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September 25, 2008

Chinatown is like a championship-winning basketball team; it has depth off the bench. I have only scraped the surface of what it has to offer, and one of the places that began my exploration was Indigo.

Housed in a couple of buildings that have been joined together like Siamese twins by a shared open-air passageway at the rear, Indigo is a bohemian nest of loosely connected bars and dining spaces. The entrance begins to give you hints of what is in store; it is literally the space between the two decayed buildings, two sheer walls of beautifully eroded brick with giant paper lanterns suspended from the looming darkness above.

I had reserved a table in the veranda that looks out onto the small park next to the Hawaii Theatre. I sipped an Anchor Steam and soaked in the ambiance while I waited for my tardy friend to show. I people-watched as I waited, and confirmed what I had heard: Indigo is the haunt of Honolulu’s more fortunate. But that is not to say the menu is super-painful on the wallet. While the wines run a little steep, the food is fairly priced.

As it should be. Indigo’s modern Thai fare hovers on that infuriating no-man’s-land between the well-prepared and the great. The assorted rolls and won-tons arrived at the table a little cold, but were still good. The fish I ordered was better, wrapped in leaves to allow the spices to burrow deep into the tender, flaky meat. Still, some elements like the pared baby tomatoes on the side seemed a little half-assed.

But the white wine that went with it all had a lot to say for itself. And so did the vaulted ceilings, the warm flickering lights, the adjacent spaces visible through windows, lattices and cracks in the walls. They said, come back anytime, you’ve found a special place.

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