Just a short 45-minute drive from Fort Wayne, Cerulean at Winona Lake is one of the area’s most unique and exciting culinary experiences. It approaches food as inspiration – a source of joy and communion – and that’s exactly what you’ll find there. The atmosphere is fun and inviting. The menu fuses tapas, sushi and high-end dinners into a perfect combination of choices, each carefully crafted for quality and presentation. I love to share food, and that’s one of the reasons tapas has always appealed to me. Cerulean gave me the opportunity to truly experience my food – taking my time, tasting each bite and enjoying the company of friends. And the drink menu? Wowzers! Cerulean offers a full menu of creative craft cocktails like nothing I’ve seen anywhere else. The menu at Cerulean is constantly changing, but you can expect to be overwhelmed with the locally-sourced, delectable choices. Here are some highlights from my visits.
Maple leaf duck bacon tomato, black risotto, endive ($9): Duck bacon? Yes! The duck bacon had a nice light flavor, and the texture was superb; not crunchy like typical bacon, but tender and juicy with a thin layer of fat on one side to lend richness to the taste. The black risotto was extremely cheesy and sticky, and I loved it. It was salty and comforting and complemented the smoky duck bacon.
Viking lamb sausage melon, mustard, cucumber-tarragon puree ($8): The combination of melon, sausage, mustard and cucumber-tarragon puree was savory and unexpected. The subtly sweet melon tempered the salty sausage, and the mustard added a delightful punch. It was served topped with edible flowers, which was a nice touch.
Gunslinger – tuna, avocado, tomato, cilantro, scallions, sriracha, lime ($10): This is the most surprising roll I’ve ever eaten; it knocked the wind out of me. The mix of flavors from the scallions, cilantro and lime gives this roll a heavy Mexican flair, but once the shock of that wore off I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did have to take a break after the first bite to regain my senses. I can handle spice, but this was a little much for me. A few bites in, I got used to it and finished it with ease.
Red dragon – tempura ebi roll topped with tuna, eel and eel sauce ($14): Though this roll could be compared to a typical tuna roll, I enjoyed the added flavor of the scallions. Plus, it served as a nice buffer after the smoking hot gunslinger. It is super meaty – meat on the inside, meat on the outside. Delicious!
Eel – unset eel, tempura asparagus, cucumber, topped with shrimp & avocado ($11): Eel is my favorite, so there’s very little that could be done to mess up this roll, but I especially enjoyed the added flavor and texture of the tempura asparagus. Normally, I steer away from rolls containing asparagus, but this one was delightfully appropriate.
Tiger – avocado, cucumber, carrot, red peppers, peanut sauce, ginger, lemon zest, scallion ($7): This roll is lovely. The peanut sauce is a nice touch and gives it a Thai flair. I also liked the taste of ginger in the roll. Normally, I eat raw ginger between each bite, but incorporating it was surprisingly pleasing.
Sunrise – eel, red pepper, snap pea, topped with avocado, shrimp, orange tobiko, and unagi sauce ($13): The most surprising aspect of this roll is the snap pea. It lends a very fresh and green taste to the other flavors, and the crispy crunch is impeccable. The creamy avocado and fresh shrimp blend together harmoniously, and the salty orange tobiko rounds it all out.
Cigar Box – Great Kings St. scotch, tobacco syrup, Green Chartreuse, Angostura, Ardbeg rinse and charred cedar bitters ($11): The waiter described this as a manly drink, reminiscent of an old cigar lounge, and it didn’t sound appealing to me at all, but one sip in and I was hooked. It is the most unique drink I have ever consumed – both spicy and soothing at the same time. And while, yes, it could be described as drinking a fine cigar, I found the layers of complementary flavors pleasant. It’s definitely worth the drive to Cerulean just to experience it.
If you haven’t been to Cerulean, I recommend making the trek to Winona Lake to do so. It is a bit pricey (our bill came to over $80), but for special occasions, this is the perfect spot. Check out the full menu on the restaurant’s website.
1101 E. Canal St., Winona Lake
11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Sat
5-9 p.m. Mon.-Thurs
5-10 p.m. Sat