Cerulean • Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Cerulean

 339 South Delaware St. Indianapolis, IN 46204
Cerulean had been on our radar since we first moved to Indianapolis, but we were waiting to try it on a special occasion. We gave it a shot on Valentine’s Day and drove downtown to The Alexander Hotel, where it is located. If you are having trouble finding a parking spot, you can valet your car at the hotel and have your ticket validated, which drops the price from $15 to $10.
Upon entering Cerulean you can immediately tell what type of food you will be having from the decor—modern. The ambiance is simple, modern and dimly lit so it feels warm and inviting. At the front of the restaurant there is a cozy dining section that resembles a ‘nest.’ The nest has a couple of tables in it and is a good place for a more private dinner. This seems like a good addition since many professional sports teams stay at The Alexander and would probably enjoy this feature.
The menu is divided into three sections: shared plates, medium, and large (entrée sized) plates. We did notice a bunch of tables ordering the cheese board ($21), but for the amount of food that came on the board, it hardly seemed worth it. The day we went, they had a pre fixe Valentine’s Day menu with four courses for $60, but we opted not to go this route for several reasons. First, as with all pre fixe menus, if you don’t like one item on the menu, you are stuck eating it. We would rather pay for items we actually want to try. Second, if you aren’t dining alone, you’re able taste more dishes by ordering individual items. Third, often times the pre fixe menu is more expensive than if you were to order the same number of items off a restaurant’s regular menu. For these reasons, we have not yet tried Recess, although we will one day.
Appetizers
Fried Bread ($7)

Fried Bread ($7)

First on our list was something Jim Gaffigan would have ordered: Fried Bread ($7). It came with four different preserves/spreads. We talk a lot about fried carbs on this blog (Papa Rellena at Mama Irma’s, Hush Puppies at Thunderbird, Kennebec Fries at Late Harvest Kitchen, etc.) but nothing says fried carbs like fried bread. It seems like a simple concept, and it is, but they executed it flawlessly. The bread was a type of white bread that was cut into 1/2″ thick triangles. It was slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The oil from the frier provided a great salty flavor, but the four preserves/spreads that came with it were what made this appetizer amazing. Perfect, actually. The first was a roasted, pureed garlic spread. While some might be skeptical of eating straight garlic, they way it was prepared (roasted and then puréed) tamed the overwhelming flavor. The combination of the bread and garlic was better than any garlic bread you’ve had. The remaining three preserves/spreads were sweet—one was mint, apple and orange, the second was vanilla and orange marmalade and the third was a squash apple butter. Our favorite out of all four was the mint, apple and orange. It had the perfect combination of sweetness from the apple, citrus from the orange, zest from the mint, and salt from the fried bread. The vanilla and orange marmalade strangely reminded both of us of a churro for some odd reason. The squash apple butter was good, but if we were forced to pick our least favorite, it probably would have been this one. Also, for only $7 this was quite a steal. Our only (very silly) complaint would be that the spoons they provide to scoop up the spreads were slightly too big for the containers.
Recommendation: This will definitely be making our best of 2014, it was that good! We’d make a special trip just for that mint/apple/orange deliciousness.

Gnocchi with Tomato Gravy topped with Basil ($9)

Gnocchi with Tomato Gravy topped with Basil ($9)

We also ordered the Gluten Free Gnocchi ($9). The gnocchi were huge, about the diameter of a nickle and two inches in length, and there were about 15 pieces, so it was very filling. They tasted exactly like mini baked potatoes, perfectly baked on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth tender on the inside. Let’s not forget about the tomato “gravy” that this came with. Just as the preserves did with the fried bread, the tomato sauce paired perfectly with the gnocchi. It was very light and packed tons of fresh tomato flavor. Even for someone like me who hates tomato soup, I can easily say I would order a bowl of just this sauce and pretend like it’s soup.
Recommendation: Bottle the sauce and sell it in mass quantities.
Salmon Croquette ($12)

Salmon Croquette ($12)

The last plate from the shared section was the Salmon Croquette ($12). It came with a chili powder aioli, lemon crème fraîche and an herb crumble. We got three large (approximately 3″ diameter) croquettes stuffed with nothing but salmon. We would have liked to a more generous serving of the sauces, specifically the lemon crème fraîche, as the salmon was slightly dried out from being deep fried. The chili aioli along with the herb crumble gave off a mustard-like flavor that worked quite well with the salmon. One noteworthy negative is that the croquettes were extremely salty. They were also ‘fishy’ which can be a turnoff, even for seafood lovers.
Recommendation: A distant third compared to our other two shared plates.

Entrées
Our first medium plate was the Smoked Truffle & Lobster Pot Pie ($8) with carrot,

Smoked Truffle & Lobster Pot Pie ($8)

Smoked Truffle & Lobster Pot Pie ($8)

leek, potato, green pepper and onion. To call this a medium plate is humorous considering how small it actually was. The flavors were very similar to lobster bisque, although not sherry flavored, and this pot pie had lumps of ingredients other than lobster. The flavor itself was great and the puff pastry was good for dipping into the lobster pot pie (read: soup).
Recommendation: Lobster and truffles for $8, yes please.

