Bright. Fresh. Seasonal.
That's what comes to mind when considering a recent dinner at Plow & Anchor, the new restaurant from Craig Baker and Derek Means that opened in late May at 43 E. Ninth St. in the Ambassador building.
All good words, of course, but I get the feeling that with a little more time, the food from executive chef John Adams might inspire even better ones.
Right now, what Adams and the restaurant seem to have is potential.
There is certainly plenty of talent on the team, and it's no surprise that the food and service were both on the plus side of good. Baker and Means have had considerable success with The Local Eatery & Pub in Westfield (and are continuing work on Bent Rail). And Adams, who gained experience at L'explorateur and H2O Sushi, was co-executive chef at Bluebeard when it made the semifinalist list for best new restaurant in the 2013 James Beard Foundation restaurant awards.
After leaving Bluebeard following a break-up last November, Adams landed at Milkwood in Louisville and then worked as chef de cuisine at Proof on Main there. So he too has the culinary pedigree to make a splash in his own kitchen — I just think Adams has a lot more he can bring to the game.
But then the restaurant has only been open a few weeks and still feels a bit rough around the edges, so more visits are definitely on my agenda.
He does make changes to the menu daily, and on our visit, the starters looked more interesting than the smaller selection of mains. I might have had more fun ordering several of those, and I'll probably do that on another visit (keeping in mind that my tab could top $40 if I got the three most intriguing apps; even more if I added on some oysters from the raw bar).
But this time I opted for the $7 spring pea and radish salad from the starter menu and the $14 plancha burger from the list of mains, while a friend chose the scallop crudo starter, $13, and the ricotta gnocchi main, $22.
While both starters were light, pretty and seasonal — and the scallops fresh — we found ourselves wishing for bigger flavors and more texture from both dishes.
The burger, cooked on the restaurant's super-hot plancha grill, raised the flavor game, though. Loaded with toppings, it was tasty and messy — in a good way — but looked a little lonely served on a plate by itself. I'm not saying a burger has to have fries, or even chips, but some sort of accompaniment would have made the plate a little less stark.
The gnocchi dish felt more substantial. Though the dumplings themselves were a bit a bit heavy, the morel mushroom sauce and the tangy ricotta topping were delicious and lightened things up.
As for wines, the list looks interesting, and our server offered several good suggestions. I did expect to find more sparkling wines by the glass — there were only two — but I did enjoy the $10 cava.
I also enjoyed the beignet dessert, which was plenty to share. Four pieces of fried dough with beautifully caramelized bananas and a smear of Nutella was tasty, if uncomplicated. What's not to like about fried dough, right? It might have gone well with a cup of coffee or maybe another glass of cava, and our attentive server suggested another glass, but Plow & Anchor, at least on a Friday evening, was loud, busy and a bit frantic – not really the atmosphere for lingering over dessert.
But it's a pleasant space, bright, open and appealing, with lots of windows. Keep in mind, though, that the main entrance is on Ninth Street; I noticed that several people tried the doors on Pennsylvania Street.
Plow & Anchor definitely fills a void for sophisticated, sit-down dining in its part of downtown. And while the price point seems a bit high (mains are about $12 to $18 at lunch; $14 to $26 at dinner), it should find plenty of fans.
Jolene Ketzenberger covers local food at EatDrinkIndy.com. Follow her on Twitter at @JKetzenberger.