Indian trades buffet for gourmet in Center City.

Inside IndeBlue, an expensively stocked bar runs seamlessly into its dining room, rich with heavy purples accented by bright bronze fixtures and sculptures. A large, intricately carved floor-to-ceiling floral sun bloom motif dominating the back wall was the only tell of IndeBlue’s Indian roots.

Naomi Shavin
Hardly five minutes after we were seated, a smiling waiter brought us a trio of cute, teacup–sized soup “shots,” courtesy of the chef. The first two, chicken-mushroom soup followed by corn chowder with cilantro pesto, weren’t so much tasted as they were gulped down, so we slowed down enough to enjoy the simple but well–balanced flavors of the third soup, a lentil and coconut milk mulligatawny. The chef’s sound execution of a soup whose soul is simplicity quieted my worries that IndeBlue might follow the missteps of other high–class Indian restaurants doomed by their insistence on overcomplication.

 

By the time our appetizers arrived, the Friday evening dinner crowd had filled every seat in the house. My pan–seared scallops ($12) came neck–deep in a curried coconut milk rasam sauce. The slightly sweet, delicate flesh of the scallops paired well with the smooth but spicy rasam. My friend’s Drums of Heaven ($8) were arranged into a beautiful tripod, sprinkled lightly with blue cheese. The chicken wings' batter gave the skin crunch, but stayed light enough to avoid suffocating the aromatic garlic, tomato and chili marinade. An occasional crumb of blue cheese delivered tang to mellow the chili’s heat.

Naomi Shavin
After our plates were cleared and the table wiped down, we were served our entrees. A friend and I shared the thali sampler platter with chiken tikka masala ($17), lamb rogan josh ($14), chana masala ($8), yogurt raita ($3) and mango chutney ($3). While similar in name to what you’d find at a $12 Indian buffet, each component of the platter was elevated by the use of quality ingredients and a masterful control over the blended spices. Fresh cumin, turmeric and cardamom complimented the strong, almost gamey flavor of the tender lamb (a flavor only pleasant in high–quality lamb). Even the simple yogurt raita was elevated to gourmet by fresh mint and milk.

 

Because of the large portions and a desire to leave room for dessert, we tried to get some doggy bags. In an Oscar–worthy performance, our waiter's shoulders slumped as he woefully shook his head, right before bursting into laughter at our crest–fallen faces and whisking away our plates. He returned with our leftovers (and some extra complimentary raita and chutney) neatly packaged in take out bags. He also brought us our dessert, a warm fig blondie ($9) topped with a generous scoop of house–made fig ice cream. I was expecting the heavy sweetness of preserves, but got a slightly flowery taste of fresh fig instead.

With impeccable service, a keen eye for aesthetics and a commitment to fresh ingredients and simple balance, IndeBlue is well equipped to meaningfully raise the profile of gourmet Indian cuisine in Philly.

IndeBlue 205 S. 13th St. @IndieBlue (215) 545-4833

Don't Miss: Drums of heaven Skip: Crispy spinach chaat $$$


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