If it’s simplicity, authenticity, and, especially, staying power you crave in your Indian neighborhood restaurant, head to Indigma Modern Indian Bistro in Mt. Vernon. Husband-and-wife owners Tony and Ann Chemmanoor have been feeding Mt. Vernonites for more than three decades now, despite having to relocate twice after two devastating fires. After an electrical fire damaged their North Charles Street property in 2017, it was unclear if they’d ever reopen.
But while Indigma was gone for nearly two years, it was far from forgotten, thanks, in part, to its curry-committed customers. At the suggestion of some neighbors, the owners reopened around the corner a few months ago on Cathedral Street when the space became available after Tavern on the Hill closed. With its jewel-toned dining room, eager-to-please staff, red roses that grace every table, and a menu of familiar favorites alongside reimagined takes on a centuries-old cuisine, Indigma is back—and as good as ever. The menu is divided into small plates, dishes from the clay oven, land, sea, garden, and chef's creations—more fanciful interpretations such as lamb with winter melon and lentils. There’s also a wonderful selection of breads featuring several types of naan, including one stuffed with paneer that’s slightly tangy and tofu-like in texture, and a complimentary trio of chutneys.
After our first two small plates—refreshing lettuce wraps with minced cauliflower, green tomato, and coriander leaves, as well as fried cauliflower with roasted cashews—my husband and I were seated at a standard two-top but ordered too many dishes to fit comfortably at the table. As the dishes arrived in succession, we were asked if we’d like to relocate to a more spacious table. We deferred to our smiling server and made the move. “Enjoy your moment,” he said to us after artfully arranging them at the new table.
As we dug into a parade of mouthwatering dishes, the hits kept coming. We especially loved the fragrant and flavorful clay-oven chicken with eggplant, mustard seed, and makhani butter and cream sauce. We also adored the vegetable coconut korma, a colorful confetti of string beans, cauliflower, and peas afloat in a mildly spiced but richly flavorful sauce, which benefits from the addition of coconut milk and yogurt. During the course of the meal, there were so many niceties that occurred, from the unprompted free refills on the rice to fresh tableware that was replaced almost at the same time a knife was hitting the floor.
Midway through our meal, Chemmanoor visited our table to ask, “Is there anything we can improve?” (We couldn’t think of a thing.) While the location might be new, Chemmanoor has clearly honed his dishes over decades. On our way out, we overheard another patron say, “I’m so happy they’re back.”
INDIGMA BISTRO 900 Cathedral St., 443-449-6483. HOURS: Sun. noon-3 p.m., 5-10 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs. 11:30-2:30 p.m., 5-10 p.m.; Fri. 11:30-2:30 p.m., 5-11 p.m.; Sat. noon-3 p.m., 5-11 p.m. PRICES: Appetizers: $4-8; entrees: $16-26, desserts: $7-8. AMBIANCE: Casual.