Zest! Exciting Food Creations • Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Zest! Exciting Food Creations

1134 E 54th St. Indianapolis, IN 46220
We weren’t entirely sure what to expect at a place called Zest! Exciting Food Creations (hereinafter referred to only as Zest). It sounds more like a cheesy catering company than a restaurant, but we read many solid reviews and recommendations, so why not try it for ourselves? We arrived a few minutes early and our table wasn’t ready so we decided to go to Twist (the bar inside Zest) for a cocktail before we were seated. After walking through a doorway draped with hanging chainmail, we entered a very dimly lit bar. The bartender was very attentive and immediately greeted us. We were handed the full menu (14 pages) rather than an abbreviated menu or a separate drink menu, and by the time we had our drinks in hand, our table was ready. 
Monster Grilled Wings ($10)

Monster Grilled Wings ($10)

It’s not surprising that we were torn between options since their menu is so extensive. Sean went for his soft spot—wings. He got the Monster Grilled Wings ($10) with their own (317) wing sauce and a bleu cheese-celery salad. We didn’t ask (but should have), about the 317, which is a bbq sauce rather than a buffalo/hot sauce. The wings were, as the name mentions, grilled so there was a subtle smokiness in addition to the sweet bbq sauce. Sean thinks the wings could have used some more time on the grill to make the skin crispier, but the meat itself was cooked well. The bleu cheese dressing was mixed in with the carrot and celery salad, and while the combo tasted good, it was impossible to dip the wings into the bleu cheese and enjoy them as you would any other wings. For a very picky wing lover, these wings were a tad too sweet and under-dressed.
Recommendation: What good are wings without bleu cheese?

Tomato Bon Bons ($8) with and extra for $2 more.

Tomato Bon Bons ($8) with and extra for $2 more.

Having read a couple of reviews beforehand, we knew that Guy Fieri taped a segment for Triple D here. We have tried a handful of restaurants that have been on the show and thus far they have all been busts. Our waiter informed us that one of the dishes on the show was the Tomato Bon Bons ($8)—baby tomatoes wrapped in local sausage and breaded with an asiago cornmeal crust, topped with a baby tomato and served in a ceramic spoon with a tomato tzatziki. We haven’t seen this episode on Triple D, but we would be curious as to what Guy said about these. Our thoughts: a fried, flavorless ball with a tomato tzatziki that a slight kick to it. The tomato inside of the sausage wilted from the frier, causing the juice to spread to the crust, which made the lower half of the ball soggy. One HUGE side note: this dish comes with only three balls, however, they always (at least for parties divisible by two) bring out four and charge you an extra $2 without saying ANYTHING. We’ve never heard of anything like this.
Recommendations: Not only did our taste buds get ripped off, but so did our wallet.
3-Napkin Burger ($16)

3-Napkin Burger ($16)

When I saw a note in the menu advertising a burger awarded the most stars in the Best Burger Search by Indianapolis Monthly Magazine, I knew I had to try the  3-Napkin Burger ($16) with bbq, white cheddar, smoked gouda, creamy bleu cheese, apple wood smoked bacon (Smoking Goose), and grilled red onion on a sesame bun. After taking my first bite, I lost all faith in the Indianapolis Monthly Magazine’s opinion. Not only was the 3-Napkin burger terrible, but we found it humorous that they only provide you with one napkin. I ordered the burger medium, and it seemed to be cooked medium (some pink in the middle), however, it definitely tasted as if it was well done. The roughly 1 1/2” patty was so dry it was hard to bite into. The bbq sauce was overly sweet and dominated every other ingredient on the burger. What happened to all my other toppings? The burger comes with a side of homemade potato chips or you can upgrade to fries for $1 extra. The fries were good and the red pepper aioli went well with them. It’s our opinion that after charging $16 for a hockey puck, you should not charge extra for what should be a standard side item.
Recommendation: Awarded HalfinHalf’s LEAST amount of stars in our Best Burger Search.

Chiles Rellenos ($17)

Chiles Rellenos ($17)

Sean ordered the Chiles Rellenos ($17), a roasted poblano pepper, with their world famous mac & cheese, black beans, white corn, hazelnut romesco, chili-spiced tortilla crumbles, arroz rojo, house-made refried black beans and an avocado salad. Contrary to what the name (plural) would have you believe, this dish only comes with one pepper. Despite all of the toppings/expected flavors, the relleno tasted mostly like Mexican rice. Based on what little he could taste of it, the mac and cheese was good and made him wish he had just ordered that. The chile was topped with tons of tortillas, which provided some great texture. This brings me to the beans. They were clearly undercooked, which is probably why they were so lumpy. Combine that with a complete lack of flavor and you’ve got yourself the worst beans you’ve ever tasted. It also didn’t help that we had the black beans from Delicia (delicious) a couple of weeks before coming here. Lastly, to advertise an avocado salad was a joke. Challenge: find the lone green speck on the plate and tell us if you think that qualifies as an avocado salad.
Recommendation: The chile itself tasted good, but when judging the dish as a whole, he wouldn’t recommend it, nor would he order it again.

S’mores ($10)

S’mores ($10)

If I see anything S’mores-related on the dessert menu, you can bet I will be ordering it. The S’mores ($10) came with marshmallows, strawberries, chocolate fondue, and graham cracker crumbs. Other than the fact that we got only five marshmallows and the strawberries were rotten, our favorite part was that the graham crackers tasted like cardboard confetti.
Recommendation: Do not expect this to taste like the S’mores fondue at the Melting Pot.
Cherry Pie ($10)

Cherry Pie ($10)

We also ordered the Cherry Pie ($10)—grammy’s incredible cherry pie recipe topped with golden crispy puff pastry and house-made honey-vanilla bean ice cream. The only words I can muster at this point are the following: this dish is not worth the 20 minutes it takes to bake it, the calories consumed, or the $10 out of my pocket.
Recommendation: My grammy could probably bake a better pie. And she doesn’t bake.

Wild Hibiscus Mimosa ($9)

Wild Hibiscus Mimosa ($9)

I ordered the Wild Hibiscus Mimosa ($9)—an edible wild hibiscus flower over champagne. Simply put, this was champagne with a flower in it. The champagne was good and the flower was cute, but it didn’t provide any flavor. Perhaps it was my fault for thinking that there would be some sort of added flavor (such as hibiscus juice, a sweet syrup or other ingredient), but there wasn’t.
Recommendation: Not a bad glass of champagne, but no more than that.
 Very Old Fashioned ($11)

Very Old Fashioned ($11)

Sean had the Very Old Fashioned ($11) backbone uncut bourbon (Lawrenceburg, IN), fresh ginger syrup, fresh orange and scrappy’s orange bitters. For a bourbon connoisseur, the drink was decent, but certainly not memorable.
Recommendation: Skip

Having sampled a variety of dishes, we left wondering if we mis-ordered on almost every single dish or if this place, like many others, is insanely overrated. We believe it’s the latter. Honestly, we just left very unhappy. Zest certainly wasn’t worth the price we paid and we won’t be returning. Our server was knowledgeable and friendly, and he removed the $2 charge for the extra bon bon after we asked him about it. Zest, please just serve the bon bon app with four balls. Whoever thought it was a good idea to create an app with with three pieces, charge to add a fourth piece and not inform the customer should be fired.


Food: 1.5/5
Northeast (Broad Ripple)
American (new)
Dress Code:

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