Saturday we tried Euphoria in downtown Indianapolis - a marvelous setting for a restaurant. Since we hadn't been there, on our way up the stairs we checked out Creation Cafe. It looks like a great place for lunch, especially once the weather gets nicer - the outdoor dining space has a great view.
We were seated right away and to our surprise and pleasure, one of our favorite waiters, Brian, from L'Explorateur is working there now. It was nice to catch up a bit with him and find out where almost everyone from L'Ex had gone to - and how generous the other restaurants in Indy were in helping everyone find a place to continue working. Kudos to them all.
Euporia is on the upper level of the Buggs Temple and it is a nice looking place. Dark woods, high ceilings (we didn't notice a noise level problem either), the kitchen is open to the dining room, there is a separate bar area and outside dining too!
Brian told us they just started their Spring menu and since it was such a nice day we were really pleased to hear that. The menu looked good - several fish dishes and only a few red meat. We checked out the wine list and ordered an '05 Chassagne Montrachet.
I started with the Pea soup and Mr CF with the Duck Confit, those sounded good to both of us and we thought we'd share.
The pea soup was not very much of a pea soup. I was thinking 'Spring menu, fresh peas - a bright, light and fresh tasting soup - yum!', and boy was I wrong. The soup was grainy and a pale green color with almost no pea flavor, but the real problem was the 'salmon pastrami' that was layered over the entire bowl of soup. The salmon did not go well with the soup, it was hard to eat (large strips of cured fish draped over a liquid) and frankly - it didn't taste good. Maybe if the salmon had been chopped and added as a small garnish it would have worked. So I sent it back and got the Spinach salad with blue cheese and fried Morel mushrooms - which was about 10,000 times better than the soup.
On to the confit:
Way better than the soup but salty and probably should have been cooked longer so that it came off the bone the way it should. Cue the Chef at NOCA in Phoenix - that is the best confit I've ever had - for confit lessons. But I really have to say that the 2 bites I had were quite good (if salty) with a crisp skin and flavorful duck.
Mr CF had the Skate and I had the Halibut with Morels. My halibut was delicious. Pan seared, perfectly cooked so that it just flaked apart and set on a little bed of mashed potato with a sauce of morels and peas.
Mr CF's skate wasn't quite as much a hit - the skate was good (it was the biggest piece of skate we had ever seen) and cooked well enough, but it was a bit cool in temperature and the little coating of flour (for the saute) had gotten a little soggy. And then there was the 'side' of pasta... with a red sauce. Why wouldn't the sauce be complimentary to the fish, to make it part of the total dish?
Euphoria has an interesting cheese list - woo hoo! Brian also told us that they were going to expand it, which was even more exciting - I love cheese! We ordered a few cheeses to take home with us and I wish I had written the name of one of them down because it was a rich, ripe, soft cheese that they had to put in a little container - otherwise it would have spread it's goodness all over - oh my! Was it good!
So over all our impression of Euphoria was a bit hit or miss. My fish was excellent , the confit was good, it's an independent and Brian is there. We'll be back (outside dining! great view!) to give them another whirl - plus they've got cheese!
Our first visit to Euphoria today was a real joy. The food was very good, the service friendly, and the atmosphere relaxing. It may not yet entirely fill the void left by the demise of L’explorateur and Elements, but it’s certainly worth support from the Indy fine dining crowd.
The restaurant is located on the upper level of the Buggs Temple building downtown on the canal near the IU medical center. It’s a huge, open, eclectic space that’s a refreshing change from the standard midwestern look. There were maybe 20 people dining when we were there, so the atmosphere was very relaxing. Some may desire a higher energy level, but we were happy with a slower pace.
Our meal began with glasses of Champagne to toast the evening, a few oysters, and the tuna wonton appetizer. The oysters were standard east-coast Blue Points, but the tuna wontons were a notch above. Quickly-seared tuna on fried wonton skins with pickled ginger and roe on top. Some sesame seeds in there too, as I recall. Very nice.
