it to one of the servers. No personal touch at all. And walked off. Is this a pandemic thing or he’s just disassociated from his customers?

Nothing too impressive. The maguro was so-so, the hamachi was quite nice as was the hotate. The best dish of the night, but really piss poor to not see any counter preparation. Do these people realise we’ve been to Japan? Sigh…

That was a treat for me since I’ve not had any sashimi since I left the DC area six months ago, so it was needed. Then back down to earth with the next dish, sakuradai.

Now cherry bream is one of the many breams that you are offered. I’m not the biggest fan of them, but when done well they are excellent. Sadly not today, very meh. It’s like they fried up a piece of it and dumped it into tempura dipping sauce. The fish was thick and slightly overcooked (it was starting to “sawdust” if you know what I mean) but at least the coating protected it from getting soggy. Good idea as always, but executed less than perfectly with a rude chunk. Again, something you don’t see in Japan…

I need to stop comparing this place to Japan and remember I am in Indianapolis. A quick drop back down to earth. But why is this priced like Tokyo then? Sigh… Next up with some nice red we have the beef…

Very ordinary beef. Not anything special at all. And was this sous vide pre-grill (or blowtorched)? This was extremely ordinary and boring, and rather tasteless. When it needs the sauce, then I know I don’t like how my beef is done. Sigh.

This is not just not good compared to Japan, this is not good compared to most Japanese places in the US. This is really a false imitation of kaiseki, compared to what Nasime does in the DC area for example. Now that is a real kaiseki place, this is a poor rendition of it, with a terrible Midwest twist.

I was not in the mood when the next dish showed up, the tempura dish. It’s actually the 2nd best dish of the night, done very well. Lovely visuals. I love how they warned people about the curry salt when it has zero kick whatsoever. I. Am. In. Indianapolis…

Then we get to the “rice” dish, and again, this is a great reminder of not being in Japan. This is just a skewed way to end the savouries. Not the traditional rice dish, this is just a sad depiction of this meal in a nutshell…

I was very uninterested in the almond milk panna cotta, although it was not bad at all. I had lost all interest in this dinner. The drinks were done well, so that’s good — but a very expensive pairing. I excused myself to the bar since there’s no one behind the kitchen counter anyway. Had a few drinks chatting with the sommelier Shane, who was excellent. Frankly he’s more Japanese than anyone else in the restaurant.

I’m sorry, but for such an expensive experience — way more expensive than Nasime — this was a total joke. Nasime had top quality ingredients, today was a joke. You know when they don’t exhault the specifics of the ingredients that they are getting it from almost anywhere. This is a sad sign of the times, to be honest.

They say they’ll change the menu once a month and hope to see me again. Nope, no thank you. I’d rather fly back to DC and eat at Nasime and it may still be a cheaper experience. And WAY better and more authentic.

130 East Washington Street
Indianapolis, Indiana