An hour spent in the company of Juping Chi is like a week spent in the company of many a lesser chef. The sheer enthusiasm and love for all things good is so effusive that it's wonderfully infectious. Whether you're discussing foie gras, the latest fish to be flown in from France or the price of Perigord truffles, Juping is a fountain of knowledge and opinion. Her quest for perfection and purity is virtually indefatigable.
A longtime presence on the Bloomington and Indianapolis dining scene, Juping Chi started 5 Spice Cafe a few years ago after her father, a celebrated sports doctor, suffered a series of heart attacks. Wanting to develop a cuisine that would be both beneficial to his health, yet not be burdened by the trappings and connotations of "health food," Juping began to research tasty, heart-healthy dishes based upon the classics of Cantonese and Japanese cuisines.
The result is some of the best food in town: pure, fresh, packed with flavor and immaculately presented. Disguising its mission brilliantly behind a heavy veil of flavor, Juping's cooking allows those who equate good health with dull and indifferent food to eat here without knowing that they are doing their body a favor. The flavors, the quality of the ingredients, the presentation and the exquisite attention to detail all sing of Juping's passion for food and life.
Although former employees have described her passion as obsessive and have found her rigorous management techniques somewhat taxing, in the end it's the customer who counts. Believing that her ways can be taught to even the least experienced cooks, Juping has fashioned a first-rate kitchen crew out of builders and laborers, a sure-fire way, if there ever was one, to preserve the integrity of her vision.
5 Spice Cafe and Mikado have each been rated 5 stars by NUVO. For reservations, call 875-7055.
Richard Cottance Chalkies
From 1992 until 2000, Richard Cottance, one of Indiana's most respected chefs, owned and operated the tiny Panache restaurant just off Main Street in Zionsville. Although successful at the outset, it seemed after a while that, despite the undeniably excellent quality of the food (consistently five stars in this publication), there just wasn't the critical mass of customers, either local or imports, to keep the place in business.
Perhaps his cuisine was simply too adventurous for the somewhat conservative locals, or maybe the restaurant's decor lacked the corporate pizzazz that so many have come to expect these days. Whatever the case may be, Panache was eventually lured a few miles west to Carmel, where the restaurant enjoyed a year or so of success before succumbing to some of the unavoidable woes that often face new restaurants in a poor economy.
Having begun his career in restaurants around Britain and France, English-born Richard moved to Boston in the early 1980s, having met his American wife-to-be while working as a tour operator in France. Moving to Indianapolis a few years later, Richard quickly found employment as a sous chef at the newly opened Peter's, where he worked under Tony Hanslits. In 1989, Richard moved to the brand new Westin Hotel, during which time he contracted a rare and usually deadly form of strep, which resulted in the untimely, but lifesaving, removal of both legs at the knee.
Today, Richard is happily ensconced at Chalkies, where he continues to attract his loyal clientele from the past, and make new converts to his daily specials. In recent months he has put together a terrific lunch menu, something of a sandwich-lover's dream (see sidebar, pg. 7). Now in his second year at Chalkies, Richard is currently working on plans to expand the kitchen's resources and considerably revamp the menu.
Chalkies' food was rated 4 stars in 2002. Call 578-2221 for reservations.
David Foegly Peter's | Chops
Such is the force of personality and sheer single-minded perfectionism of restaurateur Peter George that it's sometimes hard to remember that, lurking behind the immaculate dining room and regimented service, there is actually a kitchen. That the kitchen is as quiet, efficient and immaculately clean as the dining room owes a lot to its longtime executive chef, David Foegley, who, whether by choice or design, maintains one of the lowest profiles of any chef of his caliber I've ever encountered.
With its AAA 4 Diamond rating, Peter's is as close to the top of the game as any restaurant is likely to get in this market, and for the past 15 years or so, David has been at the helm of a kitchen that has turned an abundance of talent onto the local dining scene (the same goes for the front of house). A graduate of Indiana State, David worked in the food service industry for six years before joining Peter's in 1987.
