(IN) L'Explorateur - ohmygosh
Once again L'Ex has gone above and beyond.
Mr CF and I had our 7 Course Chef Tasting Menu. We were the winning bid on this for a local fundraiser and we are so glad we won. Chef Neal Brown did an incredible job with our menu and the wine pairings. Everything on the menu was unique and delicious. Neal also took the time to accommodate my food allergy, but still made it appear as if I were having what everyone else had.
Here's the run down, including the wines:
Reception - Lobster, apples, Russian River Blue Cheese. Chunks of Lobster on a toasted baguette with a smear of the blue cheese and an apple slice. Mr CF said that this lobster restored his faith in lobster. I had a morel mushroom in place of the lobster - still delish. Served with 2001 Chateau Rieussec Sauternes - this tastes just like d'Yquem to me!
First - One Solitary Oyster. Everyone seemed to enjoy this... I dunno anything about it. I had something else marvelous - a spot of Traders Point Cottage Cheese with tuna sashimi, a slice of a big white truffle, little bits of egg yolk, all sprinked with a bit of salt. Oh my! This was served with the 1990 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame - a big yeasty champagne.
Mini note here - you've got to try the fried green tomatoes with the tuna and cottage cheese. It sounds dreadful but it's really really good!
Second - Seared Scallop Sashimi with Lobster Sour Crema, Sage and Verbena. Seemed as if everyone also enjoyed this. I had slices of Hamachi on a sour cream sauce with the verbena and what I thought was green fish roe. Whatever it was and at any rate, this was great, I love the Hamchi here. A 2004 Paul Hobbs Richard Dinner Chardonnay was served with this course.
Another mini note - I wish I could describe wine (you're probably thinking "lets start with the food" but anyway) but the best I can do is to say that I liked it - or not - and maybe pull out a flavor note here and there. So thank you for your patience!
Third - Roasted Halibut and Salmon Terrine, with Duck Fat Brandade and piperade. Delicious. The fish were layered one on top of the other - 4 layers in all - and prompted a big discussion on how Neal had done it. He used an enzyme that 'unraveled the proteins and then glued them back together', I said 'Uh huh' and kept eating. A marvelous white Burgundy was served with this, Domaine Bonneau du Martray, 2000 Corton-Charlemagne. An amazing color, and a lovely light wine.
Fourth - Morel Risotto topped with Hoch Ybrig Mountain Cheese. Everyone liked this too, I really liked the mushrooms and the cheese. The wine was fabulous, a 2000 Marcassin Pinot Noir.
Fifth - Weinerschnitzel (!!) with Beets and cherries. This was fabulous. Who knew Neal could do weinerschnitzel? Incredible. The wine made the sauce sing, a 1999 Leroy Volnay. It accented the cherry flavor - more proof that French wines are made to go with food.
Sixth - Colorado Lamb loin on mint mashed potatoes. I love lamb, this was so good and so tender.
We had both of the big reds poured, a 2005 Scarecrow and a 2003 Sassicaia, I tried both with the lamb and I preferred the Scarecrow - this will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me - but the Sassicaia was very good too.
Seventh - Confit Chicken Thigh with dates and currents on Lentils with Dijon mustard. There should be a song to sing for this one - well confit in general - this was so good. There was a fabulous spice in the dish, one of our guests is a chef and his wife picked it out, it was orange water. I also preferred the Scarecrow with this dish, surprise!
By this time I'm starting to feel the effects of both wine and food... I soldiered on though.
Eighth (and last) - A slice of seared Foie Gras with Peach ice cream. 1990 Chateau d'Yquem. 'Nuff said.
Mr CF and I waddled home, stuffed to the gills and totally happy.
Thank you Chef Brown, Mike, Brian and Mitchell, and to everyone in the kitchen. Thank you to the fine fine wine Dr, and Thank you to the Local Fund Raiser Event.
I just received a special edition of The Dish, the e-mail newsletter from Indianapolis Monthly magazine. It's all about Pizzology, Neal Brown's new pizza restaurant in Carmel. It refers to "Brown's penchant for quality ingredients, albeit in a far more accessible form than before". The article hasn't yet been posted on The Dish's home page at www.indianapolismonthly.com/dish/defa... but maybe it will be soon.
Sad news, indeed. Let's hope they find a new location that works for them...
