In my life, I’ve had the pleasure of dining at high-end restaurants in New York City, Washington D.C., Boston, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles. I honestly believed that I had enjoyed pretty much the best meals the United States had to offer. In August 2004 I learned that I was not only mistaken, but was stunned to experience the most decadent meal of my life in the city of Indianapolis.
I was visiting the city for a convention and had managed to score a seat to a pre-season Colts game. With a few hours to spare, I decided to try the restaurant in the hotel I was staying at, The Canterbury. I knew it was a high quality restaurant, but I didn’t yet realize it was one of the best in the country.
It was the middle of the day and the small dining room was empty. The maitre’ de sat me immediately, offering me a menu and a newspaper. He also offered to uncork a bottle of wine for me, but I felt that I couldn’t handle a single bottle on my own and the restaurant did not offer wine by the glass, so I just asked for water. I finally got a chance to look at the menu and got my first inkling on exactly how upscale the restaurant was. The menu had only four items on it: a soup, a salad, and two entrees. The price, $95, was written at the bottom of the menu as well as a note that a 20% gratuity would be included in the final bill.
I had never seen a meal that expensive, nor had I ever eaten somewhere with so few options. When my waiter arrived, my water was poured from a bottle of European spring water. I chose the lamb instead of the chicken dish and then read my newspaper waiting for the first piece of the meal to arrive.
The salad was fresh, crisp, and filled a slightly larger than normal salad plate. The house dressing was a cross between a creamy ranch and Italian. I never asked what it was called, but it was savory while leaving me hungry for more. The soup was French onion. French onion is one of my favorite soups, but I have never had one that tasted as good. The broth was light, the onions were cut thin, the bread was freshly baked sour dough, and the cheese was a tangy cheddar that enhanced the entire dish.
When the waiter returned with the main course, he informed that a dessert soufflé was included in my meal and asked me whether I preferred raspberry or chocolate. I was baffled, having never been asked about dessert so early in the meal before, but chose the raspberry. Then I started on my lamb. The supple meat and the light ginger sauce combined to make a truly succulent meal. Fresh broccoli lightly sprinkled with cheese and butter accompanied the lamb. The meal itself filled a large plate, yet, when I had finished it, I felt satiated without feeling stuffed or full.
Finally, my soufflé arrived and the waiter cautioned me about making loud noises near it. This decadent treat was light and airy, tasting strongly of vanilla and raspberry. And, like every other course of the meal, the soufflé was about twice the serving size of a similar course in most other restaurants. I left the restaurant almost an hour after arriving, and despite having eaten nearly twice the food I normally eat when dining out, the meal was not heavy in my stomach. It was by far the most expensive meal I had ever eaten, but it was also the greatest dining experience in my life.