With a strong emphasis on locally-grown produce and the freshest of ingredients, David's cooking has succeeded in combining the heartier aspects of Midwestern dining with a modern, West Coast aesthetic. Although his presentations are immaculate, imaginative and visually delightful, the emphasis is always first and foremost on quality and flavor. You won't find dishes out of Architectural Digest here, nor will you find much by way of building materials.
Last year Chef David won the first Indy Iron Chef contest, and earlier this year supervised over a dozen nationally recognized chefs at the first dinner in honor of the Indianapolis Originals. Walking through the eerily quiet kitchen, it was evident that they were in excellent company.
Peter's was rated 5 stars by NUVO in 2002. For reservations, call Peter's at 465-1155 and Chops at 803-2178.
Casey Uglow The Pidge
The Pidge: 1. a small place in one's heart; 2. a place of solitude, reflection and joy; 3. where food is fresh, wine is plenty and time stands still; 4. where life is slow, comfortable and enjoyable; 5. a small home away from home.
When Casey Uglow (formerly Harmeson) entered Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., as a freshman in 1989, she planned to major in communications, hoping to gain an advertising degree. Instead, however, she switched paths to a degree from the School of Consumer and Family Sciences, emphasizing in restaurant and hotel management.
Upon receiving her bachelor's of science from Purdue, Casey went on to earn an associate's degree of the culinary arts from Johnson and Wales. In 1996, her culinary career took her to Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans, then to Poogan's Porch in Charleston, S.C., and City Cafe and Bakery of Columbia, S.C. Casey returned to Indiana as executive chef of Restaurant 210 of Carmel (no longer extant) followed by a stint at Lucy!Lucy of Muncie and White River Catering in Indianapolis.
After years of searching for her own place, Casey finally found her opportunity in Zionsville. By May 2001, The Pidge opened its doors to the public in the building formerly occupied by Panache. Casey sums up her culinary philosophy in this way: "It seems as time passes there are certain things that remain static for the patrons of the hospitality and restaurant industry. They require, rightly so, attentive and friendly service, a comfortable atmosphere and food and drink that are not only presented well but offer good value with even greater flavors. I went into this business because it was simply my way to make the world happy. It has been my experience that if you strive to meet those static needs, you can always make your patrons happy. The smiles and satisfaction on a patron"s face after a good meal is exactly what keeps me going in this business as an owner and, more importantly, as a chef."
The Pidge was rated 4 stars by NUVO in 2001. For reservations, call 733-1425.
Bert Jones Peterson's
A long-standing and popular figure on the Indianapolis fine dining scene, Bert Jones has made his mark over the years with innovative, modern dishes emphasizing freshness and flavor. During the mid '90s, Chef Bert brought flair and a natural's sense of balance to the kitchen at SNAX, before turning his attention to Chalkies in Castleton.
At Chalkies, Bert turned upside down the notion that pool hall food needed to be all grease and starch. Introducing lighter entrees and radically expanding the menu to include tapas-like appetizers and more modern fare, Bert's influence is still clearly felt on the menu. He was a participant for several years in the American Heart Association's Dining ý la Heart, during which time a number of heart-healthy dishes were added to the menu at Chalkies, including a shrimp cocktail martini with banana ketchup, spinach puree and cocktail sauce, a dish that's since become a staple. A dedicated body-builder and former semi-pro football player, Bert likes to eat well, but knows how to eat well and healthily.
Now executive chef at Peterson's, with its strong emphasis on fish and seafood, Bert has taken his philosophy to the big hitters. His name is one to watch.
Bert Jones received 4 stars in NUVO. For reservations at Peterson's, call 598-8863.
