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IndeBleu, 707 G St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001 (202) 333-2538 Located just across the street from the MCI Center, IndeBleu, the recently arrived French-Indian restaurant in Penn Quarter, is in many ways a metaphor for the neighborhood in which it sits � young, hip, and newly constructed. Indeed, its youth and ambition are its most striking features, making it a bit more difficult for the kitchen’s interesting culinary offerings to get your attention. The restaurant’s interior, designed by Adamstein & Demetriou, is a sleek and stylish mix of bright colors and sharp lines. Steep staircases lead past a second-floor bar, over a suspension bridge, and to a third floor containing two dining areas: a long, elegant dining room and a cozier room painted a vibrant burnt orange, complete with a fireplace. Thoughtful architectural touches extend even to the chairs on which you are seated, which sport a hook on the back where you can hang your coat. If IndeBleu’s style is hard to miss, so is its attitude � this is a restaurant that means to have fun and wants you to know it. Its touches of whimsy are refreshing, such as the expansive foldout drink menu designed to look like a Metro map, or the bill itself, whose categories have been renamed so that your “Total” becomes “The Dough You Owe.” Fun isn’t cheap at IndeBleu, however, and there are also some sobering reminders of that reality. The four-course main menu has entrees priced from $25 to $36, with selections from its first two appetizer courses (excluding a $130 offering of beluga caviar) set between $8 and $14. The wine list contains many bottles priced well over $100 and precious few near $80. We haven’t yet gotten to the food, which is appropriate, as after your visit to IndeBleu you’ll be more likely to remember its style, not its substance. That is no knock on Chef Vikram Garg’s menu, however, which consists of French fare infused with unique Indian accents that complement the flavors of the food, but don’t compete with them. The first and second courses are similar in size, if uneven in execution. The most successful was the cumin-scented scallops, which are set off by a tangy orange sauce and bits of crispy pancetta that provide a salty reality check. The veal-stuffed gnocchi tasted a bit doughy at first, but the richness of the veal and the sauce of saut�ed chanterelle mushrooms and walnuts quickly wins you over. Less successful, however, was the napoleon of tuna tartare, which found itself overpowered by the acidity of its accompanying beet-cucumber-pickle relish. Vegetarians in our group had little to choose from on IndeBleu’s menu, but even meat- and fish-eaters will want to abstain from the crispy wild mushroom dosa, a bland offering that is not saved by a surprisingly tame bleu cheese sauce. The menu’s third course, an entree course, includes a number of dishes that deserve your attention. One is the pan-seared tenderloin of veal, which was cooked perfectly and supplemented by a delicious cardamom sweet-bread sauce, a stuffed tandoori potato, and fava beans. Another is the oven-roasted sea bass, which had a wonderfully crispy, salty exterior giving way to the tender fish inside, and was surrounded by a leek pilaf and coconut tumeric mussels. Other offerings showed definite promise, but may need more time to find their footing. One such example was the pan-seared Maine lobster with mango-lemon verbena cream � on one visit, the subtle sweetness of the mango flavoring seemed to well complement the lobster; on another night, the dish lacked any discernible character. Desserts are a treat, both in name and in execution. A plate of “spaghetti and meatballs” consists of saffron-cardemom ice cream “spaghetti” pushed through the small holes of a potato ricer onto your plate, accompanied by “meatballs” of the Indian-favorite gulab jaman (milk balls in syrup). You’ll blush when you order the rich flourless chocolate cake christened the “choco sutra,” or the “m�nage a trois of apples” consisting of three inventive takes on apple-based offerings. Inventive sorbets, with flavors like tequila-blueberry and mango-ginger, are also worthy options. IndeBleu has spent considerable effort on its service, seeking out staff members both from Europe and closer to home. Its hard work has paid immediate dividends. If your server isn’t restocking the delicious herb-filled nan that rests on your bread plate, he or she is likely bringing you an amus�e bouche to open your meal or a plate of petits fours to end it. During one visit, after a request to re-heat an entree, our server explained that the kitchen would instead redo the dish, and presented a small bowl of pineapple sorbet to tide me over in the meantime. IndeBleu is trying hard � sometimes a bit too hard � to be a fresh, upscale addition to Washington’s restaurant scene. Though the execution might need a few more months to be perfected, you leave the restaurant feeling grateful for the effort and intrigued as to whether all of that hard work will pay even bigger dividends in the future. Christopher Burke is an attorney at D.C.’s Covington & Burling.

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