Orange County Tongue...This is a blog of rants and raves about our culinary and dining experiences. This is the OC food blog that focuses on a variety of cuisines...everything from French to Thai...stay tuned.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Indigo, Dana Point - or - Mikey's Place

Our inaugural posting of OC Tongue - We - a food loving couple - eat out way too much and enjoy it way too much to not help our common diner. By the way, pics in future columns will be expected as my woman is a photo junkie.

Indigo opened roughly nine months ago to little fanfare due to it being in a location that has doomed many a restaurant in spite of its excellent location. Rib Trader and others have failed in this locale while others around it have succeeded. The effort is there, the direction is not.

Caveat (he hates this word) - This review is based on our first visit, when it was a mere two months old. Since then, we have returned on multiple occasions...and we'll report on this later.

DECOR/AMBIANCE - Oh my gosh, after ten minutes of starting and stopping his review, I finally had to take over the keyboard...OK, here it goes. Decor is generally not a factor that attracts or detracts us from a joint but we thought it's a good element to talk about. Some interiors can really take your breath away...Now back to Indigo. There is a blue-purple discreet neon light that spells the name of the restaurant. It's not tacky at all, just enough to intrigue a commuter driving down PCH and Violet Lantern. During our first visit, I noticed that each table had a touch of blue on it...a tribute to its name, perhaps? Back then, the joint was still in its beginning stages and it was clear that it had not yet decided on a theme. We saw big screen TVs that played no sports but instead, hypnotic visuals of identical colorful aquariums. I liked them. Well, enough about that. Rating 6.9 out of 10.

FOOD - Now to the important stuff, and yes I am back to what I know about. First, the wine list - On our initial escapade, we were met by the wine steward (well, not really, just the guy who walked up with a sheet of paper that listed wines on it). He was friendly enough, but more about service later...J gives the wine list a B or B-. It had a lot of Central Coast wines in the boutique mold, kind of like the ones you think you've heard of before but aren't quite sure...We like the buttery chardonnay - if you order it that way, you are likely to get the one we're talking about. This was two months ago and we never bothered to remember the name on the label...we just order the "buttery chardonnay." Wine by the glass needs improvement, as the choices were a half dozen, nothing stood out and a selection that forces you to the bottle...no, seriously. Wine List Rating 7.2.

We started with the scallop appetizer, which came in a Chinese style with bokchoy and varies between 3-5 scallops, depending on size. We found it the highlight of the night. Very tasty and good texture. Brown on the outside, moist and tender on the inside. Dressed to impress. Rating 8.1.

The paella was recommended, but it required a 35-minute prep-time and we were both hungry. ALB ordered the salmon, which was grilled with a good seasoning but it really was not spectacular for the roughly $18 price(y) tag. JDL ordered the pork chop, which while very well cooked, had a good amount of fat on it. While the fat added to the flavor, it cut down on the size of the pork chop!!! Salmon Rating - 5.8 Pork Chop Rating - 7.5

Keep in mind, this review is based on a visit from two months ago so future blogs will have greater detail.

SERVICE - The pork chop initially was a bit undercooked and it took the waitress (whom we later found out was in training that night, so we eased up on her) ten minutes to correct the problem. Outside of that, service is probably the highlight of Indigo. The GM, Mike, is unbelievably personable and you can tell that he treats it as if it were his own place. The "wine steward" allowed us to taste two different varietals. Unfortunately, he is no longer there, but the service remains. Another welcoming character is Lucky, a sixty-ish year old friendly young man who seems to have just come out of a lucky charm box. He is friendly and warm and we like that.

If you find that the bar has extra seats, take them and take them now! Consider eating at the bar. Why? Mikey (yup, that's what he wants to be called), the cornerstone of this restaurant, will entertain you and leave you coming back again and again. He is the epitome of good service, especially for one who tends bar. How often do you go into a restaurant bar, only to be greeted by "what'll it be"? No chance here...as Mikey will greet you by name, know your drink and maybe make you regret that you sat in one of the booths. Seriously, one of the reasons we have been back about two dozen times is the homey atmosphere that we get there...It's like Cheers all over again...and they scream "Norm!" when you walk into the door. Well, they scream JDL and ALB.

Live music has been attempted. It has succeeded and failed at different times. ALB really liked the solo blues guitarist-vocalist (who is no longer there). JDL disagreed.

Service Rating - 8.6

Overall, Indigo is a good neighborhood restaurant. We really wanted it to succeed, we understand the growing pains of new establishments...which is why we will give it another try. Read our review of Indigo Volume II when we get to it.

Overall Rating - 7.1 out of 10.

Next up...Gemmell's, Dana Point.


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