Wednesday, July 25, 2012

St. Elmo's - Indianapolis


Another year, another Memorial Day, and another trip to Indianapolis for the 500 and while I was looking forward to friends, drinks, and race day, I had one thing on my mind as I pulled onto 465, dinner at St. Elmo’s. In years previous, I had heard about St. Elmo’s and their sinus searing shrimp cocktails, but last year reservations were unavailable. To rectify that mistake, I started early and booked a table in March. There was no way I would be skipping the Indianapolis landmark on this trip.

With Kyle finally finished with his airport ordeal and Liz ready to go, our trio was out the door and making the short drive downtown. Then it was the actual matter of finding the restaurant. Valet fee paid, we walked inside to find our table not quite ready, but before we could pay for our drinks at the bar, our buzzer rang. Weaving through the sea of humanity, we were led downstairs. Dungeon, basement, or wine cellar settings aside, it was a relief to finally be able to see what all the fuss was about at St. Elmo’s.

Before anything resembling a steak would reach the table, it was time to shine the spotlight on the true St. Elmo’s claim to fame, the shrimp cocktail.
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Our waiter was proud to report that St. Elmo’s sells the most shrimp cocktails in the United States.
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 Beside the novelty, I can completely understand why. This cocktail is built on large, 21-25 or bigger, shrimp that are well cooked, briny, and have a pleasant snap with each bite.
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However, the shrimp were almost relegated to a simple foundation for the cocktail sauce. Composed of 90% horseradish and a little cocktail sauce for color, this sauce, as you might imagine, has a bright horseradish flavor which quickly evolves into a searing arrow to your sinuses. Rumors on the internet claim the cocktail sauce is nothing more than freshly grated horseradish, soaked overnight in vinegar, strained and mixed with Heinz ketchup. True or not, you may need an extra napkin to eat this shrimp cocktail. Each bite carried a potent, burning punch, but it was a good burn that left you wanting more.

Steaks on their way, a course of soup was next. Given the choice between tomato juice and navy bean, I stuck with the bean.
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Tomato, pork, and beans, a lovely trio for a simple soup. With the added bonus of the beans bursting with the slightest bit of pressure, it was a perfectly fine mid meal interlude.

It may seem a bit odd, but after the shrimp cocktail, the arrival of cowboy ribeye was almost anticlimactic.
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Corn fed and wet aged, this steak was well seared, complete with perpendicular grill marks.
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On the exterior the steak seemed to be nicely seasoned.
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Inside, you can tell this steak had not seen the warm waters of an immersion circulator. A fair gradient of temperature surrounded the medium rare center.
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All together, this was a decent steak, but by no means great. Without any big, beefy flavor or even a stiff shot of black pepper and salt on the crust, this steak was a bit of a letdown.

As an extra side, I couldn’t resist the allure of king crab mac & cheese.
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The crab topping and toasted bread crumbs were a nice touch, but I couldn’t get past the completely overcooked noodles.
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Overdone noodles or not, this mac and cheese was still full of the requisite cheesiness that was only augmented by the delicate flavor of king crab.

In retrospect, I had a feeling that St. Elmo’s might come up short on the steak end. It really seemed that everyone I talked to would rave for hours about the shrimp cocktail but never mention the steaks. To be perfectly honest, I would happily make another reservation to get another dose of fiery horseradish and succulent shrimp, but I’ll skip the steaks and check out the other entrĂ©e options.

St. Elmo’s Address & Information
St. Elmo Steak House on Urbanspoon

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