To recognize the Chinese New Year, I wanted to celebrate with food. A quick shake of the Urbanspoon app had us standing outside Mark Pi’s China Gate. Located off North Meridian, hidden in a strip mall like so many Indy restaurants, I hadn’t noticed it despite living close. From outside, it looked like it was busy, so I was excited to give it a try.
We were greeted with a warm smile and friendly service. However, rather than being seated, we opted to order take out from the bar. Along one side of the restaurant, we found that though the tables were full, the bar was empty. Overall, the atmosphere is comfortable yet slightly upscale. It isn’t your basic take out Asian, but fresher, more inviting. We decided to grab a seat and order a roll to share while enjoying a beer and waiting for our food.
With only two beers on draft, we each ordered one to compliment our rainbow roll. After watching the sushi chef at the end of the bar (behind the sushi counter), we were presented with a beautiful plate. It was a bit more jazzed up than a normal plate, adding a bit of flair. I haven’t seen lemon served on top of sushi before, but I liked that just by touch alone it helped freshen up the fish even though it wasn’t needed. The fish was fresh and vibrant in taste. The rice was clean in flavor, sticky in texture and a great vehicle for the avocado, crab, and crisp cucumber. It was quite a large portion as rainbow rolls normally are, so I was happy that we split it. As we wrapped up our appetizer, our entrees were delivered. We paid our bill and made our way home.
I didn’t get to try hubs entree, but he enjoyed his pepper chicken saying it had a nice kick without being an overkill in spice. I opted for the classic hunan prepared with scallops. The gentlemen who took our order gave us a great piece of information – they use fresh peppers. So when you ask for spicy, or for them to hold off, it isn’t quite something they are able to do. It all depends on the peppers that they have, rather than creating different levels of spice with prepared peppers. I liked the fresh approach and was hoping to have some spice to the hunan. Success – with my first bite there was some heat, but not overwhelming. The mushrooms, baby corn, and broccoli were cooked perfectly, crunching with crispness and vibrant in color. There was great flavor to the hunan sauce without a hint of being overly salty, which I sometimes get. The scallops, bay scallops, were small but tender, cooked well. I would have liked a bit more out of the seafood option, but appreciated that it was at least an option rather than the standard chicken or shrimp. I substituted brown rice, and was disappointed it was an extra charge, but still was cooked properly.
Serving size was large, as I expected, and made great leftovers the next day. It was a bit more pricey than I was anticipating for the evening, but they are going for an above average Asian concept. The service – all friendly and personable. I enjoyed speaking to the owner while we enjoyed our sushi and waited for our dinner. I also appreciated that he was honest in that they haven’t advertised too much, because he wants his staff to really understand the food as they continue to build their menu. There were flairs of Korean food, and I could tell how passionate the food and culture. He doesn’t just want his guests to enjoy the food, but understand the flavors. I’d return to continue to sample items off the quite extensive menu and the sushi they continue to develop.
Mark Pi’s China Gate * 12297 N. Meridian St. * Carmel, 46032 * 317.848.1888