Monday, August 06, 2007

Three Latest and Best

Mussaman Curry at Sawasdee: Holy crap this stuff is good. We popped in on Sunday to this bustling north side Thai staple on the verge of their much needed expansion. Having not been in for dinner for a long while, we queried Ty on his recommendation. (I almost always have the green curry at lunch.) He didn't hesitate. "Number 39." All I can say is Wow. Thick, rich, meaty with chicken and rich with potatoes stewing in the thickest, peanutiest, sweet curry *ever.* Oh, so good.

Chinese at Sesame on 86th: I've been looking for a decent, down-home Chinese place for a while, and may have found a passable option at Sesame, newly opened at 86th and Ditch (next to Athletic Annex. Good house made crab rangoon (with real crab in the slightly sweet cream cheese), flavorful wonton soup with a light, fluffy wonton (not hard from the freezer or can), and the kind of egg rolls I like, made by hand and with lots of cabbage and pepper. Plus cashew chicken with lots of wok-hay, that great taste that you only get from a really hot wok and someone who knows how to use it. Worth another visit for the soup and crab rangoon alone.

Cocktail Hour at Palomino: I'd been hearing good things about the after work happy hour at Palomino and I wasn't disappointed. An impressive appetizers list, half-price pizza, and a nice list of cocktails including flavored mojitos round out one of the most robust offerings of all the downtown cocktail menus. I had the berry mojito (heavy, but good with lots of fresh mint) and, of course, the signature Gorgonzola cross-cut fries. Eat 'em while they're hot! Even better? Palomino offers the same deals late night on Saturday! Perfect for late night, post bar snacking.

Two-Minute Warning: In my never-ending quest for good Mexican food in Indianapolis, I can tell you that El Arado Mexican Grill in Fountain Square is not it. It should have been a warning when I asked the server what was good and every dish she recommended was deep-fried. Not up for the chimichanga or taquitos, I opted for the flautas. The beef was pot roast. No, really, it tasted and looked just like pot roast. Good pot roast, but not Mexican food. The rice? Overcooked (the split grains looked like a pile of little X-chromosomes.) The refried beans? I'm pretty sure they came out of a can. The guac? In a world where a taqueria on the West side can blow me away with their simple, fresh, delicious and easily identifiable fresh avocado with onions, peppers, salt and lime, I just refuse to eat the pureed, green avocado-flavored slime restaurant supply houses pass off as cheap guacamole. And I'm over the Mexican places that serve it. (Frankly, I'm over the Mexican places that set up shop with a deep frier, a Sysco account, and no actual, you know, cooking. News flash: If it comes in a pre-made plastic package that you cut open in the kitchen to serve, skip it.) Any self-respecting avocado would be ashamed to have its flavor profile used in the bitter, sour gunk plopped on top of iceberg lettuce and called "avocado salad". (Of course there's no actual *real* avocado in there. It's the avocado equivalent of "cheese food". Seriously, read the label on the same product next time you're in the grocery store.)

El Arado is completely unremarkable. I'd put it on par with La Piedad in Broad Ripple (almost identical actually) and countless other usually crowded but not terribly good Mexican restaurants in town. It's back to the West side taqueria circuit for me. Simpler food but *so* much fresher and tastier.


bhorg said...

Sesame used to be located at 86th and Ditch as Cheng Du (same owners/cooks).. It's been a local favorite of mine for years.

As far as El Arado in FS, I disagree with your assessment. However I usually only stick to the vegetarian options and occasionally a chicken chimichanga. I find it more comparable to LaHa and Puerto Vallarta, but I guess they are all the same "kit" type mexican restaurants.. I'll take these restaurants over Don Pablos, On the Border, etc ANYDAY.

Anonymous said...

La Piedad might not be the greatest, but the worst mexican in Broad Ripple is La Jolla by far.

Donald said...

Have you tried El Meson on the South side? I haven't tried the full menu yet, but it's much better than any other place I've tried around town. The tamales are excellent as well as any dish with their carne asada.

braingirl said...

re: chains. I don't love the chains either but at least at Don Pablos they make their tortillas in house and food is real. At this point, I'll absolutely take Don Pablo's over these local places.

And "kit" is a great way to describe it. Everyone keeps telling me the next place is great, but they're all the same -- premade, super-cheap everything.

Oh, for a great true tex-mex feast up here in the land of Yankees.

And agree La Jolla is the worst by far.

I haven't tried the place on the Southside, but unless it's truly *different* and so few of these places are, I'm skipping.

The best places in town are some of the taquerias. I'm may head to El Macquey on W. 38th for lunch today.

me said...

Sorry I even asked about the Mexican joint in F.S......I'm sure you've been able to get your palate back on track at that meal though...

scubachef said...

I hadn't been to La Parada in a while and decided to check it out last night. Al Pastor tacos were not quite as good as Pancho's (71st and Michigan Rd), but still better than most. The gordita was a bigger hit. But the stars were the Birria (goat) tacos and tasty/fresh guacamole (oh, and horchata). The owners are great people, too. They used to have a larger/nicer second location on east 10th until the crime in the area drove them out. They also have different daily specials; they've even met my requests for mole as a special. Check it out if you haven't yet, New York and about State Street on the near east side.

Joanne said...

It's funny, I liked El Arado in Fountain Square a TON better than Cabo on East St. They're both really close to where I live and my husband and I were excited for both to open. I thought Cabo was *awful*, I was pretty sure the cheese was Velveeta - ugh. El Arado we thought was pretty good - but maybe we just thought it was good compared to Cabo. Hmm.

braingirl said...

While I don't think Cabo is any great shakes, I'm not sure you can compare the two. Cabo, being a walk-up, does different food.

At least Cabo makes most of their food in house. The guac is real, the queso is tex-mex style with rotel (not the orange cheese sauce in a can from restaurant supply), etc.

Neither are great.

Anonymous said...

We stopped at Sesame based on your recent mention and couldn't even eat the entrees they were so, so horribe.

Have you ever tried Hunan across the street? Much, much better.

braingirl said...

Oh, no! I'm so sorry to hear you had a bad meal at Sesame. (I hate it when I hear a good rec and it's bad.) I was going to stop in there for lunch but may try Hunan instead. I need a good greasy Chinese lunch.