Review: Jonathan Brooks opens new Indy Restaurant Beholder
Carved out in the middle of Beholder on the north-facing wall is an unassuming booth, cloaked in a foliage-filled wallpaper a la William Morrris that depicts a scene of dancing does and perched long-tailed pheasants. Above it, rows of exposed concrete blocks once covered in muted-turquoise paint frame the main dining room. Like a box seat at Palais Garnier, the booth overlooks the orchestra and its conductor. At Beholder, a view of Jonathan Brooks, cool and calculated and tattooed, adding finishing touches to dishes like Pan Roasted Skate Wing and Whole Grilled Quail. This is the prized seat at Beholder, the best new restaurant in Indianapolis.
Brooks’s menu at Beholder is unapologetically bold, existing in a spectrum between playful and precarious. Grilled cucumber pieces are served in a “vinaigrette of its own burnt skins.” The description reading like the tagline of some sort of vegetal-themed horror flick. It’s cheeky and spirited, and downright delicious in its simplicity. Other dishes like Eggplant Tartare echoe the menu’s playfulness. The very-much-cooked eggplant, a harmonious blend of subtle heat and earthiness, is served with beautifully charred discs of fry bread. It’s witty and unquestionably wonderful. So perfectly seasoned and balanced, a single bite is a moment of pure joy.
A fork-tender BBQ Octopus is plated with confit potatoes, charred scallions, and a tomato-aged balsamic that works as a complex and punchy BBQ sauce. It feels both rustic and elegant in the same bite.
The Buttered Rye Bigoli, a bowl of swirling thick-cut bigoli pasta tossed in a celestial butter sauce and garnished with crisp bits of dried chicken and slices of “forgotten peppers,” is comical in its deliciousness. The pasta is gloriously al dente, and draped in inviting bits of crispness that cling like magnets to the incredibly luscious sauce.
The desserts are all striking works of art that feel like they belong in the Uffizi or the Louvre. The Teff Crepe is plated atop a glossy earl grey ganache. A scoop of chicory ice cream and a bright citrus curd are the perfect accompaniments for the deep flavors of this chocolate dessert. The Gjetost Cheese Custard with seasonal strawberries and rhubarb strikes a delicate balance in the interplay between the fresh and delicate berries and the tangy, rich cheese custard.
Beholder is relentless in its vision to push boundaries and to break conventions of what diners can, and should, expect from a restaurant. As a result, its menu can feel aggressive and overwhelming in its culinary magnitude, but beneath the surface of the menu—in its dishes and in its flavors—is something so pure and simple and delicious and so basic: at its core, Beholder is unapologetically fun; it’s sexy and confident and enjoyable in a way that is rarely present in today’s best crop of new restaurants. Do yourself a favor: Make a reservation for that box seat booth at Beholder, and witness the joy that is the best new restaurant in the city.