In with the new

French Indigo and New-American Ami

After a maddening plunge from the lofty longtime status as the city's favorite place for creative seafood dishes to a bizarre few months as a steak and barbecue spot, Indigo Coastal Grill (1397 N. Highland Ave., 404-876-0676) appears to have recaptured its sanity.

The restaurant was recently sold by Tom Catherall, who bought it from the original owners, Alix Kenagy and her ex-husband Dan Carson, to a French couple. Catherall, one of our local culinary geniuses, has had spectacular success with restaurants like Prime, Tom Tom and Noche. I am guessing that, in Indigo — so haunted by the memory of Kenagy — he encountered, as we all eventually do, the one thing he couldn't make work.

The latest reincarnation of the restaurant definitely softens the stark Lonestar theme of its last gasp under Catherall's ownership. Gone are the cowboy pictures and the taxidermy. Colors have been enriched, especially with a pleasant blue that finds its way to the menu which, ooh-lah-lah, is French.

I couldn't be happier about the remarkable resurgence of good French bistro food in Atlanta, after years of domination by the Italians. We've got: Soleil, Anis, Cafe de Nice, Rue de Paris, Brasserie Le Coze, the spectacular Joel and its patisserie and the soon-to-open Atmosphere in the old Le Saint Amour location on Piedmont, near Ansley Mall.

The new Indigo remains true to its original seaside theme, but, of course, the inspiration has moved from Key West to Nice. The restaurant was humming for a Monday night — especially at the bar, where many people were eating — and we were delighted to see our friends Lulu and Cooter a few tables away.

Unfortunately, they shared with us what I have to say was the most incompetent service I've seen in years. Our server continually brought the wrong dishes to the table, then reversed them when he found the right ones, couldn't keep a water glass filled and then made us wince when he called the profiteroles "profileros." When Wayne ordered a Chardonnay he brought a red wine to the table with a straight face. The service was so conspicuously miserable and he was so apologetic that I developed the paranoid fantasy that it was some kind of revenge for my rant in this space last week about bad service. But that wouldn't explain why Lulu and Cooter were similarly abused, unless they were assigned guilt by association.

I'm willing to forgive the service since the restaurant had been open only a few days. The food is good.

Wayne ordered fish only and I decided to try the few land animals on the menu. I started with a pate of duck foie gras ($12). I can't say much positive about the presentation, which looked like foie gras that might have been served at the old Whirly Q lunch counter. Thick slices of the luscious foie gras, marinated in white wine, were served on a white plate with rhubarb marmalade, nicely tart against the foie gras but a bit slimy and unpleasantly gooped on the plate, which was otherwise scattered with pointless confetti and some cherry tomatoes.

Wayne's starter of cold salmon ($7) with some organic greens was the more competent dish. Smoked salmon, marinated salmon and a lemongrass gravlax were on the plate, along with a chive mousseline.

I begged a taste of Lulu's starter — a terrine of skate wing and roasted red and yellow bell peppers with a warm cilantro dressing ($6.50). Wayne, once served skate by Paul Luna, hates the fish more than any food on the planet because its sweetness and tender texture remind him of decomposing flesh. I do not confront my mortality in skate, and thought the terrine quite delicious, perhaps the best of the three starters I sampled.

Wayne ordered the poached sea bass, garnished with (the newly popular) blue potatoes and some vegetables ($18). Balsamic vinegar and olive oil seasoned the dish. It was quite nice except for the fact that it was served tepid.

I ordered the most expensive entree, filet mignon ($20.50) — amazingly tender, served with a veal demi-glace, fresh sorrel, ratatouille and potatoes. It was the best steak I've had in weeks.

Desserts are less satisfying. The profiteroles are really just banana ice cream sandwiched between cookies with a bit of vanilla-rum sauce ($6). Better was the ile flottante ($5.50), though the snowy eggwhites were afloat in a creme anglaise full of coconut. I prefer the dish in its classic presentation.

Overall, Indigo has made an impressive comeback. I have no doubt the kinks will be worked out. Visit.

Space station Biltmore
"This is like being on a space station," Wayne said. "Nothing looks familiar, nothing refers to anything really familiar and nothing has any discernible personality."

We were dining (in silly little wire-backed chairs) at Ami. Don't let the address (817 W. Peachtree St., 404-815-9243) fool you. The restaurant is a block behind West Peachtree, in the enormous complex that has developed around the old Biltmore Hotel. It's just another example of the ghastly, sprawling, featureless architecture that is converting Midtown into a habitat for pod people. Things have sure changed since I went to my high school senior prom in the ballroom of the Biltmore to hear the Swingin' Medallions sing "Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)."

Ami may be the noisiest restaurant in which I've eaten in a year or two. A concrete floor, mainly bare walls and big windows bounce the sound around. I herewith declare our server Terrence Waitron of the Week just for the exhausting energy he expended in trying to recite menu choices in rococo detail in a restaurant with the acoustics of an airport.

Chef Gerry Dimma's New American menu is agreeable. Wayne enjoyed his cured salmon on a latke cake over "apple-scented" soubise spiked with horseradish and fried capers ($7.50). And I was happier still with my large portion of piping-hot seafood dusted with cornmeal and flash fried ($8.50). Mainly it was oysters and calamari, served with a sweet mustard sauce and remoulade.

I loved my entree, a braised lamb shank, one of the best versions I've had around town. Ami serves the long-braised shank over cranberry beans with mustard greens and an arugula pesto ($17.50). I couldn't come close to finishing the huge portion. Wayne's oven-roasted chicken breast, served with barley-thyme risotto and a sauce of wild mushrooms and pearl onions, was less satisfying ($16.50).

A dessert of bread pudding made with white and dark chocolate was delicious. Wayne, thinking it was garnished with cranberry ice cream (that actually tops the pear tart), whined until they gave him a dish of the stuff.

Tuohy located
I ran into Mike Tuohy in the parking lot of Sundown Cafe recently. Tuohy, whose defunct restaurant Chefs Cafe was among my favorites ever in our city, is opening a new restaurant, Wood Fire, hopefully by late spring. It will be located in the building now occupied by Marra's Seafood Grill. (Gene Marra now busies himself primarily at a restaurant in North Georgia.)

Wood Fire will feature Tuohy's signature Northern California cuisine.

Leave Cliff Bostock a voice mail at 404-688-5623, ext. 1504.??

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