Bluebeard653 Virginia Avenue Indianapolis, IN 46203
We arrived at Bluebeard, in the Fountain Square district, for an early dinner since they don’t accept reservations and it was a Saturday. Bluebeard has outdoor seating, as well as two dining rooms with additional bar seating in the back room.
Bluebeard is known for farm-to-fork, seasonal dishes, therefore you probably won’t find the same dishes on the menu two nights in a row. Because of their fresh and creative options, Bluebeard was a semifinalist for the James Beard Award in the Best New Restaurant category this year.
There were four of us dining that night, so we were able to order many different types of dishes. There are small (appetizer-sized), medium and large plates. The menu is conducive to tapas-style dining, so we ended up ordering quite a few dishes. Because of this, our review will be longer than usual (but totally worth it).
We started with the Charcuterie plate ($14 for 3 meat options) and cheese plate ($14 for 3 cheese options). The meat and cheese selections came together on a wooden plank with accoutrements (cornichons, caper flower buds, mustard, apple butter) and bread. If you order the bread from the Snacks, it comes from Amelia’s, the bakery next door. These dishes didn’t come with Amelia’s bread, but the bread they did serve was still good. The accoutrements were very well paired, but we would have liked to have gotten a little more of them since there were only four cornichons and five caper berries for the four of us. The caper berries are about three times larger than capers and are less salty. They also have seeds in them, giving them a nice, crunchy texture. The mustard was homemade and the apple butter provided a sweet balance to the salty meats.
The salami was cut too thin for our liking (prosciutto-style), but there was a generous amount of each cut of meat. The unanimous favorite was the Delaware Fireball (pictured top left), followed by the Gin and Juice (bottom left) and the Dodge City Salami (middle). As the name suggests, the Delaware Fireball was spicy and flavorful.
The cheese portion was also generous and our favorite was the Scharfemaxx (pictured bottom right), which has a semi-firm texture and tasted somewhat nutty. The Fleur de la Terre (middle right) was too sharp for us and the Seahive (top right) was by far our least favorite. It has a hard texture like that of Parmesan and was also really grainy. It was too sweet for any of us to enjoy.
Recommendation for both plates: At a restaurant like this, your money would be better spent on items made by the chefs.
Next, we ordered a round of Oysters ($3 each) on the half shell served with a magnificent mignonette sauce. It is oyster season, so we had to try them. At $3 each, we thought they were slightly overpriced, but definitely worth it—so much so that we ordered a second round. The mignonette sauce (red wine vinegar, shallots, and peppercorns) was absolutely amazing and went perfectly with the oysters.
Recommendation: These are a MUST. I don’t even like the taste or texture of oysters and I was the one suggesting the group order a second round after trying one.
We tried the Roasted Beet Salad ($7 small/$13 large) that came with mushrooms, field greens, feta, crispy shallots and balsamic truffle vinaigrette. Sean hates beets because he thinks they taste like dirt, but ended up giving this salad favorable reviews. The feta was generous and the crispy shallots added great texture to the salad. The salad was also topped with just the right amount of dressing.
Recommendation: If you like beets, definitely try this salad. If you don’t like beets, try it anyway.
I ordered the soup of the day, which happened to be Puree of Broccoli, Potato, and Cheddar, garnished with Bacon ($8). It sounded good in theory, but did not live up to expectations. It lacked salt (and any real flavor at all). It was too bland and was our least favorite dish of the night by far.
For the entrées, we decided to order two dishes from the small, medium and large sections
of the menu for a total of six entrees. Our first small plate was the Grilled Octupus ($10) which comes with bagna cauda, olives, pepper and fennel confit. There were four arms from the octopus, giving us each an arm. The bagna cauda sauce was delicious and gave the otherwise flavorless invertebrate a garlic and butter flavor, however, Sean noted that it was not as good or as tender as the octopus he had at Andina in Portland.
Recommendation: If you haven’t had octopus and are open to trying it, this is the kind of place at which you take the leap.
Our second small dish was the Bonito Belly Confit ($16) that came with fried capers, watermelon radish, pickled peppers and anchovy vinaigrette. All of us despise anchovies and were a little hesitant to order because of this. Needless to say, we’re glad we weren’t deterred by the anchovy vinaigrette. Bonito has a very similar flavor to tuna. The spice from the peppers and flavor from the radish pulled the dish together very well.
Recommendation: It was a good and visually appealing dish that is worth ordering.
