DINING: Adobo Grill's fresh guac, ceviche delicious

February 23, 2009

I had friends who insisted for years that, when they went to Chicago, they had to go to Adobo Grill. When the restaurant opened up a location on Indy's north side, those same friends, rather than celebrating, didn't get around to dining there. And now that Adobo has moved downtown (its former space became the already-gone Pikk's Tavern), I wonder if they ever will stop in.

Distance, it seems, can make the gastronomic heart (to mix biological metaphors) grow stronger.

A shame, since Adobo Grill (110 E. Washington St., 822-9990) is still doing what it does very well from its attractively appointed downtown spot. And the guacamole cart's rattling across the wooden floor does, if you have a little imagination, recall the sound of Chicago's elevated trains.

That cart carries what's labeled on the menu as Our Famous Guacamole ($7.50), which, prepared tableside without fanfare, remains an essential first stop. And while it's obviously fresh and proved delicious, I couldn't help wondering if there is any real advantage to having it made within reach.

I don't care, for instance, how close to me the Tilapia Ceviche ($8.99) is made. All I care about is going back soon for more. For the uninitiated, ceviche is citrus-marinated fish or seafood, and Adobo Grill dedicated a whole section of the menu to them, with offerings including Scallops ($10.50), Salmon ($8.99) and Baby Octopus ($9.99). The Tilapia made nice with its lime marinade, red peppers, capers, olives and avocado. The Tuna Ceviche ($9.50) marinated in mango juice was equally tasty and given texture thanks to pico de gallo and tomato, but for variety we should have tried a different section of the menu.

How about a salad? Ensalada de Jicama y Mango ($7.99) proved a lackluster salad with subtle-to-the-point-of-nonexistent flavor. OK, then, what about something from the section of the menu labeled Las Cazuelas? This translates culinarily as earthenware casseroles filled with the food of choice and topped with cheese. A side of soft corn tortillas makes this into a simple make-your-own-taco station. You can go for Three Cheese ($7.50), Chicken and Mushrooms ($7.99), or a combo featuring all three ($14.99). We went for Chorizo ($7.50) with zucchini and tomato salsa, which could easily—and probably should—have been shared. In fact, just about everything we tried on this and other visits was suitable for sharing.

Maybe next time I'll take my northside friends. As long as they let me have a taste of whatever they order.

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