Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Here in week three of a Peddie Family Vacation Trifecta, Amy and I both have the week off at the same time, while Jackson is back at school; and that means lots of opportunities to try new places for lunch. Yesterday we knocked out one of the places that has been near the top of my list for a long time but which was hard to fit in with Jackson in tow, due to the fact that they don’t serve any type of breaded and fried chicken. There was a period there where Jackson was very willing to try new things to eat and managed to develop a taste for things like chips and salsa, hummus, quesadillas, and even broccoli. Unfortunately, that phase seems to have run its course for the time being.

But with him at school, we have the run of the city—and others nearby—and so yesterday afternoon we noshed at Rook, a relatively new Fletcher Place eatery in one of those fancy new mixed-use development deals that are popping up all over town. I can’t think of another place I have been to that uses holes in the drywall as a design element, but that’s the case here, as a “downed power line” pokes through the wall and extends out across the ceiling. You walk up to the counter and order from a lunch menu that consists entirely of bánh mì sandwiches with various fillings that evoke the flavors of Asian street food—Chinese barbecued pork, Indian-spiced tofu, and Thai sour sausage, to name a few. (All of the sandwiches on the lunch menu are $8, and a handful of sides go in the $2-$6 range. A recently-added dinner menu expands the lunch offerings and adds new items, with prices ranging from $6-$12.)

The sandwiches are topped with a delicious sweet and sour cabbage, carrot, and pepper slaw that just barely overpowered the flavor of the Indian-spiced tofu on my sandwich. The balance of flavor in the slaw by itself was impressive, but could have done with something a bit more dynamic in there—a touch of spice from the peppers, maybe; and those pillowy bánh mì rolls, while light and airy, are also not sturdy enough to soak up the moisture from the slaw and the thin coating of some type of mayonnaise that dresses the sandwich. On the other hand, tofu itself is fairly delicate and tends to get lost in the shuffle, especially when it’s added to the menu as an afterthought; and despite the fact that this is a place that serves Asian food, I definitely got the impression that this was a menu calibrated to showcase the hardier proteins favored by carnivores.

Also, because this is an Ed Rudisell joint, like Black Market and Siam Square, you may have a hard time eating economically and also feeling fully sated. We haven’t tried Black Market yet, but Siam Square is one of the best restaurants in Indianapolis, even if the portions seem a little bit anemic for the price. The same can be said for most of the restaurants in the Martha Hoover empire, but they are minor quibbles in both cases. Rudisell and Hoover are doing some of the best restaurants in the city. Rook is a nice addition, but it doesn’t hit the back-alley vibe it’s shooting for—in much the same way that Café Patachou doesn’t hit the “student union for adults” vibe it claims to be shooting for. I’m not quite sure that it gets to the level of pretension in either case (though I am closer to sure about Hoover’s M.O. than about Rudisell’s), because I think the efforts are genuine—they just seem to wind up being a little bit fancier than they aim to be.

719 Virginia Avenue

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