Bluebeard, Indianapolis, IN

On 7/2/2012 at 1:30 PM, And said:

New additions to Indianapolis restaurant scene:

Bluebeard In the southeast cultural district of Indy, Fountain Square, contemporary Italian-inspired cuisine featuring the best in local produce. The building also houses a wholesale bakery, Amelia’s.


On 8/6/2014 at 7:57 PM, seanvtaylor said:

Recognizing that this is from 2012, but I just had dinner two nights in a row at Bluebeard, and Wow! I was exceedingly impressed, but think that the menu is much more squarely American than Italian-inspired at this point–and that incorporates the fact that one night I had radiatore bolognese as my main course. This is a big-league restaurant–perhaps the Woodberry Kitchen of Indianapolis, though not as big and with slightly different ambitions.

Dinner 1 started with their bread basket, served with garlic oil, anchovy butter, and honey butter. The bread was from Amelia’s and delicious, and the anchovy butter was unreal. I ate too much of it, enjoying it all of the way. I then had their melon salad; this is a dish that I feel that I could easily whip up at home with a watermelon, a canteloupe, and a cucumber–except theirs had coppa and curtido, and basil and mint, and manchego, and a white balsamic viniagrette. This is one of the best dishes I’ve eaten this year. I then had the radiatore–a massive, mid-western portion with their butcher-block bolognese–a mystery meat mixture that was spicy and rich. It was too much, so I took it back to my hotel and ate it as a snack and later as an early breakfast, cold by that point, of course, but still flavorful and better than my options at Starbucks and Panera.

Dinner 2 kicked off with pickled herring–a tasteful preparation, not over-the-top large, so just the right way to start the evening. The octopus confit was very good–I’m not sure what the confit-process added, as the octopus seemed closer to a classic sous-vide preparation (if there is such a thing for octopus). It came in a nice broth with corn and (what I think) were partially sun-dried tomatoes. I finished with lamb-belly buns–exceedingly spicy with dragon sauce, cooled slightly with pickled radish and pickled, umm, pickles.

The cocktail program is substantial and worthwhile, with friendly and knowledgeable bartenders.

I’d say, “I wish that we had a place like this here,” but we do–a number of them. It’s just really nice to see this place out in Indianapolis–what appeared to be a really good food town, in my too-brief stay.

I had dinner at Bluebeard this week, and Sean’s description is just about perfect. Instead of adding to the general description, I’ll add some more data to support it:

Bluebeard has a wonderful drinks program, and it was my own fault I didn’t turn myself over to them – I knew what I was ordering (sort of), and if I had it to do again, I’d get one of their $7 (!) house made Gin and Tonics to start.

A general rule-of-thumb when someone sets foot in Indiana is that they only need a two-word vocabulary: “Three Floyds” (who, by the way, has opened what is reportedly an excellent brewpub (with good food) in Muncie). I started with a pint of Three Floyds Necron 99 ($6) which was tapped earlier that day. It was very much of a well-made IPA (I didn’t know this when I ordered it), hop-forward, and not my style of beer despite its obvious quality. If you like IPAs, then grab this should you see it, but I drank it relatively quickly because I knew it wouldn’t go with my food (Bluebeard had ten fascinating beers on tap; this was the only Three Floyds, and this is what I specifically asked for).

My first course also was just put on the menu yesterday for the first time, and is the first time this year I’ve seen butternut squash (autumn is on its way). A small Butternut salad ($13) was an ingredient-driven, farm-fresh, composed plate that looked unbelievably good. This may have been a personal thing, as I was somewhat salt-deficient, but it came across to me as a bit skimpily dressed, and while the ingredients were all just about perfect, I think it could have used a bit more seasoning to bring everything together. Still, you can tell it was a terrific salad just by looking at the picture – it contained cubes of butternut squash placed inside endive leaves, bacon, goat cheese, pecans, basil, shallot, and bourbon maple bacon vinaigrette which lent an undertone of bacon to the dish as a whole. It was an honorable salad, a very, very good salad, but just a touch on the bland side for me to call it a “great” salad.

 <— This was just as fresh as it looks.

Having knocked back my Necron 99, I wanted one more drink to carry me through the meal. I love Chinon, and equally love the producer Couly-Dutheil, but haven’t had much Chinon Rosé. A generous glass of 2016 ($13) was disappointing – very much like a grapey Spanish rosado rather than a pale, bone-dry Provençal rosé. This wine is a vin saigné – literally a “bled wine” … the wine is “bled” (or siphoned) off the top of the vat, and the pink wine on top is made into a rosé. This has the added benefit – especially in lean years – to make the remaining wine in the vat darker in pigment (the pigmentation agents have more mass, and drop to the bottom of the vat, thus making a more concentrated red). Vin saigné is a *much* cheaper way to make rosé, and truthfully, it shows in the end product (which is pleasant, but never, ever profound). I knew this was 100% Cabernet Franc – the menu even said so – thus, it would be impossible for it to be anything *other* than vin saigné. In no way were either of these drink “errors” the fault of Bluebeard – I knew exactly what I was ordering, and the fact that I didn’t love the selections falls on me and me alone. For them to even have either of these two offerings speaks volumes about their beverage program – they’re both quite uncommon to see in restaurants.

Up until this point, things were more “impressive” than “great.” However, that was to immediately change with my entrée: a Papardalle ($32). with butchershop Bolognese (more on this in a moment), tomato sauce, Parmesan, and herb oil. I asked my wonderful bartender about this Bolognese dish, and he said it’s one of their classics – something that’s generally on the menu in one form or another – I had a long day of travel (and after all, I’m 1/4 Bolognese), so it hit all the right notes for me as comfort food. They served it with a basket of sliced bread, baked at their bakery next door – something akin to a thinly sliced baguette, but slightly airier. While $32 seems like a *lot* of money for a pasta Bolognese, let me start by saying that this dish was enormous – enough for two people – and the Bolognese didn’t seem spooned on; it seemed ladled on. Picture being at Nonna’s house in Bologna for Sunday dinner — “Nonna can I have seconds?” “Sure!” “Nonna, can I have thirds?” “Sure!” It was all I could eat, and there were a couple fork-fulls of house-made papardelle left on my plate, because I was stuffed to the gills: and I only had one little piece of their bread, too. The Bolognese sauce was thick and meaty, meaty, meaty, with a predominant undertone of fennel – if you don’t at least “like” fennel, you probably won’t like the flavors of this great sauce. There was plenty of papardelle, too, perhaps not *quite* as al dente as I wished, but I was so busy plowing through it that I hardly noticed – it was a sensational dish, and one which I could eat often. Do not let the price scare you away from ordering this – it was just fabulous, one of the best Bolognese dishes I’ve ever eaten.

 <— This photo may not look that big, but it was a *huge* plate of food (that’s a pasta-twirling spoon).

So technically, I only “loved” three out of four things I had at Bluebeard, but I fell in love with the restaurant – I could see what was behind the bar (they have a first-rate beverage program), and I could see some of the other plates arriving as well. The comparison with a “small Woodberry Kitchen” is quite apt, and accordingly, Bluebeard was a semifinalist for a 2017 James Beard Award for Best Chef – Great Lakes – their talented, fully deserving chef is Abbi Merriss.

Bluebeard is now the best restaurant I’ve ever been to in Indianapolis, which is saying something, as I’ve been here about a half-dozen times, and have really sought out the best and the brightest, as well as hitting up the classics such as Shapiro’s Deli (which now has an IND location) and St. Elmo’s Steak House (where you’ll most likely go only one time).

Bluebeard has a lot to be proud of, and a great future ahead of them.

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