This is the restaurant that I, and I imagine a great many others, have been waiting for to open in this town. Based upon two visits over the past three weeks, and reports from friends (yes, they exist), there is no doubt Black Market is capable of turning out exciting, no, make that thrilling, food that extracts the maximum potential from predominantly locally-sourced ingredients.
Occupying an old commercial brick building, with no sign outside to advertise its presence, Black Market is the apotheosis of muted urban cool. The interior, masterfully decorated in grays and earth tones, offers nothing to detract from your company or what's on the plate. The large communal table, inspired, I imagine, by The Publican in Chicago, encourages conviviality, while the equally inspired choice of music (proto-goth and post punk tunes on one visit) provides a suitably ascetic aural background to distract you from intrusive conversations.
The menu is concise, to the point and brilliantly executed. Short as it is (fewer than ten appetizers and entrees, just two or three desserts), there was nothing on the menu I didn't want to try, hence two visits. Unlike many contemporary restaurants, the small plates at Black Market aren't that small. The Mussel dish ($10), whether prepared with Broad Ripple Brewpub ale or with wine, with or without Goose The Market bacon, is a generous serving. Likewise, the Duck Buns ($9), three substantial soft dinner-roll style buns stuffed with meltingly fatty and tender duck rillette, is almost a meal in itself. It's a play on Cha Su balls, and works really well. Then there's the tour de force, the Pickle Plate ($5), which has at times included pickled cabbage, zucchini, egg, carrots, watermelon and ramps. It's always served with the house-made peanut butter, which, believe it or not, provides a spectacular counterpoint to the crisp acidity of the pickles.
And then there's the Tongue Cocktail ($8): thick chunks of local beef tongue served with beets and horseradish. Although utterly delicious, and a modest step on the scale of nose-to-tail eating, it's a noble attempt to elevate the ordinary into something sublime. If you find the concept of tongue is less than appealing, please give it a try.
Mains include a perfect Pork Schnitzel ($18; try it with the spaetzle for a nostalgic trip to fin-de-siècle Vienna) and a bowl of truly spectacular duck dumplings ($18). The broth, oozing with the very essence of duck, with subtle hints of allspice and basil was so generous and so well executed that I wanted to take the rest home to use it in a sauce. The dumplings were filled with a loose, melting confit that exploded on the palate without even a hint of filler.
The wine and beer list is as succinct as the menu and expertly chosen, with the emphasis on food-friendly wines.
Thrilled as I am by this restaurant, I'm eager for the chef to take the next step, take a cue from Fergus Henderson and put some veal marrow bones and pig heads on the menu. I'm sure it's only a matter of time.