Ahh Farm. FARMbloomington opened in early 2008 under Daniel Orr. He was executive chef at La Grenouille in NYC, where he got 3 stars from the New York Times. So that makes him pretty awesome I guess. Farm focuses on local and seasonal ingredients in a with an emphasis on a "fusion of island cuisine and Midwest American cooking." I wish I could give Farm a great review, but I've had some very mixed experiences there. I think Farm could be a really fantastic restaurant but it needs more time to find it's groove.
Since the restaurant opened last winter I've eaten there four times. Twice for dinner and twice for lunch. I've had some delicious food at Farm, and some mediocre food. The mediocre food would be slightly more acceptable if the service also hadn't been so spotty. I can deal with some "okay" food, but if my mediocre food comes out cold and it takes 45 minutes to get the check after I finish eating, that doesn't make me so happy.
My first visit to Farm was back in late February or March. Mariann, Christine, Stephanie and I ate there on a Saturday night. Overall the service was pretty inconsistent. They basically forgot about us for the first half of our meal, and then were overly attentive as our entrees were served. The waitress was super slow to take our order, then our appetizers took forever to come out. My food was pretty tasty. I had a delicious Parsnip and Carrot Bisque and we shared some garlic fries. After our fries came, the waitress brought us a bowl of Black Eyed Pea Fritters, compliments of the chef. Apparently he was trying out a new recipe. They were really yummy! But I have yet to see them turn up on the menu.
For my entree I ordered the Ahi Tuna with a peppercorn crust and ginger bok choy. It was very good, Mariann tried to order it too, but I got the last piece. Instead she had one of the daily specials, Snapper steamed in vegetables. She didn't really care for it, the broth drowned out the flavor of the fish and the veggies weren't particularly tasty. Stephanie had the Tandoori Salmon and Christine had the Roasted Chicken, both were good but not super special. We also had some chocolate cake for dessert, I was not particularly impressed by the cake or the presentation.
More recently, my friend Katy and I ate at Farm twice in two weeks for lunch. The first time was great. I had the fish tacos, two soft tacos filled with fried fish and an asian slaw. The fish was nice and tender, not too oily. The cabbage and carrot slaw was perfect with the fish, it added great texture and some necessary acid. The pico de gallo was also super fresh, the tomatoes were delicious! Katy ordered The Oink and Gobble, a turkey and bacon sandwich with sprouts and avocado grilled on cheddar/jalapeno bread. She liked it a lot but didn't love it. It's worth noting that they have very good bacon.
Most of the lunch dishes come with kettle cooked potato chips. Skip the chips and share some fries! The garlic fries are so delicious. They're thin, crispy and covered in spicy herby garlic and served with a yummy turmeric aioli for dipping. You get a huge bowl for $6, definitely more than enough for three people.
Our second lunch trip was not as satisfying as the first. I had the Lugar Burger, which is made from local ground buffalo. At the waiter's suggestion, I ordered the burger medium rare so it was quite moist, but the natural juices couldn't make up for the lack of condiments. It really needed some sort of sauce. I borrowed some aioili from our fries and that helped a bit. Also, the cheese slice was tiny, and became indistinguishable amongst the tomato and lettuce. I probably wouldn't order it again. Katy had the Italian Job, a vegetarian panini-style sandwich with eggplant, tomato, roasted red pepper and mozzarella. It was not particularly impressive either. We shared the fries again, and they were still delicious, which made up for some of the negatives.
Earlier in the summer Christine and I went to Farm for dinner on a Monday evening. That was probably our first mistake. On Mondays Farm has a limited menu, consisting mostly of appetizers and flatbread pizzas (FARMpies). This was fine with us since we wanted to try a few things and had a coupon for a discount on a pizza. Everything we ordered tasted pretty good, and sometimes even very good, but the timing of the meal and the quality of service was so disappointing.
For our "FARMpie" we ordered the Francaise which was braised snails, spinach, garlic, and white beans. It was pretty good but wasn't served hot! It was, maybe, lukewarm at best. The thin crust was nice, but some parts were too charred to enjoy. The best part of the pie was the white beans, they were delicious! They added a nice textural element to the pie and worked so well with the garlic and herbs.
We also ordered two tapas, Barbeque Shrimp and one of the specials, Scallops with Peaches. The scallops were very good. Seared perfectly on the outside but not overcooked and nicely seasoned. The sweetness of the peaches was delicious with the savory scallops. The shrimp were good too, but not super special. The bacon was yummy and so was the bbq sauce. They were served over a coconut rice that was just okay. On the first bite you could definitely taste the coconut, but after taking two bites it faded away into blandness. The major problem with the tapas, was that they were served seconds after the pizza. So we were stuck with table full of rapidly cooling food.
What really made the meal a bust, was our waiter. We tried to cut him a little slack because he was so young, maybe even in high school! He was obviously inexperienced, but when I'm paying $14 for an appetizer I expect a little more than drive by service. It was one thing after another, the pacing of our meal, waiting forever for drink refills, etc. At the end of our meal we tried to order dessert wine and port but that was a disaster. They were out of our first, second, and third choices, the waiter kept going back and forth to the bar until we ordered something that was actually in stock. We were pretty much done eating our Red Velvet Cake by the time our drinks finally arrived. And then it took an eternity to get our check.
Overall though, the restaurant itself is very warm and inviting. I would call the design of the restaurant "contemporary kitsch". For the most part I like the eccentric decor, but some of the fabric and wall choices are a bit too cliche-contemporary.The location is perfect, right off of the square. There are a few tables outside and tons of seating inside. With three main seating areas, there's plenty of room for large groups as well as more intimate areas for couples.
I recommend trying Farm for lunch. Order the fries for sure! Katy also recommends breakfast, she says the biscuits are delicious! Dinner prices are upwards of $20, plus drinks and appetizers. And I'm still not completely convinced that it's worth it.
108 E Kirkwood Ave
Bloomington, IN 47408