Located in the same strip mall as one of the city’s countless Applebee’s, and tucked away behind a mattress store, you will find one of Indianapolis’ best restaurants. Oakley’s Bistro is the North side’s Shangri-La of fine dining. Chef Proprietor Steven Oakley is bringing a much needed culinary flare to an area of the city that is drowning in a sea of chain restaurants. The menu is refined but not overly complicated, letting the quality of the ingredients, and the skills of the chefs speak for themselves. While not cheap by Indiana standards, the prices at Oakley’s are worth every penny of their $20 to $30 per plate price range.
Good as appetizers for sharing or as a snack to go with your favorite cocktail, the small plates showcase a variety of cooking styles and ingredients. The bacon wrapped apricots were simply brilliant. Tequila soaked apricots, came wrapped in crispy bacon, and covered with a jalapeno kumquat glaze. Each bite sized apricot put on an unforgettable symphony of flavor. The shrimp corn dogs were also quite good, and they are just about what they sound like. Shrimp on a stick is coated in a cornmeal batter and fried to a golden brown. While a deep fried shrimp corn dog sounds more like something you might find at the state fair than an upscale restaurant, these little guys are a touch more refined. Presented on a long wooden cutting board and drizzled with honey and fresh chives, they fit right in the Oakley’s refined but not unnecessarily prudish cooking style.
In keeping with the theme that good food does not have to be overly fancy, the entrees range from meatloaf to duck confit. The dinners are masterful preparations of familiar foods. The Chicken ‘n Hushpuppies were quite good. Most Midwesterners have had chicken and fried hushpuppies, but few have had the treat of having them with Oakley’s lemon tarragon curd glaze, eggplant puree, and toasted garlic crème fraiche. If that were not enough, the plate also comes with a crispy piece of pork belly. The pork belly adds a savory note to the plate and slight hints of smokiness rounds the whole dish out. The Salmon Medallions were terrific. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, these beautiful pieces of salmon crusted with pumpernickel came with a puree of potatoes and black garlic, fresh cherry tomatoes, parsley crème fraiche, and drizzled with an everything bagel vinaigrette. The dish was reminiscent of bagels with lox, and the flavor combinations complimented each other, but were also capable of standing alone, making each bite interesting and delicious. Each plate comes with accompanying side parings, but extra sides can also be ordered. The fried brussel sprouts with bacon honey butter were quite addictive. The bitter brussel sprouts and the savory butter could not have been done any better.
Save room for dessert but not too much room as they are a bit on the small side, and they probably are not intended to be shared. The baked to order root beer brownie was spectacular. Paired with house made sassafras ice cream, salted peanuts and caramel corn this dessert was both creative, and fun. The varying textures, flavors, and temperatures made for the perfect end to a fantastic meal.
Oakley’s Bistro would do well downtown Indy, or for that matter downtown Chicago, New York or L.A.. If you live in Indianapolis, or are just in town visiting, be sure to make the trip to the Northwest side and have a meal at Oakley’s. The food is terrific, the service is great, and like the A Team, if you can find them you’ll be in for a treat.