Indigo is jumping. It looks as if the whole neighborhood is here tonight, eating, drinking and table-hopping like mad. Another proof that the keys to restaurant success are location, location and location? No way. A lot of restaurants have gone out of business at this very corner.
I think I've got its number. For starters, it's an easy-going, welcoming sort of room, with cane matting on the ceiling and a couple of semi-abstract paintings on the walls, such as the one that could be either a tornado or a telephone handset attacking from the sky.
And it certainly knows its neighborhood, the midway point between the Farmer's Market and the Beverly Center. It's a sophisticated culinary part of town, and Indigo has shrewdly located its horizons in the Mediterranean and the Far East, sometimes in both places at the same time. The Indigo antipasto ("for two," they advise, though I've seen one person do justice to it) is a plate of eclectic salads: say, squid with capers, sweet stewed eggplant with sesame oil, some roasted peppers, and duck with wild rice and Chinese cabbage. Shiitake mushroom caps come with fried polenta.
On the whole, though there's a notable appetizer of chicken and spinach-fried won tons with a Korean vinegar and soy dipping sauce, the Mediterranean predominates. There's a list of pastas, including a stupefyingly rich one of rosemary chicken with sun-dried tomatoes and mass quantities of garlic, and a pizza list too. The standout is a truly luscious seafood pizza loaded with shrimp, scallop and squid.
This part of town is also a little wary of red meat, not necessarily for health reasons or because the people like to think of their fellow mammals living to a ripe old age, but because they like their food light . Indigo's food is light . There are rather few meat entrees--even the chili is made with chicken, and in fact it's pretty impressive for chicken chile, loaded with cumin and cheese. (Curiously, given the emphasis of the menu, the roughly grilled vegetables that accompany many entrees are sometimes grilled rather too roughly, the carrots and squashes black and bitter and corn on the cob dry and chewy.)
Red meat dishes are rarely in the top rank, in fact. The lamb loin marinated with juniper has a rather vague taste, and the skirt steak, sliced across the grain several times before cooking, is interesting but not memorable. I'd say the best of the few meat dishes is the lamb and goat-cheese sandwich, where the lamb (marinated in garlic, lemon and rosemary) is actually tender enough to eat on a bun with grilled sweet peppers. Unfortunately, it's only on the lunch menu.
A Light Finish
Desserts tend to be light , too. The best are the fresh fruit sorbets, though I've had a particularly creamy raspberry creme brulee (supposedly a blueberry creme brulee, but I happen to be able to tell the difference), and a respectable pecan pie (oops, make that a pecan tartlet) .
I think I've got Indigo's number. It serves light under a dark-colored name.
Indigo, 8222 1/2 W. Third St., Los Angeles (213) 653-0140. Open for lunch Monday through Friday, for dinner Monday through Saturday. Beer and wine only. Valet parking. American Express, MasterCard and Visa accepted. Dinner for two, food only, $30 to $50.