Indigo be gone

Morningside has a new view with capable Horizon

Horizon, a new restaurant in Morningside, is the latest resurrection of the space once occupied by the legendary Indigo Coastal Grill.

I wonder, though, if that bit of trivia hasn't grown stale. I personally love to sort through the stories of the building's numerous occupants and the successes and failures they've endured. But I'm beginning to get the sense that most folks care less about its myths and more about the status of its current occupants: Is someone cooking good, consistent food in that restaurant these days?

I'm taken aback that Indigo's venerated name barely registers for many people. I invite a friend who has lived in the city for about a decade to join me for dinner at Horizon. I give directions by telling him it's in the old Indigo spot.

"Where's that?" he asks.

"Across from Alon's," I respond.


"You know, across from Mambo, that Cuban joint?"

More silence.

I sigh with resignation. "Doc Chey's?"

"Oh, that place! Cool, see you tonight at 8 ..."

It's hard for me to walk into Horizon without immediately scanning for changes in the decor since the room's last go-around. Owner Frata Elidrissi, who was general manager of the most recent (and presumably final) incarnation of Indigo, has wisely done away with all pre-existing nautical themes.

The walls are an acute shade of dark blue that feels more city slicker than seafaring. A random geometric pattern along the banquette has replaced the stars of yore. Comfy booths have been added in the back of the restaurant. The bar area still looks South Beach '90s glam, though there seem to be more locals consistently gathering here than during my last round of visits. There's a fresh energy that tells me history has finally taken a back seat.

Chef David Gross' eclectic New American menu certainly contributes to that sense of freshness. Though the usual suspects -- calamari, salmon, lamb -- appear in abundance, they are paired with thoughtfully chosen ingredients that bring a spark of intrigue.

An appetizer of lamb carpaccio, for example, is strewn with slivers of aged goat cheese and served with an arugula salad. The greens could use more dressing to assuage their aggressive, peppery nature, but the whisper of gaminess in the lamb provocatively courts the soft, earthy flavors of the goat cheese. Two meaty pieces of quail are set atop a meticulous rectangle of parsnip puree. The parsnip's welcome sharpness tempers the quail's richness nicely. These are the kinds of astute combinations that show off how admirably Gross is using his noggin.

But I want to send a culinary raid squad into his kitchen and admonish whoever makes his salads to kindly step away from the bottle of truffle oil. The salad accompanying a cylinder of pistachio-crusted goat cheese utterly reeks of the stuff. Enough with the truffle oil, people! It smells like skunks in heat when it's doused over otherwise innocent food and renders it inedible. The whole composition would hold its own grandly without it.

Fortunately, a more restrained hand presides over the Scottish salmon with blood orange sauce with truffled gnocchi. There's hardly more than a whiff of truffle oil on the gnocchi, and the bittersweet edge of the citrus brings out a surprising complexity in the salmon.

In fact, I haven't had a fish dish here that I didn't enjoy. Seared tuna emerged from the kitchen unfortunately lukewarm, but its flavors were so compelling I didn't feel the need to send it back. The tuna is served with barley that's been given a risotto treatment and blended with a creamy lobster emulsion. It has the same soothing appeal as eating a bowl of rice that's been drenched in Thai green curry. The tuna also came with two zebra-striped tortellini stuffed with an opulent lobster-salmon mousse.

Though entrees may lean heavily toward seafood, that's not to say that meat lovers won't get their needs met. Handsome lamb chops are plated around a tight timbale of vegetables that include string beans and red peppers. There's a reduction sauce tinged with rosemary circling the tender chops. Slices of duck breast, cooked to a succinct blush of pink, come with a pleasantly vinegary braise of red cabbage flecked with pieces of duck meat.

I'm hoping that as Horizon settles into its new identity, the desserts will improve. The servers all rave about the chocolate souffle served with strawberry ice cream. Ours had the texture of a brownie and the top crust had been smashed and dotted with small scoops of the ice cream. Not so hot. A trio of sorbets includes a pleasant enough lemon and a nondescript, sugary champagne variation. Better to stroll across the street to What's the Scoop?, which is currently making sublimely seasonal pumpkin and pecan gelatos.

Dessert foibles aside, I must say I'm caught off-guard by the refreshing new spirit Elidrissi and his staff have conceived in this longstanding space. Every time I walk toward Horizon's door, I can't help but dwell on its bygone days. Yet, each time I stroll out, I find that I've given up the ghosts halfway through the meal and appreciated this restaurant for what it is: a promising new venture in the neighborhood.

Perhaps it is, indeed, time to finally let Indigo fade to blue.


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