ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After nearly two hours of conversation and a relaxing meal, the tink-tink sound of my spoon making shards out of caramelized sugar on the dish of creme bruée served as a reminder that the classics can be surprisingly good in the hands of a talented chef. It had been years since my last “just OK” experience at Indigo Crow, and during this long-overdue revisit I was reminded of the reasons I first loved the little spot in Corrales, from the convoluted dining rooms to the engaging wait staff.
Rewind a few hours to the early evening light and the meandering road to the far North Valley, and you’d be right to question if such a long drive will reap culinary rewards — to much of Albuquerque proper, Corrales is just as far away as the East Mountains, though still not a hardship at around 20 minutes.
A menu so filled with American classics is almost shocking in a time when the trend of regional fusion seems to be more the law of the land rather than just a fad. Yet here is Indigo Crow’s menu with crab cakes, steak and potatoes and crÃ¨me brulee. The pair of Crab Cakes ($10) are unlike what you’d find in a city truly passionate about aquatic foods: crispy under their crumb coat, pleasant in a red chile mayonnaise sauce, but filled with more filler than flaky crab meat.
The kitchen recovers with a warm pleasant surprise Grilled Romaine Salad ($9), in which every smoky millimeter of charred lettuce or tomato adds immeasurably to the flavor, feeling rich on the tongue with melted gorgonzola and a light vinaigrette. Decimated is too mild a description for what I did to that salad, leaving only scant bits of cheese behind.
We did appreciate the locally oriented appetizer of Char Broiled Quail ($11), a perfectly flattened bird rendered juicy from its salty marinade and flanked by tartly dressed artichokes. I’d go so far as to recommend this appetizer as a light entrée, especially if you’ve taken the edge off with the addictive sourdough in the bread basket.
When it came time for the real entrées, we chose both tradition and reputation, starting with renowned unconventional Lamb Ravioli ($23), served more like a single-layered lasagna between chewy fresh pasta, smothered in sage cream sauce almost too rich for my taste but devoured by my appreciative companion.
Then there was the steak — a filet ($28) served without the ever-popular bacon belt and exactly to your preferred doneness (which, for the record, ought to be medium-rare to retain tenderness in this lean and unforgiving cut), flanked by asparagus and gimmick-free garlic mashed potatoes — no wasabi, no crÃ¨me fraiche — thank you, chef.
Of course we saved a little room, but the passable Chocolate Lava Cake ($7) made us wish we’d ordered the previously recommended berry bread pudding. But I smiled while enjoying my crackling CrÃ¨me BrÃ»lée ($7) — it will linger in my memory for quite some time, for it was one of the best anywhere around: shallow for a perfectly high ratio of crunch to custard, yet not so rich that you are in pain trying to finish the last spoonfuls.
Photo Credit – richard pipes/journal Cutline – The Indigo Crow in Corrales serves up such classic dishes as crab cakes, steak and potatoes and crÃ¨me brÃ»lée.