Greg Hardesty H20 Sushi
Greg Hardesty began his culinary career at The Glass Chimney in Indianapolis after graduating from Indiana University in 1991. Under the tutelage of Deeter Puska, he was exposed to many of the classics of continental cuisine. In 1995 he moved to Los Angeles, where he continued his education under Chef Joachim Splichal and his growing Patina/Pinot restaurant group. Greg was made sous chef and helped open Splichal's third Pinot restaurant in Hollywood.
It was during this time that he was introduced to the light and simple flavors of Splichal's cuisine, and the importance of fresh, seasonal ingredients. The next stop for Greg was Rubicon in San Francisco, famous for its emphasis on wine and food.
In 2000 Greg opened H2O Sushi in Broad Ripple, where he creates food using classical sushi techniques with a contemporary California/ French perspective. H2O's austere lines and non-traditional plates are a far cry from one's established view of a classic sushi bar, but the effect is stunning in a hi-tech, minimalist sort of way.
Over the past couple of years, H2O has garnered something of a cult following for its Japanese-French fusion cookery, and has even prompted graffiti in the restrooms of rival eateries. Later this year, Greg and business partner Mike Sylvia will be opening another restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue, tentatively named "Elements."
The focus of the new restaurant will be very similar to that of H2O Sushi, only the ratio will be more in the order of 90 percent French-inspired dishes to 10 percent Japanese, as opposed to roughly the opposite at H2O. The menu will continue to further Greg's culinary philosophy that simple is better. Watch this space.
H20 Sushi was rated 4 stars by NUVO in 2000. For reservations, call 465-1155.
Regina Mehallick R-Bistro
With a strong emphasis on locally-raised produce and meats, Regina Mehallick"s culinary philosophy is refreshingly simple. "I've endorsed a back-to-basics philosophy over the years. Basic in the sense that the ingredients are fresh and local, allowing for seasonal menu changes. Portions are balanced, with equal emphasis on vegetables and starches, and portions are sized to allow diners to enjoy a full three-course meal."
Educated at Johnson & Wales University, Chef Regina gained her first practical experience in South Carolina. She also studied at prestigious cooking schools worldwide, including the World of Regaleali in Sicily, Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland and various other European and British establishments, before moving to Britain for three years in 1996. There she worked as sous chef at the prestigious Yorke Arms in north Yorkshire, as part of an all-woman kitchen, and also at Stravaigin in Glasgow as chef de partie.
Upon her return home, she spent a year or so working at the Canterbury Hotel in Indianapolis before opening R-Bistro with her husband, Jim, in 2001. The menu at R-Bistro makes a point of informing us that all dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients, and are cooked to order. This is readily apparent from the dishes themselves. Every plate I've tasted at R-Bistro has been bright and vibrant with color as well as super-fresh. The current menu (which changes seasonally) is replete with vegetables, fresh salad greens and bright, crisp flavors. The cooking is light and airy, with little evidence of heavy sauces and thick reductions, and very little butter and cream. A short but to-the-point wine list perfectly complements the similarly short, but focused, menu at R-Bistro.
R-Bistro was rated 4 stars by NUVO in 2001. For reservations, call 423-0312.
Tony Hanslits Tavola Di Tosa
Since his early days as the gifted opening chef at Peter's when it was down on Fountain Square, Tony Hanslit's flair for all things culinary has been evident to his legion of devoted followers. Following Peter's, Chef Tony continued to shine through lengthy stints at the Hilton and at Something Different, before slipping away into the quiet obscurity but excellent kitchen of the Woodland Country Club. Wherever he may practice his skills, Tony consistently displays remarkable intuition and an even more remarkable palate that set him apart from the rest of the field.
Since 2000, Tony has been executive chef and co-owner of Tavola di Tosa Authentic Italian Restaurant and Tosa EuroCafe, located in the heart of Broad Ripple. Tony and his wife Rosa have tried to bring a "little bit" of Italy to Indianapolis, and, to judge by the ecstatic reviews and lines at weekends, they have met their goals with flying colors. Tavola di Tosa is known for serving the most authentic Italian dishes in town, and has been named Best New Restaurant and Best Broad Ripple Restaurant in Indianapolis and was cited more than once for producing Indianapolis' best desserts. Just try the ethereal panna cotta, and you'll know what they're talking about.
