The new place at 526 King St. has been making some noise, literally. It's loud, it's happening, it's a once-abandoned and deteriorating space transformed into a polished, lively hotspot. White brick walls, communal wood-block tables, and industrial metal chandeliers give the space a homey but modern vibe. It's bustling, it's fun, and the food and drinks are damn good. At the helm is Steve Palmer who, if he isn't already, would be one lucky card player. Indaco completes his royal flush, adding to the winning hand of Oak Steakhouse, O-Ku, Cocktail Club, and the Macintosh.
Each of Palmer's restaurants has its own style, but all of them treat customers the same way. Ask Palmer what the key to his success is and he'll tell you that understanding and executing superior hospitality comes first and everything else follows.
Indaco is the rustic Italian taverna he's been dreaming about for quite some time. When he decided to make it happen, the first question he asked himself is, "Who are going to be the leaders?" It's not unusual for Palmer to promote veterans of the Indigo Group from one restaurant to the next, and such is the case with Indaco. He brought Andrew Fallis over from the Macintosh to manage the space, two of the cooks are from Oak Steakhouse, and the bar manager, Lisa Hartman, comes from O-Ku. Executive Chef Robert Berry, who previously worked with Jeremiah Bacon and Frank Lee at SNOB in Charleston before moving up to NYC to run Cookshop and Monumental Lane, has returned to the Holy City to head up the kitchen.
The dishes at Indaco are meant for sharing, but they can certainly satisfy a table of one. We recommend the family-style four-course meal — at $45, you can't beat what Chef Berry brings to the table.
Aside from a Brunello and a few other gems, the wine list contains bottles tagged at $75 or less, mostly of the Italian variety — think Super Tuscan and Chianti. There's a small selection of Italian beer, a worthy craft bottle list, and even a few cocktails on draft, like the traditional Negroni and the Cardinale, but look out for the Piedmont when available. It's a concoction of bourbon, ginger, lemon, and aperol that even non-bourbon drinkers will love ($10).
Diners have a direct view of everything that's prepared and plated right before it's served. There's a high-top table next to the kitchen for optimal viewing. You can watch Berry stretch some dough, drizzle it with a little olive oil, and toss it in the huge wood-burning oven where it transforms into a delicious flatbread. A plate of creamy burrata ($14) seems to be standard fare these days, but Berry's version offers a brilliant sense of contrast with the addition of marinated olives. Paired with the flatbread, it's over the top.
A bowl of warm, crispy chickpeas simply garnished with fried shallots, Aleppo peppers, and a dash of salt ($6) is impossible to resist. Once you pop you can't stop. Same with the abstract dish of fresh snapper crudo ($14) — the delicate pink fish gets the royal treatment with a tangle of celery leaves, shaved radish, crushed black olives, and pickled mustard seeds. Slivers of jalapeño add a small kick and the measure of salt, oil, and lemon juice is just right.
Naturally every Italian joint has to feature pasta that's made in-house. Herbed ricotta-stuffed tortellini float in a shallow bowl of brodo with shaved carrots, butter beans, and fennel, embellished with shaved parmesan and a generous portion of summer truffles ($14/$18). Very tasty, but it's hard to beat quail, foie gras, and porcini-stuffed casoncelli garnished with beautiful golden and delectable local chanterelles — a grade-A dish.
Decadent meats come arrayed on a large wooden cutting board lined with paper. The pork shoulder blade ($25) is where bacon meets steak: a big, flat fatty piece decorated with salsa verde and crushed olives, and a hot Calabrian chili, which is calmed by the intense flavor explosion. The meat melts in your mouth like good bacon should.
Duck breast is seared crispy, cooked to a perfectly pink medium, and sliced before serving. Tender and delectable, a date and pomegranate juice sauce adds even more flavor. Bitter radicchio adds another layer of flavor and color to the dish. A whole black sea bass ($27) comes stuffed with thyme and grilled lemons, garnished with a mix of greens like kale, escarole, and radicchio. A medley of olives and raisins rests on top, hiding small crispy fingerling potatoes.
A not-to-be-missed exclusive at Indaco is the 24-month aged American Iberico prosciutto. Back in March, Palmer met with Bev Eggleston of Eco-Friendly Farms in Virginia over a leg of aged ham. He immediately made a deal with Eggleston to buy futures of the product. The gamble paid off — the prosciutto is both nutty and buttery, with a blue cheese funk that dissipates in your mouth. It's a one-of-a-kind treat that's definitely worth the investment.
With Indaco, Palmer has pulled out all the stops. By surrounding Robert Berry with talent and a front-of-the-house that makes every diner's visit enjoyable, he's put together a team that ensures Indaco will stay at the top of the restaurant game. Well played, Mr. Palmer. Well played.