L’Explorateur

Christopher successfully managed to keep this a surprise destination for Emily’s birthday dinner (she usually guesses ahead of time and ruins the fun). If you’d ever been to Tavola di Tosa or Thai One On, you know where this quiet, under‐the‐radar restaurant is located on Ferguson St. in Broad Ripple, right across the street from Rene’s Bakery.

At any rate, we both expected this to be an uppity, almost‐out‐of‐our‐league kind of restaurant, but our waitress was so friendly and approachable it made us feel much more comfortable. Plus, they had Built to Spill (one of Emily’s favorite college bands) playing the background, so that was another point in their favor.

Part of the restaurant’s philosophy includes using ingredients that come from local providers in Indiana. The other part focuses on the experience of flavors, and we decided to whole‐heartedly embrace the idea, choosing some dishes we might not have tried before and being adventurous, even for us.

We started the evening with an appetizer of hamachi (yellowfin) on a rock. It came with a relish of daikon and pears in addition to a fish roe garnish, so we had something to nibble on while the fish cooked on the rock. We had never tried fish in this way before, so it was something new and fun (and a lot less work than fondue, the only other do‐it‐yourself food we’ve ever tried).

Christopher chose the butternut squash soup garnished with white chocolate and coffee oil. If you’re ever wondering what winter tastes like, try this soup. Just close your eyes and let the smile broaden across your face, because that it the only appropriate reaction to tasting it. Quite possibly the best soup ever.

Emily went for the salad agro dolce, sweet and bitter greens served with a few spiced pecans in a homemade fried potato chip bowl with shallot vinaigrette dressing. Again, delicious, even for a little green salad.

And then the main course… Christopher chose the beef short ribs, and they must have started roasting the meat as soon as he made the reservation. Never has meat melted in the mouth quite like this. Once again, closing the eyes, breathing deeply, and smiling is the only response to tasting this beef.

Emily’s Kodiak Island Arctic char (a fish similar to salmon, yet on the Green List! Hooray!) served with spiced pecans and parsnip gnocchi (so delicious, we’re going to dare to try and make on our own this coming weekend, as if it could ever measure up) was equally wonderful, and the portion was surprisingly large. Everything else had been beautifully presented and served in moderation, but the char fillet was probably a good 12 ounces of fish… yay for leftovers!

Dessert did not disappoint, either. We chose the chocolate ganache torte served with a homemade chocolate truffle and vanilla bean ice cream. Small, simple, and the perfect ending to a delightful and truly enjoyable and romantic meal.

When was the last time we gave a restaurant four stars? For a place I had never heard of and having few other reviews to go by, Christopher made a daring yet excellent choice, and we would certainly recommend a try for yourself. It’s intimate, the decor is minimal, and yet the atmosphere is not so uppity that you feel nervous about laughing too loud or clinking your fork on your plate.

The only thing that made us a little nervous was the manner in which the food was served: everyone at a table is served at once, and so for larger parties, an entire entourage of waitstaff would parade through the dining room, circle around the table, and all plates would be placed on the table at the same moment. The scene invoked images of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. A little rehearsed and a little silly, but worth it. Well worth it.

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