Deciding where to dine for my birthday is always a difficult choice. Since I celebrate the whole month, I’m always able to end up at a variety of restaurants. But for the ‘day’ celebration, I had decided on Oakleys Bistro. Hubs and I had dined there our second year of living in Indy back in 2005 and enjoyed a great meal from our recollection. Why we never returned was beyond me, so I thought it was about time we returned.
We were quickly seated on the busy Saturday evening at a quiet booth/table towards the back of the restaurant. The restaurant was quite busy and the service around us did seem a little jumbled, servers sometimes moving frantically from table to kitchen. Beyond that, the restaurant was slightly dark with simple decor. An open kitchen (hubs knows how much I love to watch the action) was bustling with 3-4 chefs making entrees for the patrons. We began with some drinks, hubs with a martini and myself with a chardonnay, while we perused the menu and waited to order.
We began with a shrimp corn dog – one of Oakleys specialties that will never leave the menu. What looks like a standard corn dog (without all the grease on a paper) may surprise the patron as it is wrapped around a nicely cooked shrimp. The shrimp is tender, as was the inner breading, while a crisp outer shell is perfectly fried. The great taste and expected texture of corn was there and the gourmet honey mustard, though a bit more honey than mustard, was a good accompaniment.
In addition to the corn dog that we split, we each ordered our own appetizers. Hubs the pan fried crab dumplings while I ordered the lobster waffle. The dumplings weren’t very memorable, nothing too flavorful. The crab was finely chopped and didn’t boast much flavor, being drowned by the other fillers. My lobster waffle was a mixed dish to me. The waffle was flat of taste; just a standard, flavorless waffle. However, the sauce which it was presented with was outstanding. Crispy leeks gave it a subtle crunch, while a zucchini saute gave it a freshness. A heavy cream based mustard sauce, rich in all textures and elements, the taste of lobster was still apparent. Absolutely fantastic, a perfect portion due to the richness.
I had also ordered a salad just because I couldn’t resist the ‘toad-in-the-hole’. Once again, a beautifully plated dish bright in colors and depth. The brioche was toasted to perfection while the egg was perfectly cooked in its ‘hole’. The egg yolk poured over the great toppings once punctured, including the roasted peppers, crisp frisee and creamy brie. The prosciutto wasn’t as noticeable as I would have liked it to be, but when I did get the salty crunch I was very pleased. The perfect pop in flavor was the truffle vinaigrette – it brought the dish to a whole new level. Once again, my favorite of the evening.
Up to this point, we were both pleased with our meals. Me more so than hubs since his dumplings were only fair, but we were both anxious for our dinners. Unfortunately, hubs duck & duck was extremely disappointing. Overall, the dish was just lacking in flavor; at one point he said that he wouldn’t have even known it was duck. He was extremely disappointed and didn’t finish his dish. Even his side was a bean mixture, lacking in flavor within the fried potato shell. One thing that shocked me was his dish, though beautifully presented, looked awfully similar to my seafood dish.
I had ordered the tilapia, which was cooked very well, tender and flaky and presented simple and clean flavors. Unfortunately, there was a sweet jam on top (which was also on hub’s duck) that was overpowering. Fortunately for me, it was only on one small piece, so I was able to eat around the sweetness and enjoy the fish with the mixed herbs/greens it was served with (this was not the same case for hubs). My side was a risotto with creamy flavor texture and solid flavors, especially when mixed with the crisp potato shell (hubs received the same) ‘serving’ dish. Unfortunately, I did have a long hair in my dish around one of my last bites. I thought it was mine, but then I found another one. As none of the chefs had long hair, I thought maybe it was rolled in during prep work. Then again, maybe two of my hairs ended up in the dish. Either way, it didn’t end well for my last bite.
But, there was a gem of our entrees – our side dish. The mac & goat cheese. This has to be one of the best mac & cheeses in the city. Creamy goat cheese mixed with basil, covering different types of noodles. How much butter and cream went into this dish, I didn’t want to know, but the richness definitely informed me there was a lot. Though I couldn’t eat the whole side (we were splitting it anyway), I wouldn’t have wanted to because it was so rich; I had a hard time finishing my half. But with each wonderful bite, we made our way through. Hands down – amazing (I apologize for the photo – it was quite dark and I’m not a photographer by any means.)
We pondered dessert, but were both so full that we passed it up. At this point, the restaurant was slowly clearing out from the earlier frenzy. Even the servers didn’t seem as frantic as they were when we first sat down. Overall, I have to say we were disappointed and didn’t leave with the same ‘high’ from the first time we dined there. But, this is only because of the entrees. I would easily return to try again because there were so many good points to the meal. The lobster sauce, the ‘toad-in-a-hole’ salad and the shrimp corndog. Hands down the best mac & cheese I’ve had. All were great, highlighted in their own ways. I guess we’ll just need to head there for lunch or be careful about our entree selection next time.
Oakleys Bistro * 1464 W. 86th Street * Indy, 46268 * 317.824.1231