On to the medium plates. First up, were the Goose Neck Barnacles ($30) covered in a madeira cream sauce. Barnacles?! Our thoughts exactly, but when you are at a restaurant like
Bluebeard, barnacles are just the protein to try. Imported from Spain, they have the texture of calamari. They’re eaten by pinching the barnacle capitulum (shell) while the peduncle (the “neck”) part is in your mouth and then sucking the neck and the insides of the shell out. The neck (edible part) is usually about an inch long, which most of ours were, but we were lucky to have one that was about three inches long. The madeira cream sauce had a bold taste of garlic that was great for dipping our bread into. For the amount of meat on the plate, $30 is a bit pricy, however, we understand that this is a rare dish so we don’t regret it.
Recommendation: When in Rome… If you see a unique item at this restaurant that you have never had before, go ahead and try it.
Our next medium plate was the Scallops ($19). They came with green beans, tomatoes, turnips, dandelion greens and an almond beurre blanc. The scallops were cooked perfectly—seared on both ends and tender throughout. The beurre blanc was a little too rich overall, especially for a scallop dish, but all of the ingredients and flavors made for a tasty dish.
Recommendation: If you’re not a scallop lover, your money would be better spent on some of the other dishes.
Our first large plate was the Lamb Lillipops ($38) with pecan, olive and farro salad, and herb yogurt. This was everyone’s least favorite entree of the night. The herb yogurt (think tzatziki) was delicious and fresh, and we would have liked more of it. The farro salad, however, was rather bland and the texture was hard and chewy. The meat itself was cooked perfectly —medium—but lacked seasoning. We were disappointed in this dish, considering it was our least favorite entrée and our most expensive.
Recommendation: Skip it.
Our second and last large dish was the Pork Belly ($26), served with cheddar grits, kale, pickled red onion and a morcilla demi glace. If your mouth isn’t watering after reading the description, then there is something wrong with you (or you are a vegetarian). The dish was as amazing as it sounded. The belly had a nice thin sear on it and just melted in your mouth upon consumption. The grits were cooked perfectly and the cheddar really came through as the predominant flavor. The pickled onion added just the right amount of sweetness and the kale provided texture. Our picture does not do this dish justice.
Recommendation: This dish is also a MUST. I promise you aren’t going to want to share.
At this point, we all had the ‘I am full, but let’s get dessert’ look. There’s always room for dessert. We ordered the Chess Pie ($9), Bread Pudding ($9) and Tres Leches Cake ($10) that came with brûléed bananas. The obvious stand out was the bread pudding. The only problem was that we all were like vultures feasting on our first carcass and it was devoured it within seconds, so we didn’t really get a chance to savor it. The sweet, buttery bread pudding just melted in our mouths and was one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. All desserts would be worth ordering again, but nothing can compare to the BP. Nothing.
Recommendation: An intravenous drip of this could cure a lot of things, except of course, diabetes.
Sean had a Reverend Palmer ($9) which had a nice citrus flavor (similar to Grand Marnier), but that detracted from the bourbon instead of enhancing it. He prefers his whisky and bourbon straight (with just a few ice cubes or whisky rocks), so this could have been part of the reason he wouldn’t order it again.
Sean’s second drink was the Sanctuary ($11). Every time you hear the bartender pounding ice at the bar with a mallet, a Sanctuary is being made. For this drink, the bartender hand beats the ice in a satchel to create a snow cone-type texture to the drink – it brings back all your childhood memories. This drink was well balanced with a sweet, smoky and tart flavor. He recommends having at least one.
I ordered a delicious Jail Bird ($11). This was everyone’s favorite out of the four drinks we tried. The flavors married so well together that I ended up ordering another one. It was very smooth and had a sweet (but not overly sweet) apple/lemonade type flavor. This drink is perfection.
Overall, the food was amazing. It was creative, fresh, unique and thoughtful. The only reason we’re not rating it five stars is because of two dishes (the soup and the lamb lollipops) were mediocre. You don’t come to a place like this for mediocre. People tend to complain about the service and while our server was friendly and knowledgeable, we agree with the complaints about slow service. Our meal took over 2.5 hours to complete, with several long gaps between some dishes. We weren’t in any rush, but it’s understandable that most people don’t allot three hours for one meal. It’s rare to find a creative restaurant that offers great food, drinks and dessert, so we’ll definitely be returning.
Food: 4.5/5 **
Location: Downtown Indy (Fletcher Place)
Cuisine: American (New)
Dress Code: Casual
** Disclaimer: This meal was had while John Adams was still an executive chef/owner at Bluebeard; he left November 12, 2013. Chef Abbi Adams (soon to be John’s ex-wife) is now the sole executive chef/owner. We are not sure how this will affect their menu and flavors. We will be sure to blog about this once we return.