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DINING: New Anchor at Ambassador could turn around troubled spot

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Dining - A&E

Katharine Hepburn, after a series of box-office failures, was considered box-office poison … until she made “The Philadelphia Story.” The 2004 Red Sox broke an 86-year drought to win the 2004 World Series.

So there’s no reason to get overly ominous about the prospects for Plow & Anchor (43 E. Ninth St., 964-0538), which recently opened in the dining black hole that has swallowed three other restaurants since 2010 (four if you count Bar Yats, which was planned for the site but never opened).

The reality is, sometimes it just takes the right approach. Claddagh, for instance, moved into a troubled spot downtown and quickly wiped out memories of the many failures that came before it. I have that same hope for Plow & Anchor. It helps that the owners have attracted Executive Chef John Adams, who comes via Bluebeard. He offers an ever-changing menu that, on our visit, won us over.

That victory started with Salt Cod Croquettes ($8). Forget your fear of frying, this attractive arrangement let the fish do the talking, with just a taste of saffron aioli and mustard greens but without unnecessary embellishment. Asparagus and Potato Soup ($8) featured morels and crème fraiche. The soup itself was delicious, but the kitchen might want to rethink the battered and fried mushrooms that took on a spongy texture unless eaten immediately.

Once you get north of a 10 spot, a burger really has to earn its high price point. Unfortunately, the Plancha Burger ($14), described as a “kitchen sink patty” with drunken goat cheese, onion jam, rouille (an olive oil/garlic/chili pepper sauce), spicy ketchup and other fixings, doesn’t. It was a messy mix of flavors without a focus. Light-years better was the Roasted Halibut ($18), creatively complemented with butter-poached radishes, ramp greens and spring pea nage. Not only was the presentation beautiful (we eat with our eyes first, right?), but the combination of flavors and textures was inspired.
 

ae-plowanchor-9-15col.jpg Peas are among the seemingly disconnected ingredients that make the Lavender Biscuit work. (IBJ Photo/ Eric Learned)

Desserts are made in-house, so we went with the simple—Beignets ($7) upgraded with caramelized banana, Nutella and crushed peanuts—and the unexpected—Lavender Biscuit ($8), with the title pastry graced with strawberries, rhubarb, pea anglaise and pea shoots. Yes, peas in a dessert. And it works.

Here’s hoping the Ambassador building finally has the anchor it deserves. I look forward to plowing through many a meal here.•

—Lou Harry
 

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  • Four Strikes and You're Out
    I've tried Plow and Anchor a few times now, and it's just not good. Slow service, limited choices, and way too expensive for what it is. The oysters were not good. Their pretentious attitude will surely ring the death knell.
  • Chef John Adams
    John was my opening chef at Ruth's Keystone Cafe. Very talented and I hope all the best for him and for Craig Baker in this new venture.

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  1. A Tilted Kilt at a water park themed hotel? Who planned that one? I guess the Dad's need something to do while the kids are on the water slides.

  2. Don't come down on the fair for offering drinks. This is a craft and certainly one that belongs in agriculture due to ingredients. And for those worrying about how much you can drink. I'm sure it's more to do with liability than anything else. They don't want people suing for being over served. If you want a buzz, do a little pre-drinking before you go.

  3. I don't drink but go into this "controlled area" so my friend can drink. They have their 3 drink limit and then I give my friend my 3 drink limit. How is the fair going to control this very likely situation????

  4. I feel the conditions of the alcohol sales are a bit heavy handed, but you need to realize this is the first year in quite some time that beer & wine will be sold at the fair. They're starting off slowly to get a gauge on how it will perform this year - I would assume if everything goes fine that they relax some of the limits in the next year or couple of years. That said, I think requiring the consumption of alcohol to only occur in the beer tent is a bit much. That is going to be an awkward situation for those with minors - "Honey, I'm getting a beer... Ok, sure go ahead... Alright see you in just a min- half an hour."

  5. This might be an effort on the part of the State Fair Board to manage the risk until they get a better feel for it. However, the blanket notion that alcohol should not be served at "family oriented" events is perhaps an oversimplification. and not too realistic. For 15 years, I was a volunteer at the Indianapolis Air Show, which was as family oriented an event as it gets. We sold beer donated by Monarch Beverage Company and served by licensed and trained employees of United Package Liquors who were unpaid volunteers. And where did that money go? To central Indiana children's charities, including Riley Hospital for Children! It's all about managing the risk.

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