But don't be too hard on Indy--let's face it, places like L'Explorateur aren't cheap, and if you're not sure if your job will still be there next week, dropping $100 (or more) for dinner may not be the first thing you think of.
Here in NY, we are about to lose Fleur de Sel, Cyril Renaud's Michelin-starred restaurant, and there's some thought that a lot of places are holding on until after the Valentine's Day boost.
I guess it's up to those of us who have a secure income to eat out more often at our favorite spots, for the greater good of all.
I've been a longtime champion of L'Explorateur as exemplar of possible Indianapolis cultures and great, playful cuisine. I already knew Chef Brown was looking for
a spot downtown, but awakening early morning for my TFM shift last week, I switched on the news, and heard of the imminent close. The hearts of Indianapolis are workers like Brown...everything else is wings, and wraps, and bibles. Someone has to combat the banal.
We were saddened to learn this weekend that L'explorateur has closed it's Broad Ripple location. They've been saying for months that they would be moving downtown, but it appears that nothing is set yet. Let's hope they find a new spot soon.
If Indy won't support people like Neal Brown and L'explorateur, then we deserve to have nothing but the formula-driven chain spots we all complain about.
Mr CF and I had dinner at L'Ex on Saturday. It was bittersweet... delicious as always and yet we know it might be the last time with Neal and his crew.
They were packed too. Why weren't they always this busy? Many nights we've been there and there might be only 2 or 3 other tables besides us.
I completely agree with your statement:
"If Indy won't support people like Neal Brown and L'explorateur, then we deserve to have nothing but the formula-driven chain spots we all complain about."
And unfortunately - that's what we already have way too much of.
We have to support our locally owned restaurants or they will go away, never to return.
Both Neal and Lindy said that they are still working on a new place downtown. I truly hope they will open soon. There's been a lot of debate on a downtown location, but personally, I think it would be great. It would be on my way home from work. :-)
I wish Neal and Lindy the best and hope to see them soon, back in business.
And I promise I won't order the Hamachi Carpaccio ever again!
I certainly hope they can re-open downtown, although many restaurant projects are being put on hold now, due to the economy. L'Explorateur was unique in Indy, serving the most creative high-end cuisine in town. I enjoyed eating there and I'm glad I got the chance.
If there was one thing working against them, though, it was the location - not only because they were in Broad Ripple (rather than downtown), but also because it was out of the way even for Broad Ripple, and you could drive/walk right by without realizing that they were there. Such lack of visibility very tough for any restaurant, because it means they rely ONLY on word of mouth, without having people driving/walking by, noticing, stopping to check out the menu, etc.
I hope they can re-open, either along the Mass Ave nightlife strip (already well served by R Bistro and Elements) or, better yet, in the hotel and Circle Center area just south and west of the circle and statue. Please keep us posted!
I'm sure Indianapolis will continue to support independent restaurants, though. There are still a bunch of very good places that are not part of chains. But if Oakley's, R Bistro, and Elements all closed as well, THEN I would be worried!
I've been looking through Neal's blog, both his farewell post:
as well as his "what's next" post:
The good news for Indy residents is this passage in the latter:
"We are continuing our search. We have identified at least three potential locations downtown that I am happy with, but I'm not alone. You wouldn't believe the mini-flood of Indie restaurants trying to move downtown. I can't tell you who they are, but I can assure of two things. It makes my job of finding a location harder, and it makes Indy's future downtown dining scene very interesting. All you downtown dwellers, hold on to your hats, because it is about to get very interesting."
Based on this insight as well as the recent proliferation of quality restaurants, I really don't think anyone needs to worry about the state of dining in Indianapolis. I don't mean to minimize the loss that the closing of L'Ex represents. But when you look at longer term trends, the Indy restaurant scene has improved so dramatically in the past 20, 10, and even 5 years, and I can't see it suddenly going downhill. People's taste improves when exposed to a wider range of experience in both variety and quality, and doesn't suddenly recede. One need only look at the Indianapolis Monthly list of best restaurants ( http://www.indianapolismonthly.com/ar... ) to realize how far Indy has come in recent years; almost NONE of these places was around ten years ago, and places with a similar level of quality were few and far between at that time. Due to the economic recession, the next couple of years are likely to be tough on the industry, but places that provide both QUALITY and VALUE are most likely to survive and even thrive. It's my firm belief and hope that we'll see a continued improvement in coming years, with today's top picks being joined by new ones yet to come, hopefully including Neal's next venture.