By Amy L. Carlson   Published Mar 14, 2005 at 5:43 AM Photography: Eron Laber

{image1} When the popular Washington Heights restaurant The Highlander closed last June, Greg Hashek, his mother, and two long-time patrons decided to join together to create a new martini bar and restaurant with a vibrant interior that would offer "a relaxed scene for friends to meet." And after several months of breathing new, and decidedly blue, life into the popular location, Indigo, 5921 W. Vliet St., was born.

Indigo has retained many of The Highlander's dedicated patrons, but the extensive martini list attracts the younger crowd that has recently been buying the beautiful homes in the Heights. Martinis are reasonably priced, ranging from $7 to $10, and often offer a twist on traditional recipes, including a classic James Bond infused with Lillet Blanc (a French apertif made of wine, brandy, fruit and herbs).

On a recent Friday evening, the wait for a table was 30 minutes, which allowed us the opportunity to peruse Indigo's wine list, while only fair, was inexpensive. We chose a quaffable cabernet that only set us back $25.

When our table was ready, we were greeted immediately by a friendly server who promptly brought us glasses of ice water and recited the Friday special, a baked orange roughy with herbs and seasonal vegetables ($16). We started our meal with the sweet potato fries ($5) and the cheese plate ($15). The sweet potato fries were not double fried and were limp and somewhat greasy tasting. The cheese platter was a surprisingly giant plate of crisp sesame-studded flatbreads intermixed with a chaotic presentation of large chunks of nondescript cheeses and grapes and apples. We nibbled a bit at both appetizers and then moved on to our entrees.

Our server notified us that the osso buco Milanese ($15) was made with veal medallions rather than shanks, but one of my dining companions regrettably chose to try this dish anyway. The medallions were soggy and oily, and the baked potato that came was small and overcooked. Orange roughy didn't fare much better. The herbs melded well with the firm, white fish, but it was not cooked thoroughly in the thicker sections of the fillet. Roast chicken ($10) was slightly on the overdone side, which made it a bit dry, but the rosemary, garlic and olive oil marinade gave the dish a pleasant, comfort-food type flavor. However, the green beans that accompanied both the chicken and the pecan trout meunie're ($15) were not ripe and were basically inedible. The trout was by far the best entrée we sampled, and had a delightful, flaky texture and was drizzled with an enjoyable herbed cream and pecan reduction sauce.

For dessert, we sampled the crème brulee ($5), which appeared with the traditional French glass-like topping, over a sweet custard that had a vaguely burned taste. But the Southern sweet potato pie ($4) was some of the best any of us have had and came with a lovely crème fraiche.

Service at Indigo is definitely the strong point. All servers and bartenders are extremely personable, friendly and knowledgeable about the products they serve. Indigo plans to rotate its menu every four months. This will give them an opportunity to weed out some of their lesser dishes and hone their better ones. And it's definitely a plus to have a new, trendy location on the West Side.

Indigo is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They have vegetarian options available. There is no smoking in the martini bar. And once it warms up, there will be patio seating.