If a dining establishment has been around for over 20 years in a city like New York, whose restaurant scene is practically defined by its transience, then there is only one reason: what they do, they do well, and consistently, over time. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and releasing a book to mark the occasion that features stories and photos of famous patrons over the last quarter century (from Andy Warhol to Madonna), Indochine
was my Saturday night dining destination.
French-colonial Vietnamese meets Soho, the interior of this restaurant is covered in fabulous banana leaf wallpaper, candle-lit white clothed tables, ceiling fans, and the most magnificent and stunningly enormous fresh floral arrangements on the bar. The setting is dark, tropical, and intimate (note: you sit dangerously close to other patrons, so don't air any dirty laundry).
Cocktails are deliciously refreshing (ingredients like lychee, pineapple, passionfruit puree) and strong, a great combination. My favorite is the Indochine Martini: Vodka infused with pineapple and ginger plus fresh lemon juice. The menu is described as 'exotic French-Vietnamese' and offers a variety of soups and salads, appetizers, main dishes and sides. We started with the crispy and piping hot Fried Spring Rolls with chicken, vegetables and glass vermicelli (they give you lettuce to wrap them in) as well as the Asian Lump Crab Cakes with watercress-ginger sauce (the presentation was beautiful):
For main courses, we ordered the Spicy Chicken Breast sauteed with lemongrass, asian basil and peanuts, garnished with sweet potato crisps (it WAS spicy, but I loved all the hints of lemongrass), the Roasted Boneless Cornish Hen marinated in five spices, with zucchini, baby corn and asparagus, and also the Steamed Chilean Sea Bass marinated in black bean chili paste, with sesame, ginger soy broth and a bed of book choy. Sides were Sticky Rice (dried baby shrimp, black mushrooms and Vietnamese sausage) and White Jasmine Rice.
Dessert was a deliciously refreshing and light as air french lemon tart with whipped cream; a perfect palate cleanser and a great way to end a fabulous meal.
Of course the night never ends with just dinner in New York City. Our 'asian-themed' evening took us for cocktails to Buddakan
in the Meat-Packing district. An absolutely mammoth space with two stories, and an Imperial China vibe, you may recognize the 34 seat banquet table in the main dining room as the site of Carrie Bradshaw's wedding rehearsal dinner in the first Sex and the City movie.
Known not only for cocktails and outstanding decor, the food consistently gets good ratings as well. I would love to throw a private dinner party at the banquet table underneath those jaw-dropping chandeliers.
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