Vizion, the collaborative brainchild of owners Tim Durham and Henri Najem, oozes style. It’s no wonder, given that it’s adjacent to Houseworks, Indy’s ground zero for avant-garde home furnishings. Tabletops shimmer with copper. Gossamer green curtains tumble the length of glass exterior walls. A pristine kitchen, visible to the dining room, beckons with near laboratorial tidiness and precision. Even the silverware curves into funky angles that make it a little tricky to maneuver throughout the meal.
Perhaps the most elaborate feature of the décor is the 25-foot wine “tower,” the focal point of the first-floor bar. During our meal, we occasionally looked up to see one of the restaurant’s wine “angels” scaling the precipice on a harness suspended from cables. Apparently, Rapunzel couldn’t be bothered to let down a bottle of pinot noir. While that tower of wine safeguards a nicely diverse selection of vintages, the offerings by the glass sadly pander to popular tastes. All but three or four reds are merlots; two are cabernets. Only a single shiraz in “other reds” is offered at an utterly unnecessary $11 per glass.
The menu highlights Matt Lane’s creative vision and imaginative use of the generous facilities. Part steakhouse, part California-style trattoria, the restaurant offers everything from flat bread pizzas to meats seared at 700 degrees.
A short list of appetizers leans heavily on seafood. Lobster tortellini ($9) came not stuffed with lobster but with generous pieces of lobster in a delicate creamy broth. The sweetness of the lobster cut nicely against the rich sauce, marrying Maine’s most famous shellfish with its divinely ordained companion: butter. The house salad ($5) was a composite affair of cucumbers, tomatoes and feta cheese surrounding a pile of bibb lettuce with a creamy balsamic vinaigrette and garlic “croutons,” more crumbles than traditional cubes. And while all of the components added good flavor to the mix, the toppings outweighed the lettuce, making for a heavy second course.
Entrées were hearty with subtly innovative touches. Veal asiago ($19) was a straightforward Mediterranean dish expertly prepared. Thinly pounded veal without a lick of gristle sat atop a bed of angel hair with orange peppers and artichoke hearts. Once again Lane made good use of butter in the sauce, this time infused with the woodsy essence of truffles. The pheasant breast ($22) drew a bit of inspiration from the South. A thick breading kept the white meat juicy inside, a bit like your grandmother’s Sunday fried chicken, and a corn pancake provided a sturdy pedestal for the delicate bird. A deep-brown “gravy” of wild mushrooms added a bit of earthiness to play off the sweet pancake. An artful mound of mashed potatoes wore a topknot of bleu cheese, but the spuds were just a bit stiff and gluey. They barely moved between bites.
From a list of “peripherals,” we couldn’t pass up the green bean casserole ($6). This was as far from your aunt’s holiday abomination as it could be, with thin frizzled onions and more of those garlic crumbles atop bright green, nearly squeaky crisp beans. The chef’s fruit tart ($6) improvised with ingredients that didn’t quite get along. Pineapple wedges teetered on a quivering mound of chocolate mousse mortared a bit precariously to a macadamia nut crust. Playful squiggles of raspberry sauce streaked the plate. Any of the parts of this dessert were delicious on their own; together they struck a jangling chord. Thankfully, a long list of house-made sweets from crème brulee to wild cherry sorbet awaited subsequent visits.
As a mere space in which to experience a meal, surely no restaurant in Indianapolis rivals Vizion. Throngs of merry Northsiders heading for cocktails at the restaurant’s equally chic Vapour Lounge may enhance or mar that space on the weekends, depending on one’s feelings toward crowds (or Northsiders). But Vizion clearly demonstrates how Indianapolis restaurateurs are looking beyond food to the entire dining experience. While dining in Indiana may never be quite the spectacle or sport that it is in New York or San Francisco, Vizion, at least, may foresee our culinary future.