Terranova provides a very respectable meal in an unlikely place

In Indianapolis, we are very fortunate to have several excellent hotel restaurants both in the heart of downtown and in the suburbs. These, for the most part, serve our burgeoning convention clientele, and tend to be ignored by locals, which is a shame.

Migidi Tembo, Food and Beverage Director of Terranova, with a strawberry dessert

On a recent foray into Carmel, I decided to take a detour down the newly widened Pennsylvania Street and purely by chance noticed a sign for Terranova at the Wyndham Hotel. Now, this isn"t exactly the most obvious location for a fine dining establishment, so I was naturally somewhat reluctant to set foot inside, especially being the prejudiced, bigoted, arrogant and fundamentally misguided person that I am. Casting aside all preconceptions, however, my friend Sandra K. and I stopped by last week for a bite of dinner and, I"m delighted to say, we had a very respectable meal in this unlikeliest of places.

The Wyndham Hotel on North Penn. isn"t the easiest place to find, but if you follow the signs and weave around for a while past dead ends and construction machinery, you"ll get there eventually. Having arrived, you"ll find that the dÈcor at Terranova is typical for a moderately priced hotel, but the ambience is comfortable and inviting.

Starting off the evening with a bottle of Domaine St. Michelle Brut (a very fair $25), Sandra K. and I launched into a large platter of deep-fried shrimp and calamari, which are served with a fresh and mildly spiced marinara and a decent, but not too garlicky, aÔoli. For $6.75 there was a lot of food on the plate, and it was surprisingly well-prepared. The squid was tender, not in the slightest bit chewy, and the batter was light and only slightly crisp.

Terranova offers a seasonal menu in addition to its permanent selections, and from this we chose a fresh and very satisfying tomato and mozzarella salad, served with some fresh basil, high quality olive oil and very decent balsamic vinegar. We were delighted by the freshness of the ingredients, and not a little surprised.

Next came a couple of salads: the house Caesar for me (an additional $2 with an entrÈe) and a very sound plate of mesclun greens for Sandra K. Finished off with some tiny and very ripe cherry tomatoes and a well-balanced cabernet vinaigrette, this was well-done, and even contained a few leaves I didn"t recognize. By the time our entrees arrived, we were both feeling a touch over-fed, but we soldiered on nevertheless. An excellent wild mushroom ravioli ($12.75) featured at least 10 large parcels, apparently made in-house, served in a wide bowl a quarter full of a supremely tasty chicken and vegetable broth. Topping off the ravioli was a generous handful of roasted chicken and some fresh asparagus. Both this dish and mine, the chicken saltimbocca, came with a lavish serving of fresh steamed green beans. The chicken dish ($15), served in a similar bowl, featured two elegantly presented boneless breasts, with the wing bone intact, sitting atop a generous mound of creamy mashed Yukon gold potatoes. A large sliver of prosciutto had been slipped under the skin of the breasts prior to roasting, and the whole dish was seasoned with, but not overwhelmed by, fresh sage.

The menu at Terranova offers a good cross-section of dishes, including pasta, pork, salmon and steak. Freshness seems to be at a premium here, and is a factor that separates this establishment from the run of the mill. The wine list, lacking imagination, is the only institutional element. Just a few interesting selections would elevate it significantly as well as the overall tone of the restaurant.

If you"re in the area, stop by Terranova, and if you"re staying at the hotel overnight, then look no further for a sound and carefully-prepared dinner.

Terranova

Wyndham Hotel

251 E. Pennsylvania Parkway

574-4600

Open daily, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Food : 3 stars

Atmosphere : 2 stars

Service : 2 1/2 stars

Dining out of town

Bloomington is fast becoming something of a diner"s paradise. Formerly a haven of cheap and cheerful ethnic and otherwise eateries, this busy little town is finally getting around to catering to those with somewhat fatter wallets and loftier culinary ambitions. Not that bargain hunters should be concerned, however. There"s still an astonishing assortment of cuisines from around the world to satisfy virtually every taste; in fact, it"s said that Bloomington has more ethnic restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the nation. It"s just that those who enjoy the romance of white tablecloths and fine china no longer have to drive to Indy to satisfy their needs.

For the past couple of years, Chef Tad DeLay has been turning out some of this town"s finer dishes on a consistent basis. With four years experience at Fletcher"s when it was in downtown Indianapolis, followed by a few years perfecting his grill skills at Bloomington"s legendary Opie Taylor"s (which he also owns), Chef Tad knows a thing or two about modern American cooking.

Tastefully decorated by local painters and sculptors, Limestone Grille occupies an unassuming location just north of College Mall. Like so many restaurants around here, it doesn"t look like much from the outside, but inside it is elegant and welcoming. The emphasis here is on freshness and local ingredients. The menu changes monthly to reflect the availability of produce, and the attention paid to detail shows in the well-defined flavors and elegant presentations.

At a recent lunch, I enjoyed a variety of dishes, and was impressed by the quality of everything I tasted. The meal started with a seasonal appetizer of a pair of grilled baby lamb loin chops, served with a house-made plum barbecue sauce. The garnish consisted of thin slivers of deep-fried wontons and leeks, giving the dish a minimalist, Eastern appearance. The lamb, tender and cooked to a perfect medium-rare, contrasted beautifully with the only very slightly sweet plum glaze. Very tasty. Next came a superb spinach and artichoke popover: a large triangular pastry case stuffed with the aforementioned ingredients in a rich and reduced cream, alfredo-like sauce. Rounding out the appetizers were a trio of excellent zucchini fritters, light and airy as can be, served with capers that had been rolled in flour and lightly fried.

For the main course, I opted for one of the restaurant"s standards, the chicken pot pie. This was not my grandmother"s pot pie, to be sure. Although substantial, this dish was not especially filling, owing to the lightness of the mustard cream sauce and the ethereally flaky puff pastry. An excellent lunch dish, indeed. Rounding out the meal was a dense but sensibly-portioned serving of tropical pound cake, soaked in coconut milk, and served with fresh tropical fruits and a sauce made from more coconut milk and rum.

Limestone Grille offers a good selection of carefully-chosen wines at reasonable prices. Based upon a couple of very favorable experiences here, I can happily recommend a visit. It"s well worth the drive.

Limestone Grille

2920 E. Covenanter Drive, Bloomington

(812) 335-8110

Lunch

Tuesday-Saturday 11-3

Dinner

Tuesday-Saturday 5-10

Overall : 4 stars

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