New guts. New windows. New chef. New life. Contractions have started for the rebirth of Indigo Grill. It’s scheduled for a July 5 open.
Under chef Deborah Scott, it was the biggest restaurant opening in Little Italy—in 1994. Twenty years later, this area of town has risen from sleepy historical collection of red-sauceries into the most robust restaurant scene in San Diego, with Ironside, Prepkitchen, Craft & Commerce, Underbelly, Bencotto and Juniper & Ivy.
“This is what I live for, these openings,” says Scott.
Scott and her partners in Cohn Restaurant Group—along with moody, romantic French designer Philippe Beltran (Bo Beau, 100 Wines)—gutted it and started anew. Part of it looks like a Spanish castle, with medieval stones (ripe for a jousting). Part is modern with brushed steel and reclaimed woods. The big tree from the original Indigo is gone. There are giant pool-ball sculptures hanging on the wall, striking and head-scratching. There are plus-sized rusty pails hanging upside down as light fixtures.
They spent big money on a sound system, and plan to have a late-night dining scene with DJs and small bands. At the bar, expect house-infused liquors (the “Humo Antiquo” cocktail has house-infused hickory-smoked rye, sugar cube, chocolate mole bitters), plus 30 wine options and 30 draught beers, many local.
The old Indigo had a dark side. New Indigo goes to the light.
“The lightness and the openness is the biggest change,” says Scott. “There are tons of glass components. The window at the big community table now flips out. All the windows on the patio flip out. The front door has just three glass panels. The big hostess stand that blocked the view is gone. We’ve got white wooden saddle barstools. Lots of really eclectic stuff, and it gets more so every day as we get closer to opening.”
The other big news is the return of chef Jason Maitland (ex-Arterra, Flavor, Red Light District). Maitland’s really creative with his meat. Scott says she let him take lead on modern Latin menu. But for regulars there will be a “Deborah’s Classicos” section: five of her classic dishes, rotating every few weeks. It’ll start with her famed pipian-crusted brie of course—which, starting Aug. 4 will be sold in Southern California Costcos. If that’s successful, Scott will extend her line with other hits.
FIRST LOOK AT THE MENU…
These Peruvian-style cebiches will be cut and marinated to order. All served with yam, cancha (Peruvian corn nuts) and grilled panca peppercorn. Expect local bass (w/ lime and aji limo), Mexican bay scallop (w/ sour orange juice), Hawaiian ahi (w/ sesame, nori, ponzu).
Sashimi-style dishes that’ll be cut and seasoned to order. They’ll be served on Himalayan pink salt blocks with tangerine-chile vinaigrette, yam and avocado. Expect local bass (w/ serrano, cancha, cilantro) and Hawaiian ahi (w/ sesame leaf, furikake, micro shiso).
Peruvian and Chilean street food made mostly of grilled and skewered meats. The boards will include roasted ground pumpkin seeds, chimichurri, cancha, pickled veggies, roasted olives. You choose between “mains” like chicken (w/ garlic, serrano), slow-roasted pork belly (w/ tangerine zest and fried ginger) and nectarines (in curry oil and mint).
Basically small toasts, topped with goodness. Expect Serrano ham (w/ tomato confit, arugula, aged balsamic, bacon fat mustard), cucumber raita (w/ pumpernickel, Marcona almond, smoked paprika), farm egg (w/ pork belly bits, arugula, truffle salt, truffle oil, rooster sauce), boquerones (marinated white anchovies w/ lemon mascarpone, mustard frill)
SOPAS & ENSALADAS
Soups and salads. Maitland’s got a melon-cucumber gazpacho (w/ jalapeno, curry oil, mint oil, cracked pepper), roasted poblano bisque (w/ grilled corn, lime crema, chile oil, tortilla crisp), grilled nectarine w/ Serrano ham (w/ arugula, cracked pepper labne, crispy shallots) and a traditional Caesar.
Small plates. Scott is most excited here about the Japanese or Korean style bibimbap. “They’re made in clay pots made specifically for it,” she explains. “You get it in the oven to 500 degrees, do a sort stir fry, finish it off in this porous bowls, crack a raw egg over the top. The rice on the outer edge is really crunchy and then it’s soft inside. Then you mix the egg with it and it cooks at the table.” Other interesting small plates include grilled ahi ribs (w/ soy-panca pepper marinade, scallions), tamarind-jalapeno pig tails (w/ radish, peanut, house buttermilk dressing), “Flaming Hot Cheetos” (pig ears in lime zest, cotija), housemade chicarron (w/ sea salt, smoked chili powder, house hot sauce), pork “rib tips” and a queso fundido (w/ melted petit Basque and housemade chorizo).
The ones that made her into a local icon. The Pipian-crusted brie with jalapeno jelly and honey-roasted garlic. The alderwood plank salmon with cucumber-dill moleto and squid-ink pasta. The “Skirts on Fire” w/ marinated skirt steak, rice sticks, mandarin orange salsa.
True, true love is found in the bottom of a bucket of fried chicken. As such, Maitland will serve one—with serrano vinaigrette and spicy pickled vegetables. Also a fried whole branzino (with Napa cabbage slaw, lime fish sauce), mustard-brined pork chop (w/ kimchee puree, Dijon-soy vinaigrette), and achiote-marinated prime flat-iron (w/ cumin-spiced carrots, smashed taters, chimichurri).
Desserts. Fresh churros. Goat cheese flan. Rice pudding brulee with tart cherries.