2006-10-18 / Restaurant of the Week

Casual, Chic Dining At Indigo

28-50 31st Street, Astoria  718-728-0050

n ewly opened Indigo Kitchen and Cocktails will take your blues away when you relax and dine in the rustic, yet chic dining room appointed in warm wood, brick walls and sleek, silk and leather banquettes. An

"...an inviting atmosphere for a romantic dinner, drinks with friends or a friendly brunch." "...an inviting atmosphere for a romantic dinner, drinks with friends or a friendly brunch." impressive outdoor patio out back

with a retractable roof to allow for year-round dining and warmed by a cozy fireplace in the colder months houses an additional 22 tables. The private party room upstairs is the perfect venue for business or personal soirees of up to 75 people. Brothers Brendan and Shawn Straw, along with Michael Talty have spared no expense in creating an inviting atmosphere for a romantic dinner, drinks with friends or a friendly brunch. Indigo can best be summarized as a comfortably chic restaurant and bar with great service and gourmet food, all at affordable prices.

The crafted wooden menu is neat and complete and the very reasonable prices make all the selections even more appealing. Chef Oscar Lopez brings his many years of experience in some of Manhattan's finest restaurants to Indigo, with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and beautiful presentations of his inventive American cuisine.

Start with a cocktail, beer or glass of wine and peruse some of Indigo's tempting appetizers. The house-made crab cakes cooked to crisp brown perfection will certainly become a signature dish for their sweet crabmeat and delicate spices, ($10). Butternut squash ravioli, so light and tender they're nearly translucent, are full of sweet squash with a brown butter sauce ($9). A crock of home-style French onion soup or the daily soup are also excellent choices at just $5. Try an organic mixed green salad to start, or choose one of the entrée salads, known as the Big Salads, including the classic Cobb salad, with grilled chicken, bacon, Roquefort, avocado and egg with choice of dressing for just $10.

Dinner entrees run from $9 to $20 and offer the best in fish, meat, chicken and pasta. I love smaller menus because they ensure the freshness and quality of each and every dish. Grilled Salmon with spinach mashed potatoes and light lemon cream sauce is a tasty dish ($16). Herb crusted filet of sea bass set on a bed of creamy white beans, smoky chorizo sausage and fresh broccoli rabe is so fresh it just melts in your mouth. The combination of flavors makes for a wonderful surprise to the palate.

Grilled hanger steak with caramelized shallots is cooked to order and served with house made French fries and mixed green salad ($16). A juicy pork chop is teamed up with tender green beans, roasted red potatoes and grilled pineapple sauce for a sweet and savory treat. Shawn insisted we try their fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs with the chef's own delicately seasoned sauce, which lets diners savor the flavor of the tender meat. The accompanying slaw is also home style and delicious. A tender, juicy sirloin with mushroom wine sauce is a meat lover's dream.

I also enjoyed the hand made spinach fettuccine with sliced grilled chicken, sun dried tomatoes and bits of ricotta salata in a light cream sauce ($14). Those preferring a meatless meal can try the angel hair bianco, with garlic, sun dried tomatoes and herb ricotta.

Desserts are irresistible and include poached pears in red wine with ice cream, crme brulee cheesecake and tiramisu. All the dishes at Indigo are served in gleaming white square bowls, triangular and oblong plates for a touch of whimsy with each course. Best of all, the service is excellent, delivered by a very polite and friendly staff who actually remember your name.

If you're just stopping in for a drink with friends, the Bar menu offers the Indigo Tower, a high-rise of spicy wings, chicken skewers and fried calamari with plenty to share. There's also a lovely brunch to be enjoyed inside or outside on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Choices include eggs Benedict, Florentine or Scandinavian, with smoked salmon. Classic French toast, burgers, salads and a steak round out the offerings.

Visit Indigo soon for lunch, dinner or brunch seven days a week. You'll love the great food, friendly service and the inviting atmosphere. Book your holiday party now in the private room upstairs, complete with its own entrance, bar and restrooms. Indigo is conveniently located on 31st Street just downstairs from the 30th Avenue stop on the N train. Welcome to the block.

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