Chef Kelly Graff’s signature dish combines crunchy snack food with a lovely piece of salmon.
For more than a decade, Graff has served wasabi salmon, made by encrusting the fish with crushed wasabi peas and sauteeing it.
The dish was first on the menu at Checkerberry Inn in her early days as a chef. It was on the menu at Indigo on 17 in Elkhart. Even after she left the restaurant and opened Kelly Jae’s Cafe in 2006 in Goshen, Indigo kept offering it.
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It wasn’t as good as when she made it. At Kelly Jae’s she’s trained kitchen staff to make it as she would and does. The fish is moist and tender and the unconventional coating adds layers of flavor.
During Goshen Dining Days, the salmon is featured as part of a $25 three-course meal.
It may be a perfect meal, to be honest. There can be more than one perfect meal in this world, just as there can be more than one perfect gymnastics routine. They’re rare, but for a reasonable amount of money, this fine dining restaurant that maintains its casual air, has this salmon.
Before it comes a Jae’s salad with bleu cheese, candied nuts, and pear slices with a light vinaigrette. The golden beet or winter citrus salads pack more color and flavor, but this is a great basic salad.
After the initial two courses comes a crème brûlée. I’ve eaten the egg custard encrusted with burnt sugar a lot of places and at every one, I measure it against the one at Kelly Jae’s. The creme part of this classic dessert is both substantial and light and balances sweetness with creaminess undergirded by the flavors from vanilla bean. On top is a brown layer of crisp sugar with the right balance of caramel.
Put these three courses together for $25 and you can argue that it’s a perfect meal. A good salad, inventive entree that’s become a local classic, and great dessert come together.
During dining days, Kelly Jae’s is offering bottles of wine for $25 or a $10 split of sparking wine.
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For 10 years, Graff and others around her have offered small plates with big flavors in Goshen. It’s a big-city restaurant in a small city. The service is polished. The drink offerings continue to evolve as craft beer is now on tap and new drinks hit the menu. (The Thai Tini incorporates ginger flavors into a crisp new cocktail that’s stellar.) The setting is nice and, personally, I’m glad to see the mannequins gone from the front windows of the bar.
The restaurant is located at 133 S. Main St., Goshen. It’s not open for lunch at the moment, but dinner is available from 5:30 to 8 p.m. weekdays (that’s about when the last table is seated anyway) and 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.