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A Visit to HC Tavern & Kitchen
A Great Meal in Fishers
Linda and I first wrote this review on March 8, 2020, after a dinner on the 3rd with the intent of using it in the March 11th Newsletter. Unfortunately the lead that day turned out to be How We Are Addressing COVID-19. So, we have been sitting on this review for fifteen months. Finally, last week, again with our friends Kurt and Cathy, we ventured back to HC for dinner. Here is what we thought then with some updates, shown in (bold and italics), from our latest visit....
After great anticipation, restaurants in Fishers District have finally started to open up for business (not so great timing at the beginning of a Pandemic, yet they all seem to have survived). With the exception of Peterson's, Fishers has been a bit of a fine dining desert, so the opening of Sangiovese, and St. Elmo's Huse Group's 1933 Lounge and HC Tavern and Kitchen has been met with enthusiasm. We tried 1933 for lunch in late January and had a very good experience, but waited two weeks after HC opened to give it a try. Accompanied by our friends, Cathy & Kurt, we were glad we had made reservations on a Tuesday night since it was a busy place.
(Reservations are still necessary, even on a weeknight, due to the popularity of the restaurant. Parking has also become an issue since the addition of Shake Shack has consumed most of the surface parking. Just remember the very large parking structure is available and underutilized).
The striking two-story building faces directly onto 116th Street and is impressively finished inside and out with tastefully done modern decor. With a complete bar and dining area on both levels, it has an impressive indoor/outdoor dining area on the 2nd level. We opted for a tall four-top in the corner of the first-floor bar, and it was remarkably comfortable.
As you would expect from the owners of St. Elmo, the wine selection is impressive, and as is typical, prices hover at about twice retail, with the exception of the lower-end wines which carry a premium. We began with glasses of Cavicchioli Prosecco and moved to a bottle of Dave Phinney's Orin Swift Abstract Rhône-style blend that had the advantage of pairing with almost everything we ordered.
The menu is extensive, and we managed to order and eat way too much food! There are plenty of very creative appetizers, salads and entrees that cover almost all the bases and make extensive use of local and regional ingredients and suppliers, like Smoking Goose and Joseph Decuis. Appetizers begin at $10 and top out at $24 for the decadent lobster "cargot," but more about that later. Salads range from $11 to $25, and entrees begin at $17 and top at $44 for a filet, with sandwiches and tacos available at lunch and dinner, from $17 to $29.
Back to the "cargot," which is fundamentally escargot, except made with lobster, a don't miss dish. Snails are also available for $10 less, but we had to try the lobster and didn't regret it. Served in a traditional escargot dish, the large pieces of lobster are presented swimming in garlic butter and covered with melted Havarti cheese, with plenty of Tuscan toast to dip in butter and cheese. Did I mention decadent? We also shared some pimento cheese fritters with Chipotle ranch aioli, which was also very tasty. Both were great to share amongst four people. In the interest of being sure we ordered too much food, the table shared an order of blistered corn bisque, nicely presented with our server pouring a pitcher of the creamy bisque, infused with candied bacon, over a bowl of sweet white corn. Wow, that could have been dinner. (And this is still a "wow" dish - so good) Oh, and we also shared an order of skillet street corn, infused with roasted poblano peppers and Parmigiano. This was a really unique preparation of corn, and it was delicious. Now understand that both couples typically share an entree when we dine out, but no, we all ordered our own, but only in the interest of being a valuable resource for our customers. So, we were able to experience a broad spectrum of HC's cooking, and they did a good job. Linda ordered the dry-rubbed baby back ribs, served with french fries and chipotle coleslaw.... given her affection for ribs, she declared the ribs, the fries , and the accompanying BBQ sauce excellent.
Cathy opted for the Smoking Goose smoked fried chicken, accompanied by horseradish mashed potatoes and more slaw. The tender, crispy coated chicken was declared delicious by everyone at the table and could be considered the 21st-century evolution of Hollyhock Hill fried chicken. The horseradish mashed potatoes were a trifle dry but very tasty. (Linda selected the chicken dish this time, and it was as good as last time. The slaw definitely has a spice kick to it but accompanies the dish well).
Kurt chose, as he usually does, the salmon. The Bay of Fundi salmon was seared and served with a lemon beurre blanc and the pasta salad. The salmon was perfectly prepared, moist, and tender, while the pasta salad, like all pasta salads, was a little boring. I opted for the Joseph Decuis Wagu beef, pork and veal meatloaf, served with a mushroom demi-glace and the horseradish mashed potatoes. Unfortunately, it was the weakest of the entrees, and while the components seemed good, it had been overcooked to the point of dryness. The flavors were still there, as long as you used enough of the demi-glace to soften it up. I would like to try this dish again on another night.
(On our visit last week, I failed to re-try the meatloaf but ordered something I rarely have, the Pork Chop. I usually avoid the pork because it is typically dry, but this bone in Berkshire chop was perfectly prepared and almost fork tender. Served with a very tasty chipotle peach jam and a cone of french fries, it was excellent. (And I opted for this because Kurt and Cathy recommended it, and it was a solid recommendation - they shared this dish on our recent visit, so only three entrees to report on).
Because we owed our customers a full report, or because we still hadn't eaten enough, we split the salted honey cream pie as well as the wild berry cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream. It would be hard to describe which one was best - both were outstanding. And while I'd like to say we couldn't finish them, the plates wound up clean!
(We didn't delve as deep into the menu on our latest trip, but everything we had was very good. The lobster cargot is still best as a four-way share, don't miss the corn bisque, and its hard to miss with almost any of the entrees we tried. Both visits were good experiences, and since they seem to have survived the toughest first year ever for restaurants, we predict great success in Fishers).
The HC Tavern + Kitchen
9709 E 116th Street
Fishers, IN 46037
June 30, 2021