A 1979 graduate of Johnson & Wales Culinary Institute in Providence, R.I., Tony's recipes have appeared in many publications. His own photographs accompany his words in publications as diverse as Best of the Midwest, Taste of Indianapolis and Taste of the NFL cookbooks. He is very active with food related causes, and was for many years chairman of Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation. Currently he represents Indianapolis at the Taste of the NFL, held annually in the Super Bowl city. Tony has won many culinary competitions, including the 2002 Pork Association Taste of Elegance.
Tavola Di Tosa was rated 5 stars by NUVO in 2000. For reservations, call 202-0240.
Joseph Heidenreich Agio | Smokey Joe's
A member of the American Culinary Federation, and a key player in the Indianapolis Originals, Chef Joseph Heidenreich apprenticed with Austrian Master Chef Werner Seyfried. A local boy, Joseph was born and raised in Beech Grove, and continues to live on the Southside of town. After his apprenticeship, he worked in Germany for three years, where he eventually became chef de cuisine at the Marriott hotel and resort in Munich.
A stint at the Italian Garden Bistro in Dallas followed, then an extended engagement as senior chef at the Opryland hotel in Nashville. During his four years there, he supervised two restaurants and cooked for dignitaries, which included Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1995, Joseph returned home to open the California Cafe at the Circle Centre in 1995. In 2001, Joseph, along with partners John Schneider, John Guy and Jeff Wright, purchased Agio on Massachusetts Avenue. Smokey Joe"s followed in November of 2002.
Always on the go and never at a loss for words, Joseph clearly loves his work, and is always on the lookout for something else to do. With his new venture, Smokey Joe's, he has combined his gift for feeding very large numbers of people with an unstinting passion for quality and customer service. Recognizing that people eat differently during times of perceived economic uncertainty, Joseph has priced his dishes accordingly, and is in the process of revamping the pricing structure at Agio for the same reasons.
With plans to expand the barbecue business into other parts of town, we're sure to be seeing a lot of Chef Joseph (or at least his food) in the months and years to come.
Both Agio and Smokey Joe's have been rated 4 stars by NUVO. Agio, 488-0359; Smokey Joe's, 884-4870.
Richelle Wylie Scholar's Inn
With little by way of formal training, but with a strong sense of what works and what doesn't in the kitchen, Richelle Wylie is a young talent worth keeping an eye on. Having joined Scholar"s Inn at their inception some five years ago, she oversees an extensive menu catering to a broad spectrum of tastes. The menu changes seasonally. Generally, there's a strong emphasis on pasta, polenta and risotto, but the menu is far from being Italian. There's also a significant emphasis on vegetarian dishes. Entrees vary in price from the low-teens to the mid-20s, so there's something for just about all but the most finicky of diners.
Last year, the Scholars Inn purchased the Bakehouse in Bloomington, a bakery well-known for producing hearty, authentic, European-style breads. Without doubt the best bakery in Indiana, the Bakehouse naturally supplies the Scholar"s Inn with all its breads, which feature prominently in a number of appetizer dishes. In addition, the restaurant now bottles a number of its signature condiments, including an excellent tomato chutney and a very fine cranberry chutney.
Desserts at Scholar's Inn are worth a review in themselves: The list runs to several pages. In the past, I have savored the delightful trio of creme brulees, as well as the decadent but more-ish cheesecakes, and can attest to their excellence. The restaurant also offers a few classic tableside desserts like bananas Foster and strawberries jubilee for those who like things the old-fashioned way.
Scholar's Inn was rated 4 stars by NUVO in 2002. For reservations, call 536-0707.