A nice, weekday meal is sometimes all one needs to get through the week. And when you have something like Northside Nights to entice you, it makes it a treat to try something we may normally save for the weekend. Hubs and I ventured out to Late Harvest Kitchen on the Northside, located in a mini-mall at Keystone at the Crossing. It has been open since November and I’ve seen it a few times driving through the area – Northside Nights provided the perfect time for us to try it out.
Before I start, I have a confession. Prior to entering the restaurant, hubs and I almost didn’t enter. We were casual – he in jeans and a polo while I was in khakis, top and jean jacket. From outside, we saw a lot of dresses and suits. This put me off – I knew it said ‘fine dining’ that day when I read more about the restaurant, but I guess it didn’t register. We decided to give it a go anyway – glad we did. No one even flinched when we were in the restaurant not matching the attire around us. Once seated, we were fine and more relaxed, but there was that first few minutes of “oh man” feelings on our own account, not by the patrons or staff. Just a note when you try it out (because after you read, you’ll know why you have to go.)
On top of that, we were early for our reservation. However, the hostess greeted us warmly and sat us promptly at a half booth table combination. I loved the decor – sleek and modern. Dark wooden tables and simple leather chairs, blues and grays. There was a level of clean, modern simplicity to the restaurant. No fluff, no gimmicks – it was about the food. And that was made apparent when our server approached us and immediately explained the food on the menu. He seemed to really know the food well, being trained spot on and having tried much by the way he described taste and texture. Hubs had a glass of Goose Island’s Matilda and I a glass of Cabernet in hand very quickly as we perused the menu.
Hubs decided to stick to the Northside Nights menu, choosing gumbo as his appetizer. I couldn’t help but wander off the path, especially after our server was describing the delightful menu. I settled on a few of the small plates as hubs and I decided to split whatever was put in front of us. I began with the brussel sprouts salad, which was delivered very quickly with hubs gumbo. His gumbo was lackluster, which was disappointing as I was really anticipating something great. There was a rustic taste, but it was lacking salt. And at a restaurant like this, salt and pepper are not on the table. But, the serving was very large which was quite a pleasant surprise to both of us. The andouille sausage was spicy and the shrimp still tender despite simmering in the thick gumbo liquid. Not a total loss by any means.
The brussel sprouts salad was absolutely fantastic. The sprouts were shredded and raw having a great crispness and natural depth to them. They were lightly dressed with a citrus tang, which really complimented the earthy almonds spread all over. A hard boiled egg added a slight creaminess to each bite, while a sprinkle of pecorino cheese gave a slight seasoning to the dish. It was also a very large portion and could have easily been shared as a side or starter by four people. I would easily get this over a starter salad any day – something different and very much appreciated.
After a very casual and relaxed beginning, our entrees were served in a timely fashion. They definitely had the timing down as we never felt rushed and still never waited for our food. Hubs had pork cheeks which he really enjoyed. I only had one bite, and that bite was tender and succulent. I didn’t try the risotto with it, and hubs didn’t really comment on it. But I do know he really enjoyed the dish. I apologize for the photo – it doesn’t do the dish justice. Believe me on that.
While hubs enjoyed his pork, I was enjoying my own pork belly and brandade. I was (once again) surprised by the large portions of elevated comfort food we were receiving. The pork belly was thick, tender and luscious. The fatty layer provided so much flavor, though the fork (even spoon tender) pork could have easily stood on its own. Covered with slices of radish, the slight bitter crisp was welcomed to cut the rich flavors of the meat. However, this was not the star of the evening. That can only be credited to the brandade. This warm, comfortable, homey dish made me smile with each and every bite. I’m a lover of cod, but brandade takes it to a whole new level. Salted cod is poached in cream, taking the simple flavors to a different level. Seasoned simply and pureed to the consistency of pureed potatoes, the dish has a slightly crisp top after being broiled. And Late Harvest tops the flavor palate by adding the best piece of toasted bread as the vehicle for the fish. It was slightly toasted, crunching as you broke it, but buttery and tender all at the same time. I couldn’t stop eating it – this is a must order if you like cod. By the end, I was eating it by forkfuls forgoing the bread.
Our stomachs were sated, but with hubs Northside Nights menu, he was still anticipating a dessert: sticky toffee pudding. I was so glad we were sharing because I definitely ate my half of this sweet dessert. Initial crunch of sugar dissolved quickly with the tender cake. A great nutty sauce was soaked into the spiced cake, making it one of the most tender yet composed sticky toffee desserts I ever had. A dollop of simple whipped cream really added the perfect subdue to the sugar. A great way to end a great meal.
The menu is seasonal, giving a nod to local ingredients while embracing comfort food with an upscale twist. The plates I ordered were clearly meant to be shared family style, while the main dishes are what you would expect for one individual. The desserts nodded towards sharing as well, something we both embraced with open arms. And if you go with a group, I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t want to pass around bites of the delicious food being brought out of that kitchen. Not to mention the menu changes daily, though I’m sure some of those items (like the brandade) will stick around due to an overwhelming successful flavor.
I loved the decor, the service was spot on, but appreciated the main focus being on the food. This was made apparent in the service, in the presentation, and mostly in the taste. There was a lot of love in those dishes. A pride in sharing the great flavors with their guests, chef and owner Ryan Nelson (formerly of the Oceanaire) is delivering it all. I can’t wait until the patio opens – that will be a gem.
Late Harvest Kitchen * 8605 River Crossing * Indy, 46240 * 317.663.8063