I’ve had my eye on Indigenous for a few months now, waiting for the perfect opportunity to try it. What I’d heard about this restaurant made it sound like it would surely end up topping my list of local choices. Everything from the rustic, lovely outdoor seating area, to the creative and healthy locally-sourced menu was so appealing to me. I was very excited to finally go with my boyfriend and my parents last night.
We arrived to a neighborhood I’d never been to before and I was instantly in love with the adorable, colorful, artsy houses and galleries that abound in this artist’s colony. I made a note to myself to return during daytime hours when I could explore the shops a bit to see what else this area had to offer. Parking was easy, and we were seated right away. I’d been told that sitting outside was the way to go, but it was a bit too humid to do that on this particular evening. It was really lovely out there though, and the next time I go I’ll be sure to ask for seating out there.
We were taken into the second little section of this house-converted-into-a-restaurant to our table, tucked away in a private, cozy nook. The wicker chairs and gentle, natura, art on the walls totally spoke to me, and I felt that it ended up perfectly coordinating with the menu (something that I felt was not quite right at my other top pick in the area, which has a somewhat similar feel to the menu https://bigforkinmouth.com/2012/08/05/dereks-culinary-casual-514-central-ave-sarasota-fl/) In fact, I found a lot of similarities between these two restaurants and was interested to find out that the two chefs will be coming together to put on an event next month…it should be awesome and I’ll have to see about going.
Our waiter attended to us quickly; bringing over yummy, crunchy, cheddar-y homemade crackers, taking our orders for wine, and going over the specials- which all sounded wonderful. As always, there was a lot of sharing between Gabriel, my mother, and I- which allowed tastes of a bunch of options. (My step-dad, historically, humorously, and much to our collective chagrin, does not share very often.) The three of us started with the following three apps.
1. Beet Tartar (Apples, radish, pea shoots, creamy horseradish) I LOVED this one. The combination of crunchy and soft textures, bite from the horseradish and radish and sweetness from the apples and beets, not to mention the beautiful presentation made it a total winner for me.
2. Watermelon Salad (jicama, watercress, goat feta, mint, pistachios, vanilla balsamic and fresh black pepper) This was a very close second to the beet tartar. Again, a gorgeous plate tastefully served as edible art. Again, the mixture of consistencies was intriguing and the fresh fruit contrasted with the creamy feta and the bite of the pepper was exciting. This one was incredibly refreshing and summery and I’d strongly recommend it on a hot day when you aren’t ravenous.
That said, we WERE ravenous and we found that overall the portion sizes for the appetizers and the entrees were on the rather tiny side. We are active people and though we do try to eat healthfully for the most part, we can put away a pretty good quantity of food and these plates all fell just slightly short size-wise. The cheesy crackers were a nice change from the typical bread that is served with dinner elsewhere, but in the long run, we felt that we could have used some to help fill us up. The good part was that it left plenty of room for dessert…but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll get there soon 🙂
3. Chilled Mango Soup (cucumber lime sorbet, red chiles, hibiscus flower) Another interesting dichotomy of tastes. The chiles had serious zing to them, and the creamy cool soup and sorbet did their part to cut that burning. I didn’t love this one as much as the other two, but not because it wasn’t delicious. I think I just preferred the ingredients of the others because there was simply more going on. This was comparatively simple and not quite as impressive.
For our entrees, Gabriel and I shared the special which was a wonderful (yet tiny) piece of arctic char served atop some shaved brussels sprouts with raisins (one of my favorite veggie/fruit combos that I make at home on occasion, incidentally) as well as an incredible dish of huge, wild-caught, gulf shrimp over lobster-edamame succotash and baked cheesy grits. WOW. This entree was the standout for me. The shrimp were out-of-this-world. Perfectly cooked and served over the most amazing, cake-like, baked grits and creamy, succotash. I would be very likely to order this one again, as much as I always try to order something new on repeat visits to restaurants. This plate was pretty much perfection for me with pretty much everything I love about food all on one plate.
When the dessert menus arrived and I was not already stuffed, I was pretty excited about it. Not that being stuffed really ever stops me, but still. Gabriel and I decided, very quickly, on ‘The Brownie‘ (toasted marshmallow ice cream, graham cracker dark chocolate brownie, belgian chocolate sauce.) My mouth is watering again just thinking about it. We thought it was interesting that both Indigenous and Derek’s have their interpretation of S’mores on the menu. Coincidence or perhaps a bit of unspoken competition? In any case, it’s just fine with me. As it turned out, they are really two totally different variations on similar ingredients and both are totally outstanding. The ice cream and caramelized marshmallows on top of the brownie (which was really a blondie as far as I am concerned) were creamy and dreamy. I’m kind of off in la la land just remembering it as I write this. The melty chocolate inside the brownie along with the crisp, graham pieces were oh-so-decadent. The dark sauce that was drizzled around the dish was the perfect icing on the cake, as it were. It’s pretty rare that I don’t love the final course of a meal, but there are certainly times like these when it’s really just as perfect as can possibly be.
My mom and step-dad, by the way, had the lemon/thyme pound cake with blueberries by the way- which I did taste. It was light and exactly as expected. Not particularly exciting. I did, however, also ask the waiter if by any chance he’d let me have a little taste of the special ice cream offered that night which was popcorn flavor. He obliged and WOW, it was really awesome. I was really pleased that he was kind enough to bring me my little spoonful sample.
All that said, it wouldn’t be an honest review if I didn’t check back with reality for just one tiny second. For the most part, the service of this meal was totally on par. That said, there was just one problem at the end. When we ordered our desserts, my mother ordered a cappuccino and my step-dad, a regular coffee. My mom’s came out right away, about 5 minutes later our desserts arrived. At that point, we reminded the waiter that my step-dad had ordered a coffee and he apologized and said he’d go right back to get it. 10 minutes later, we’d finished our desserts, but still, no coffee. We flagged out waiter down again and he explained that he had to make a fresh pot. It finally came out about 10 minutes after we’d finished our desserts and had our plates cleared. Timing is definitely an important part of service, and if I’m being fair, I really do need to deduct a star for that mistake. Other than that, everything was absolutely awesome and my experience definitely lived up to the high expectations I went in with.
Bravo Indigenous. Can’t wait to come back.