Our two entrees were the grilled scallops and the lamb chops. Four good-sized scallops were perfectly seared to a crispy crust with a tender interior. Served with an asparagus puree, baby carrots and lightly-truffled mashed potatoes. The grilled lamb chops were grilled rare with a minty-mashed potato and grilled onion accompaniment. Both dishes started with good, fresh ingredients and enhanced the natural flavor by light grilling that did not overcook or overseason. A winning formula in my book.
Following the entrees we shared a slice of hazelnut-chocolate torte, and it was very nice; moist and nutty. Blueberries and strawberrys on the side added a nice touch.
We finished with a cheese course and some port. The cheeses we selected from Euphoria’s large cheese menu. The Dutch, 5-year aged Gouda was multi-dimensional and had the slight, crystalline crunch that I love. The Camembert was complimentary in its creamy richness. A nice, aged cheddar and some orange marmalade and crackers rounded out the plate. I don't recall any other Indianapolis restaurant with the quantity and quality of Euphoria's cheese selections, and it makes an excellent way to end the evening.
The service was very friendly throughout. Not as polished as they will be after they’ve been open longer, but quite satisfactory and clearly anxious to make our evening pleasant. It was nice that Chef Gates stopped by to say “welcome.” We always enjoy meeting the chef and hearing a bit about his perspective and vision.
Overall, our first visit to Euphoria was a very good one. We’ll definitely be back. And for all those lamenting the demise of independent restaurants like L’explorateur and Elements, get off your rears and go try Euphoria.
I've just started reading this board in preparation for my summer trip to the area, and am very sad to hear about Elements-the news story I found in the Star says operations have been "suspended" - I know that sounds pretty bad, but have they actually closed?
My two favorites in Indy gone...very sad.
Please keep us updated on Euphoria, as it's now on my list.
re: David W
Very sad indeed! :(
At least in the case of L'Explorateur, it sounded like Neal Brown was looking for a better location (i.e. downtown) and we can hope we will see him again soon. I don't know if that's also the case with Elements - I certainly hope so! - but its location wasn't great. I mean, it was NEAR Mass Ave, but not ON Mass Ave, so people strolling up and down Mass Ave wouldn't notice it. I'm not a local and I don't claim to be an expert, but I got the impression that Alabama Street, where Elements was located, saw primarily road traffic, and not pedestrian traffic. And if you were driving by, you might not even notice it. When I went there, I knew exactly where it was going to be, and I still had to do a double-take to make sure I had the right place.
I'm not trying to criticize them, but there are a lot of ways restaurants generate business, including word of mouth as well as the media (paid advertising and critical reviews). However, if you don't have the "location, location, location" as well as the visibility in that location, you don't get much walk-in traffic from people who were just walking by and decided to check it out. And I'm well aware that a less noticeable, less prime location means a lower cost for your space, but that can have a major effect on business.
Regardless, it's a real shame, for the customers as well as the owners and staff. :(
We finally had our second dining experience at Euphoria recently during the Devour Downtown promotion. This time the experience was completely different. Our party of three had a dinner with one or two excellent dishes, two or three average dishes, and several terrible (overcooked and dry) dishes. Perhaps this experience was an aberration. I sure hope so. It was certainly different from our first visit to Euphoria, which we enjoyed very much.
The cheese selection is still great, as was the tuna tartare. I really hope this place succeeds. Give them a try and let us know what you think.
I dined at Euphoria during the Devour Downtown promotion, and I thought it was thoroughly excellent in every way. I loved all three dishes I had (as well as the amuse bouche) - the lobster gazpacho with its chunks of you-know-what, the scallops which were cooked exactly as I specified, and the lovely berries and cream trifle. The atmosphere and service were exquisite as well. I posted a detailed report in the Indy Special Occasion topic at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/348586
It's also worth noting that Euphoria is still offering the Devour Downtown promotion (3 courses for $30) through Labor Day weekend, so there's another week to take advantage of a great deal at this wonderful restaurant.
Brad Gates is no longer at Euphoria. I don't know if he's staying local or not and I have no idea what losing the chef means for Euphoria. Bummed. It's a pretty restaurant. Anyone looking for a place in that area should try Zing. My husband and I tried it the other night and were really impressed.