In my last blog, I quibbled about the logistical and parking issues that Washington D.C. poses to the suburbanite who wants to venture into town for a decent meal, hence my lack of blogs on its eating establishments as of late. After posting a photo of my meal at my favorite Indian eatery on social media, a friend of Indian descent invited me to join him for a meal at his favorite spot serving the same South Asian fare. Having not heard about that locale and realizing that it was in a quiet neighborhood, I decided to met up my friend and his lover, as well as another couple, to sample their offerings.
Indigo is a corner townhouse that has been remodeled with a few tables on the ground floor as well as the rather cramped kitchen behind it. But the appeal for the customer lies in the garden that is replete with brightly colored benches and tables, as well as a tikki-like bar to the side. After perusing the slightly over-whelming board of a menu, we placed our orders and found a seat in the garden patio with a bottle of Indian lager beer and some typical condiments. The alcoholic beverage was quite hopsy with a slight sweet aftertaste, reminding me of Southeast Asian lagers that I grew up on. The Chutney was fruity and sweet, yet hinting of some spice notes. The Achar pickles tasted house-made with the softened fruits and vegetables paired with some chili and seed spices, a good mix that made it quite proper. The mint/coriander sauce was a bit sour-sweet, redolent with the herbal qualities of the leaves present in the sauce, making it irresistibly sippable. As for our orders, here is the rundown of the different dishes that we savored:
Chicken Saag, Pumpkin, Mushroom, Okra, Cauliflower.
Chicken Tikka, Cabbage, Chickpeas.
Lamb Curry, Gobhi, Eggplant, Saag, Daal.
Goat Curry, Cauliflower, Okra, Eggplant, Pumpkin, Flat Bread.
The main/meat dishes:
The Chicken Saag was a combination of tender pieces of chicken that tasted well-seasoned due to a marination, paired with a silky smooth puree of spinach that was devoid of any bitterness, spiked by a good dose of fresh ginger that brightened the mix as well as providing some spice heat. This dish was very sumptuous and one of the best versions that I have tasted, making me return to it continuously. The Goat and the Lamb Curries had pieces of tender meat, an indication that they were stewed long enough in a sauce similar for both meats, but without falling apart due to some skillful timing in the kitchen. The tomato-based sauce was perfumed with the proper spice mixture that was well-balanced as not to overwhelm the natural meat flavors that managed to assert their presence without any extraneous gaminess. As for the Chicken Tikka, I did not manage to be presumptuous enough to poke my fork into a newly-made acquaintance’s plate, but he seemed rather satisfied evidenced by the few morsels left at the end of the meal.
All the orders came with a copious amount of Basmati rice that was light and fluffy, seasoned with salt (which some establishments omit, unfortunately), studded with whole cumin seeds, and was made healthy with ribbons of fresh spinach.
The Cauliflower came in large whole pieces that were not overcooked, seasoned with cumin, tomato and a good dose of turmeric judging by its rich yellow hue.
The Okra was still al dente and surprisingly not slimy at all, paired with some sautéed onion and fresh tomato, reminding me of the Southern-styled preparation.
The Mushrooms were quite firm and meaty, cooked in a tomato puree sauce, tasting spicy with chili heat, and fragrant from cinnamon, making it a very appealing hit for this mushroom lover.
The Pumpkin was surprising not sweet like most other preparations, but it had notes of squash along with chili heat, spiking ginger, and onion sweetness.
The Eggplant was wonderfully smokey, vegetable sweet, and silky smooth, reminding me of a properly prepared babaghanouj which made me return my fork often into my friend’s tray.
The Daal Lentils were cooked until very smooth and spiced with woodsy spices without overwhelming the legumes.
The Cabbage was cooked without any mushiness and made interesting with anise seeds, and garam marsala, with some chili heat that produced a back throat burn.
The Raita was quite thick for a yogurt sauce, tasting much creamier than the usual kind, quite salty, and having thin cucumber strands running though it, which became the perfect relieving foil for all the spices and heat in the other sides and meat courses.
The flatbread was not the usual fluffy Pratha or Naan Bread but more a wheaty textural bite that reminded me of Chapati bread or the Tamil-style Tosai.
My friend was right, and thankfully so, to steer me to this place. What Indigo offers is what superb Indian food is all about: interesting and differentiated spicing (not a monolithic seasoning approach like some inferior establishments practice), freshly cooked dishes with equally fresh ingredients (not reheated tired leftovers), and a good variety of dishes to accommodate the knowledgeable diner. What I tasted that night exemplified the above qualities, which made the experience satisfying on many levels and pleasing to this diner who has found an Indian establishment in the city, albeit not downtown (a relief), worth mentioning and with high praises. The place’s funkiness has a wonderful charm that makes good food the great equalizer, with the garden furniture making no distinction whoever sits on it to enjoy their meal. Indigo is a great find indeed which deserves my many future repeat visits.