Chef Toby Joseph wowed foodies with his stellar cuisine at Cero in the former St. Regis on Fort Lauderdale beach and impressed high-rollers at lavish Bova Prime. If you were wondering what happened to the talented toque, he’s now the executive chef at the Riverside Hotel, the grande dame of Las Olas Boulevard, raising standards at its Indigo Restaurant.
Indigo was once the hotel’s wild child to the more formal Grill Room, which is now used only for private events. Indigo abandoned its eclectic Indonesian menu for mass appeal years ago, and Joseph — honored by the James Beard Foundation as one of the nation’s top hotel chefs while at the Houston St. Regis — is giving it a more contemporary focus.
There are subtle touches like spiking mashed potatoes with chimichurri sauce and spreading goose liver pâté on a schnitzel slider. And instead of nightly specials, there’s a themed, international menu each month that tends to be more adventurous. Right now, it’s Oktoberfest; next month, it’s France.
Whether you’re brunching on Sunday or sipping minty mojitos under the stars, location is a prime draw at Indigo. Unfortunately, the service isn’t quite up to the setting. Young servers are sweet but the pace slows, and we had a long wait for the check.
Prices aren’t as high as you’d expect on Las Olas, and you can save a few dollars with the $35 Dine Out Lauderdale menu, Broward’s version of Miami Spice, through Nov. 8 (not available during the Oct. 25-29 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show).
We snacked on warm rolls while studying the 250-label wine list assembled by food and beverage director Jason Cotter (a nephew of Emeril Lagasse).
We started with a spinach-artichoke dip made with fresh veggies and a blend of Parmesan, Monterey Jack and American cheeses that was creamy but not gloppy, served with tortilla chips and a piquant pico de gallo. Deep-fried bacon mac and cheese is a fan favorite, but we resisted.
On the lighter side, there’s grilled octopus escabeche (like a cooked ceviche) and grilled watermelon that disappointed us with fruit that wasn’t sweet enough to stand up to the feta, mint and honey-balsamic vinaigrette.
Joseph shows off his seafood prowess with a lovely salmon fillet topped with crisp, lemony panko crumbs. The whole roasted yellowtail is actually butterflied and served with the tail only.
From the “Land” category, we savored braised lamb shank, ultra tender and juicy, plated with a rich mushroom risotto and butter-poached asparagus, and a moist, flavorful pecan-crusted chicken breast atop a bed of tomatoes, spinach and fennel with a perky pineapple beurre blanc.
Pastry chef Carlos Claudio makes fun desserts like “lollipop” cakes — chocolate mousse, Key lime pie and chocolate-covered cheesecake — homey apple cobbler and, of course, molten chocolate cake, utterly scrumptious and the No. 1 dessert. Sometimes you can’t beat a classic.