There is an explosion in an area near to downtown San Diego. The area, called Little Italy and the city blocks surrounding it, are exploding with new buildings that create housing and offices. New residents bring remarkable new business opportunities. If you haven't had an occasion to see what is going on, it is worth the trip. The growth is amazing.
One of the exciting new businesses to enjoy this expansion is the Indigo Grill, created by David Cohn and Chef Deborah Scott. The two are already partners in the popular Hillcrest eatery, Kemo Sabe. David Cohn is the visionary restaurateur who also owns Dakota Grill, Blue Point, Corvette Diner and other successful locations.
This is not the first time Scott has operated an Indigo Grill. Years ago, she operated a restaurant with a similar name just a few blocks away from its current location. She left that business to associate with David Cohn, but she always loved the name and its dining concept and wanted to reopen.
"Indigo is a color that reminds me of the earth, of natural foods with natural colors and tastes. That is the kind of food I want to create and that is why I chose to use the name again," Scott explained. She opened her new restaurant a few months ago, assisted by General Manager James Biles and Dante Jones.
The restaurant has a corner location, wrapping around the building in an L-shape. Glass windows run along the outside edge. The neon sign in front glows and twinkles like an Indian campfire.
The interior reflects Scott's travels and culinary interests. Design and artifacts range from southern Mexico all the way to Alaska. One may gaze on an Indian leopard mask on one wall or stroke an Arctic totem pole in another corner. A tall, dark realistic looking resin cypress tree, with rough bark and spreading boughs is positioned near the hostess desk. Adobe, brick and frosted glass panels highlight the space.
Dishes, on which the food is served, are a series of different geometrically shaped ceramics baked in a range of colors. Lighting is sufficient without being too bright.
The wine list offers an array of whites and reds, mostly domestic but including some vintages from Chile, Argentina and Australia. Many of the more recognizable labels are listed in a section called Comfort Wines because they are familiar. There is a good selection of wine by the glass. A pleasing feature is the "Wine Flights" section, which offers three glasses of wine, 2.5 ounces each, categorized as Rhone White, Rhone Red, Oregon White and South American Red. Each of the three wines is different, giving diners a "mini wine tasting" to enjoy with their meals. Good selections of tequila, scotch, rum and unusual beers are also available.
In line with the idea of spirituality, entrees for lunch and dinner are described as "offerings." The dishes include unusual but tasty items such as butternut squash, plantain and venison. Salmon is cured in mescal or smoked in alderwood. Cheese is smoked oaxacan. Pinenuts, sage and squid ink pasta are all on the menu. Many of the items may be unfamiliar at first but the servers can explain everything.
An appetizer that can really start the mood for the evening is the Plantain and Pipian Encursted Brie on a corn tortilla with roasted garlic, grana-scallion flatbread and Mole Negro. The tortilla is actually branded with the "Indigo Grill" name in the kitchen, using a large branding iron. The crust and the soft cheese blend well together and are wonderful on the flatbread.
Pecan Crusted Rainbow Trout is the whole fish on the plate arranged in a life-like pose.
The Mojo Rib Eye came "bone in," giving it more meaty flavor. It came with a large acorn squash that contained a dab of delicious bourbon-walnut butter. The sweetness of the squash contrasted well with the steak.
Desserts continue on the path of culinary exploration. Fire and Ice is a flamed cake that is cooled by mint ice cream. Native American Bread Pudding is chock full of the berries.
Indigo Grill is a "must visit" venue for anyone who is looking for different and delicious dining experience. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner at 1536 India Street. Call 619-234-6802 for reservations.
Rottenberg is editor of Dining San Diego Magazine and member of the California Restaurant Writers Association.