Monday, June 30, 2014

IndeBlue: Philadelphia Review

Philly is no stranger to modern twists on Indian cuisine. Though Tashan is less one Chef Sylva Senat, it is still one of the prime destinations for delicious and beautifully presented Indian dishes. With IndeBlue making its way from Collingswood NJ, Center City Philly got a lot spicier. And with the exit of Bindi from Chef Marcie Turney's deck of restaurants a few years back, Chef Rakesh Ramola is certainly putting his Indian stamp on 13th Street.

The space is beautiful as well - wide open with plenty of room and ornamental designs throughout. A bar stands at the front of the restaurant - a great spot for Happy Hour and Center City Sips.

Crispy Spinach Chaat [$8]
Crispy baby spinach, shallots, chopped tomatoes, sweet yogurt, tamarind date chutney 

The GF and I stopped by for lunch and the first thing we noticed on the menu was the crispy spinach chaat. And before we could even order it, the kitchen had already sent it out for us to try. This was a dish we had at Tashan and it exceeded our expectations. The baby spinach was lightly coated in a fresh chickpea batter and flash-fried in soybean oil. This allowed for a vegetal crisp amidst the bite of onion, chopped tomatoes, and shallots. The sweet yogurt and tamarind date chutney dressed the chaat well and provided a sweetness that brought a smile to our faces. A must order.

Mangalorean Crispy Vegetable [$8]
Seasonal vegetables, mustard seed, tomato, curry leaf, red chili

These vegetables were coated with a thicker chickpea batter, yet it was still incredibly crisp and light. Fresh veggies included cauliflower, peppers, and eggplant, with the mustard seed and red chili providing a bit of heat, and the tomato providing the acid. I typically abhor raw onions, but the red onions really worked here to break up the heft of each bite. 

Drums of Heaven [$8]
Battered chicken wings, blue cheese crumble, garlic, tomato, chili, scallions

As soon as I saw pictures on Yelp (5 stars by the way), I knew I had to order this dish. Sure, it's not a traditional Indian dish. But really - how many restaurants french their drumsticks?

This chicken was nicely crispy, but was dressed well with notes of garlic, tomato and chili. The chicken itself was incredibly juicy and was marinated with what I believe was a yellow curry. The blue cheese certainly isn't typical, but hey - it's almost to be expected. If you like wings, definitely check these out.

Mint, tamarind-date, green chile 

With our mains, the kitchen also sent out a sampler of chutneys for us to try (I believe they're typically $3 each). From top to bottom, we received mint (light and refreshing), tamarind-date (sweet depth of flavor), and green chile (be prepared to sweat!). 

Chicken Tikka Makhani "Butter Chicken" [$12]
Boneless free-range chicken, fresh tomato, cream, honey, fenugreek, black pepper, saffron rice

We make butter chicken at least once a month in our home, despite the GF and I not being Indian. But why should that matter - it's crazy good - 'nuff said. IndeBlue's iteration? Blows ours out the water. The boneless chicken was moist, but really, it's all about the sauce. The tomato provided nice acidity against the cream and butter. Perfect to engulf the sweet saffron rice. If you're thinking that Indian food is all about curry and you need an easy entry into this cuisine, please try this.

Non-Vegetarian Thali [$16]
Two tasting entrees, dai makhani, appetizer, mango chutney, rice, naan, raita  

When I saw the thali options, I knew I had to order the non-vegetarian version. Thali is an Indian and Nepalese meal made up of various dishes - Indian tapas if you will. Counterclockwise from the right, I received mustard chicken (moist and bright), lamb (hearty like short rib and one of the best bites of the meal), and lentil daal (spicy and filling). A mango chutney and creamy raita provided the sweet and cooling elements to respectively balance the rest of the bites. Well-seasoned fried potatoes, more saffron rice, and naan bread were on offer as well. And for $16? This is easily a steal and a great way to try different bites from the kitchen.

If you live in Center City Philly, consider yourself lucky. There's a wide variety of cuisines available, especially in the Midtown Village area. With IndeBlue, approachable and modern twists based on authentic Indian techniques and flavors are on display. Service was top-notch - Sean was friendly, informed, and our plates were cleared for each course. If I'm craving Indian, I know where I'll be going. Unless IndeBlue starts delivering ... 

FTC Disclaimer: A portion of this meal was provided gratis by the restaurant. Regardless, my opinions are unbiased. 

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