Restaurant Reviews --> A Visit to Vida
A Visit to Vida!
Not Another Steakhouse
We are a little late to the party to review this, so to speak, but we finally made it to Vida, the Cunningham Group's newest fine-dining restaurant, near downtown in the Lockerbie neighborhood. At this point, what we can do is confirm that the rave reviews you have heard and read are all true. This is Cunningham's first foray into a truly fine-dining restaurant, after their successful upscale establishments of Mesh and Union 50. The contrast shows, especially in the serious beverage list that contains only three pages of specialty drinks and bourbons and thirteen pages of wine, as compared to Union 50's equal number of bourbon and wine selections.
We arrived at 6:15 on a Wednesday evening, to a mostly empty dining room, accompanied by 0ur seff proclaimed, Wine Geezer, Tom Landshof and his lovely wife, Suzanne. But the dining room was nearly full a mere 30 minutes later. After walking by the comfortable outside cocktail seating area, complete with a fire feature, we entered into the completely transformed old house, formerly occupied by Amici, on East New York Street. But the real feature is the added new, attached building featuring lots of glass, stone, and a wooden, soaring ceiling, all resulting in an elegant and contemporary environment. Even the seating was upscale with large, comfortable upholstered red and gray chairs at most of the tables. They were some the best restaurant chairs we've ever sat in.
The highlight of the entry area is a tall hydroponic herb/lettuce garden on one wall, and an unobstructed view of the work in process for meal preparation.
The wine list was broad, engaging and very-well chosen, priced at about twice retail. We began with glasses of Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay, and moved through, a splurge, the Merry Edwards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir at $90, and the bargain on the list, the Three Wine Company Zinfandel at only $35 a bottle as the meal progressed. It was light to heavy, but it worked, especially with the food we were eating. You can spend as much as you want on this wine list, but there are plenty of values under $40 a bottle, and plenty of prizes over $200.
Perhaps the most impressive thing was the impeccable service. Attentive, but controlled, our server coordinated an almost flawless dinner where 3 patrons had appetizers and entrees, while Linda selected the five course tasting menu. He emphasized early on that he wanted to take the entire order at once in order to pace it with the kitchen, and he did an exceptional job with the extra courses.
Linda's second course arrived at the same time as a delicious basket of three different breads and biscuits, from pastry chef Hattie McDaniels, that combined both sweet and savory offerings. He even finished by bringing a complimentary order of doughnut holes enrobed in chocolate and vanilla while Linda enjoyed Hattie's delicious dessert take on S'mores (with a special Happy Birthday greeting in chocolate, since our server overheard a brief conversation about it coming up next week). Everything was passed around the table and enjoyed.
Chef Layton Roberts has really outdone himself after opening Mesh on Mass in 2010, moving on to 14 West and Meridian. He then developed the creative menu that opened Union 50 and now has become executive chef at Vida, the Cunningham Group's most ambitious effort to date. But enough about the chef - let's talk about the food!!
Tom and Suzanne both chose the evening special appetizer, the seared foie gras served with a sweet, Bourbon reduction that was every bit as decadent as it sounds. I couldn't get by the house-made charcuterie that we observed hanging in a kitchen window from the bar. The two types of salami, prosciutto smoked sausage, stone ground mustard, onion relish and crisp toasts were all delicious. In the meantime, Linda enjoyed a tiny smoked trout cheeseball, with red onion marmalade and crostini that was tasted and enjoyed around the table.
Linda's tasting menu followed with prosciutto wrapped decker melon, pork rind, and feta cheese and tomatillo chow chow - all proclaimed delicious.
For the main course, Tom and I succumbed to the duck pastrami, a duck breast with a heavily seasoned, well-scored crispy skin. It was served with hibiscus mustard, sauerkraut remoulade and rye streusel. Very unusual and very tasty. Suzanne selected the well-prepared sturgeon filet, served with fried yuca, grilled green onion and adobo. She was pleased that they listened to her request to leave the fish a bit on the rare side.
Linda's two tasting entree courses were shredded rotisserie chicken with white beans, corn and cotija cheese, and what we all thought was probably the best dish on the table, the chargrilled coulotte steak which featured broccoli puree, glazed heirloom carrots, and state fair chips.
Vida is definitely Indianapolis' new, special occasion dinner splurge, or if you don't mind spending $200/per couple (before tip) for dinner (yes, we did order expensive wine!), then go and enjoy. It really is worth it!
601 E. New York St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202
August 31, 2016