Foie Gras Torchon ($17)

Foie Gras Torchon ($17)

Our second medium plate was the Foie Gras Torchon ($17) with pretzel, mustard, persimmon paste and pickled apples. Sean has had foie gras a half dozon times or so, and is by no means an expert, but he said this was his least favorite by far. Torchon is a French way of cooking by means of a dish towel. By cooking something this way, you lose less fat, which foie gras has a ton of. The consistency of foie is that of a thick paste. I thought it looked like wet cat food straight from a can. Although the consistency was a little weird, it was that taste that got us. It tasted like salt and nothing else. Just awful. At that point, the accoutrements were irrelevant because the main part of the dish was so bad.
Recommendation: SKIP.

Mangalitsa Pork ($16)

Mangalitsa Pork ($16)

The last medium plate was the Mangalitsa Pork ($16) with a marjoram biscuit, maple gastrique, wild mushroom and arugula topped with a fried egg. The pork was shaved thin and pan fried. This gave the edges a crispy texture. Outside of the pork that was good (but not great), we were really disappointed in this dish. It was one of the dishes we were most looking forward to. The maple gastrique was FAR too overpowering. Imagine cooking an entire meal and then putting it all in a bowl of maple syrup. It tasted more like a breakfast dish than anything else (though that probably wasn’t the intention), and while we don’t occasionally mind breakfast for dinner,  this was a complete miss.
Recommendation: Beyond awful.
Duck Breast ($28)

Duck Breast ($28)

We ordered one large dish: the Duck Breast ($28) with lemon fettuccini, carbonara, crackling and house pancetta garnished with marjoram. The duck itself was cooked perfectly and was very tender. We are guessing it was cooked confit or sous vide as there was no visible or palpable texture on the outside. Sean would have preferred they kept the fat on the duck instead and provided crackling (fried skin). The fettuccini had a faint taste of lemon, but it was mostly overpowered by the creamy carbonara. Overall, the sauce was terrible and was much heavier than we would have liked. However, the pancetta in the sauce was surprisingly tender. Whenever we have had it cubed, as this was, it is either chewy (because it is raw) or crispy (because it is fried).
Recommendation: The duck was good, but I think Olive Garden serves better pasta. Yikes.

 
Desserts
Caramel & Apple ($9)

Caramel & Apple ($9)

The best part of any meal should be the dessert and with our last several dishes disappointing us, we were hoping the desserts could turn this experience around. Sean ordered the Caramel & Apple ($9)—caramel crémeux, spiced apple sorbet, pistachio financier, cider reduction and citrus. This dish looked very modern, and like most modern dishes, the portion was small. The caramel crémeux was very weak on the caramel flavor and had the texture was similar to flan. The pistachio financier had good flavor but was overly dry, something a financier is normally not. The apple sorbet was great, but when paired with the other flavors on the dish, the sorbet was dominant. There really was just nothing special about this dessert and we definitely would not order it again, especially for $9. We would have been more satisfied buying a candy bar at the checkout counter.
Recommendation: Skip.
Spiced Chocolate Ganache ($9)

Spiced Chocolate Ganache ($9)

I ordered the Spiced Chocolate Ganache ($9) with cocoa rubble, avocado-lime ice cream, cashew and salted caramel. This dish excelled at one thing, and one thing only: presentation. Where do we start? The avocado-lime ice cream was, for lack of a better word, unpleasant. There’s artistic and different and then there’s avocado for dessert. The spiced chocolate was good for a second, until the spice hit you. What ever happened to sweets being dessert? The only sweet element in the dish was the salted caramel (which was better than any of the ‘caramel’ in our first dessert) . Unfortunately, there were only a couple of drops of it. The small drops of a vanilla gel didn’t add much to the dish. I’m just surprised the second dessert was worse than the first.
Recommendation: Just no.


Drinks
The Sparked Otoño ($11)

The Sparked Otoño ($11)

The Sparked Otoño ($11)—Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Cider, Honey Lemon, Chili-Infused Chartreuse, Cranberry and Hellfire Bitters. This drink had the heavy smoke taste from the mezcal, a slight tartness from the cranberry and spice from the hellfire bitters. The glass was rimmed with cinnamon and sugar, so it tasted a little like big red bubble gum…with smoke.
Recommendation: Interesting, but not in a good way.

Damson Hot Toddy ($10)

Damson Hot Toddy ($10)

Damson Hot Toddy ($10)—Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Averell Damson Gin Liqueur, Lemon and Fire. This drink was served hot. It tasted exactly like hot cough syrup, to be honest. It certainly cleared my sinus right up.
Recommendation: Save for a cold day when you are sick. 
Overall
As you can tell from the progression of the meal, things started off excellent and rapidly went downhill, ending with two inedible desserts. The highs were high and the lows were low—kind of like a bad relationship. And at this point, we’re glad we gave it a shot, but we’d like to break up. We will, however, be back solely for the fried bread and gnocchi. For such a revered restaurant, we were quite disappointed overall. We feel like giving Cerulean a 3 out of 5 is generous considering we really only loved two out of the nine dishes we ordered.

Rundown:

Food: 3/5
Service:
5/5
Price:
$$$$$
Location:
Downtown (Wholesale District)
Cuisine:
American (New)
Dress Code:
Business Casual

Cerulean Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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