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IndeBleu & Ceiba: Dynamic Duo

Players: Dids and moi

Act I: Begin the Beguine

So Dids and I decided to out to dinner in DC the eve before new year's eve. Sorta the precursor to the celebration. I drove up to pick her up from work and then took the Red line into the city. Taking the Metro from the 'burbs into the city is always an interesting experience. While I mostly travel the orange line ("yuppies to the left of us, yuppies to the right of us ..."[1]), taking the western branch of the red line from that far north proved not to be that different. Since we actually had some time, we ventured forth into DC in search of the mythical National Christmas Tree, which from certain angles looks decidedly hunchbacked. Notwithstanding the deformities of said landmark, it still made an impressive sight. One that unfortunately was overshadowed by the blazingly huge yule log fire burning near it (they had forklifts shoving massive logs into the firepit). After appropriate genuflections in the direction of the tree and the fire, we proceeded onwards and eastwards to IndeBlue.

Act II: IndeBleu

Now, there was a lot of talk going on about Indebleu in various circles: the Washington Post has a couple of small pieces mentioning it, there were posts about it on eGullet and a bunch of other mentions including DCist and the DC Socialites. All this intrigued me enough that I wanted to go experience the wonder that was supposed to be IndeBleu. I was hoping that it was measure up favorably to the only other Indian fusion restaurant in this area: Saffron in B'more.

Since we already had reservations at Ceiba for dinner, and were in town much earlier than that, it seemed like a good opportunity to head to IndeBleu for drinks. We headed over there at around 5:15, at which point the bar has just opened and the place was deserted. I didn't mind that since it allowed us to talk with the bartenders (who seemed like fun people to have bartending) and poke our noses around the place.

We managed to cadge a tour from Arjun after one of the bartenders asked him to give us one. The main bar is the first thing you see when you enter IndeBleu: long, sleek and modern. Most of the bottles are hidden behind panels, which is a nice touch. I'm tired of seeing bars displaying all the bottles as if it were something to be proud of. Behind the bar was the lounge, complete with a central sunken area with sorta communal lounge-y seating. If you are eating, you get to head upstairs, where you will encounter the secondary bar, which is smaller, better lit and is right in front of the wine storage. You also, by design, get to pass in front of the kitchen table/booth, which can be rotated to kill tow birds with one stone: to afford the diners a measure of privacy from the people walking past on their way to the main dining rooms, and also to get a view of the chefs at work. Very nice. Walking onwards you arrive at the private dining room, which is suavely decorated in themes of red. This connects to the main dining room (that can also be reached from the stairs near the upstairs bar). All in all, I got the sense that the Bleu people had spent a lot of time and money on the decor of the place and it shows.

Back at the bar, we got to looking at the bar drinks menu (I'm not sure whether I'm allowed to have the image up on the site), which is cleverly done to resemble the Metro map. We ordered the Mangotini (simple but delicious), the Spanky (the crushed rasberries made the drink) and the Truth or Consequences (smooth, tasty and just a little too subtle). There were quite a few other drinks I wanted to try but getting drunk wasn't on the menu. We also ordered food from the lounge menu, which is limited but appropriately so. We got the foie gras sandwich appetizer, which was done nicely but no great shakes. The bartenders were also kind enough to provide us with the dining menu and there were quite a few things that looked tempting and were enough to warrant a second expedition back to Indebleu.

Overall, without having tasted the food, Indebleu seems like a nice concept that destined to be successful: it's got great decor, a nice lounge, a fun bar menu, and menu items that seem a little pretentious (but hopefully live up to their descriptions) and of course, location!

I'm not being particularly descriptive about the decor or food because I'm writing this almost 2 weeks after the event. Maybe a better, fuller review will be forthcoming soon. I wrote another short review of Indeblue at Ortanique (with a dash of Indebleu): Ethnically Inspired

Act IIII: Ceiba

After Indebleu, we walked over to Ceiba, which was chosen partly due to DC Foodies' raving about Ceiba and partly cause I was in a ceviche kind of mood.

The decor at Ceiba, to say the least, is ummm....eclectic. From where we were seated, we could see at least 3 different decor themes, not counting the pink background of the bar. This was all the more apparent after having been at Indebleu. However, all for forgiven and forgotten once the food arrived.

As I seem to be doing frequently of late, we ordered mainly appetizers for the entire meal [2]. We started with the ceviche sampler, which gets you all four ceviches from the appetizer section. Note that this is enough to sample only for two people. If you have more than two, ordering only one smapler is going to be a disappointment. The ceviches themselves ran the range from okay (the grouper) to really good (the shrimp and the bass). Of course my bias towards more flavorful dishes is definitely at play here. I'm not normally a shrimp person, but the shrimp ceviche was particularly well done.

To follow up the ceviches, we had the crab fritters and the octopus salad. The former were mediocre, more heavily fried than I would have liked since it deadened the crab taste. However, the latter was simply awesome. Some of the best octopus I've had in a while, and probably the best non-fried octopus I've ever had. The dish is very well done with other ingredients (cheese and aioli) adding their own flavors to the octopus without detracting from it. This dish alone is worth the visit.

I almost forgot to mention the drinks. Instead of going with instincts and ordering a Caiprinha or a Mojito, I ordered a Yucatan Sunset. It was nice, but not memorable (hence me almost forgetting to mention it).

Act IV: Conclusion

I liked both Ceiba and IndeBleu, but for different reasons obviously. Indebleu has had a lot of thought go into it, from the drink menus to the decor. Not having tasted the food there, the pronouncement on that will have to be postponed. Ceiba on the other hand underwhelmed me with its decor and ambience, but I loved the food.

Ratings

IndeBleu
Service Fast and friendly
Decor Sophisticated and generally well done
Food Opinion withheld, but the drinks were interesting and well-made
Ceiba
Service Friendly and good
Decor Eclectic
Food Wonderful seafood

Footnotes

  1. Says the guy who is writing a review about IndeBleu and Ceiba. Pot, kettle, black.
  2. A couple of weeks ago at Cafe Atlantico, three of us had ordered the entire appetizer section including the appetizer special for the day. This turned out to be an awesome choice.

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