Plow and Anchor
A couple of months ago we reviewed Bluebeard and loved it. A short time later, we were sad to hear that Chef John Adams (former co-executive chef of Bluebeard) was leaving the restaurant for other ventures. Luckily, he’s back in Indy with Plow and Anchor, which opened last week. Much like Bluebeard, the menu focuses on fresh, seasonal and locally sourced produce. It is heavily steered toward seafood and although I’m not the biggest seafood fan, Chef Adams’ reputation speaks for itself, so if he’s willing to make it, I’m probably willing to try it. Sean, on the other hand, is a seafood lover so he will try anything, no questions asked.
We started with the Oysters Mignonette ($3 each). We ordered three west coast oysters (more briny) and three from the east coast (more sweet). They were both prepared the same way, and although they were good, the diced onions overpowered every other flavor present. We tried our best not to compare this place to Blubeard too much, but we did have the best oysters we’ve ever had from Bluebeard. Those were outstanding and these, while good, didn’t compare.
Recommendation: If we return, neither of us would crave these or feel the need to order them again unless the preparation (sauce, toppings, etc.) was changed.
We followed the oysters with their Caviar Dip ($14)—dill, ricotta, créme fraiche, fingerling chips and three types of caviar (salmon, sturgeon and smoked trout). This selection came highly recommended by the waitress so we wanted to give it a try. As you can tell from the photo, this was a very light dish. Generally speaking, the caviar was hard to taste through the other flavors unless it was consumed by itself. The salmon caviar (orange) tasted like (wait for it…) smoked salmon, the sturgeon (black) tasted salty and felt gritty, and the smoked trout (neon green) tasted citrus-y. The fingerling potatoes were cut paper thin and were lightly fried. Although the potatoes are a simple concept, they were delicious and we feel as they could create another dish with these as the base, but provide more substance.
Recommendation: It’s caviar. Does anyone really like the taste of caviar if it isn’t accompanied by other (delicious) flavors? Unless you’re one of the few that truly appreciates caviar, this dish won’t change your life.
Our last app was the Scallop Crudo ($13)—scallops, asparagus, watercress, jalapeño, citrus ponzu and cucumber. As you probably know, ‘crudo’ means raw, so the scallops themselves were raw. They were generous with the amount of scallops provided, but they were rather small (dime-sized). The note that really stuck out from this dish was the jalapeno. The flavor from the pepper was like a pop of color on a black and white canvas. The other flavors weren’t memorable and although the scallops were fresh and not ‘fishy,’ the sauce itself was extremely fishy, and even for a seafood dish, the flavor tasted oddly out of place.
Recommendation: Similar to the oysters, ‘good’ doesn’t generally warrant going back for more.
Per our server’s recommendation, Sean ordered the roasted halibut ($26) with butter-poached radishes, ramp greens and a spring pea nage. We think this dish might be making an appearance on our ‘best of’ when we wrap up 2014. It was that good. The halibut was pan fried to perfection. The crispy exterior along with the tender, flaky interior made this dish an A+. The spring pea nage provided a subtle pea flavor that accompanied the fish. In our opinion, the radishes and micro greens (not the few ramps) slightly detracted from this dish, but they were easily pushed aside. They would be able to put this fish in many other sauces with different toppings and as long as the fish was cooked like this, it would taste great every time.
Recommendation: We can’t imagine dining here without ordering this dish unless it’s not on the menu.
After a lot of surf and not enough turf, I ordered the Hanger Steak ($24) with fingerling potatoes, salsa verde, nduja, arugula, radishes, an aioli and a farm egg. This dish had a lot of components to it and most went well together. We were wondering where the salsa verde was as it was not anywhere on the plate. The steak itself was flavorful, but a little chewy for our liking. We do understand that a hanger steak isn’t the same thickness throughout, but the disparity in how evenly it was cooked was quite drastic. Some pieces were cooked medium rare while others were almost well done. I ordered it medium and the pieces that were cooked properly were very flavorful. The aioli was sparse, but was perfect for the potatoes. It seems to be the same type of aoili one would get when ordering patatas bravas at a tapas restaurant. The texture of the nduja (an Italian spicy pork sausage) was that of clay and it tasted exactly like a chipotle pepper, but not much else. The arugula provided the occasional bite and went well with the flavor of the steak.
Recommendation: It’s great when a lot of flavors come together well, but I’m not sure it’s awesome enough to order a second time.
The Beignet ($8), with caramelized banana, nutella, crushed peanuts and powdered sugar, was our first dessert. The highlight of this dish was certainly the caramelized banana. The outside was perfectly caramelized and tasted delicious. The nutella was a nice touch but we didn’t think that the peanuts contributed much other than texture. The beignets, four triangles in all, had a wonderful crispy exterior, however, the dough was too dense for our liking.
Recommendation: Thunderbird’s take on these were better.
Just because of how unique this dish sounded, we finished our meal with the Lavender Biscuit ($9) with strawberries, rhubarb, pea anglaise, pea shoots, micro greens and whipped cream. What does a lavender biscuit taste like? It tastes exactly like lavender. The biscuit was a little too hard (not flaky or fluffy) but it had a great buttery taste. The strawberries and rhubarb added a necessary sweet element to this dessert. We’re not sure what pea anglaise and a pea shoot are doing on a dessert plate, but thankfully they provided little flavor to the dish. Going back to the desserts we had at Cerulean, sometimes one can get too cute/fancy/avant garde with a dish that it just doesn’t taste good. Yes, putting broccoli in ice cream is unique. No, it doesn’t taste good. Thankfully this biscuit was no where near as bad as our desserts are Cerulean (they’ve set the bar pretty high as far as terrible desserts), but it also wasn’t anything other than blah.
Recommendation: We appreciate the opportunity to try unique dishes, but sometimes they just don’t work out.
We came away with mixed feelings about Plow and Anchor. When dining out, (assuming we’re not dining at any given place for the first time) we tend to gravitate to places that we feel deserve our business for a second time. Either there’s one amazing dish that makes it worth our while to return, or we’ve tried enough great dishes there that we’re confident we will leave satisfied even after trying something new. We were disappointed that our apps were just ‘good’ and when judged alone, were not worth a return trip. However, Sean’s entree was the home run. Perhaps our expectations were too high because of Chef Adams’ reputation or his association with Bluebeard, but we really anticipated walking away impressed with every single dish. We were not. When you’re spending well over $100 to try multiple small bites and a couple entrees, it should be worth every penny. We found one dish worth returning for and over time, as the menu changes, we hope to find other dishes that we love, but after our first visit we aren’t itching to get back.
We also have to give credit where credit is due and we’d like to point out that our waitress, Taylor, was outstanding. We truly believe that part of a successful dining experience is receiving great service. Terrible service can really ruin your meal, even if the food itself isn’t bad. I can’t say that I remember the names of many of our servers, but Taylor deserves an additional THANK YOU. She was beyond friendly, attentive, knowledgable and professional. She knew the answers to the vast majority of our questions (you’d be surprised how many servers have no idea what ingredients are in dishes, what they taste like, or even basic questions about the restaurant) and those that she couldn’t answer, she promptly researched. She is a phenomenal asset and I hope P&A realizes this. The service here, just based on our experience with Taylor, deserves a 10 and if our rating scale went that high that’s what she would get.
Cuisine: American (New), Seafood, Farm-to-fork
Dress Code: Casual