French Vietnamese food combines with a sultry atmosphere and luxurious surroundings at DIFC’s stunning food haunt, Indochine. Hadag’s David Tapley takes a seat for undeniably elevated flavours.
Dubai International Financial Centre is no stranger when it comes to acclaimed restaurant openings, with the likes of Amazonico, L’Atelier by Joël Robuchon, Hutong and Marea all having made quite the impression in recent months. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the upmarket dining enclave frequented by bankers, financiers and those with a taste for the finer things in life, appears to be booming.
The popular concept that is Indochine, continues to garner the attention of upscale foodies. The French-Vietnamese restaurant which opened 36 years ago in New York has been frequented by the likes of Madonna, Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, Kate Moss and Padma Lakshmi, now has a hot-seat location in Dubai. Situated in Gate Village 3, Indochine’s seductive atmosphere hits guests before they even cross the threshold. A vibrant neon sign lights the way, visible through an abundance of verdant foliage that transports diners from Dubai modernity and into French colonial Vietnam.
The setting bears many resemblances to its New York counterpart with its sultry ambience, tropical decor and iconic Martinique wallpaper. The space is divided into a restaurant, bar and terrace and boasts an unrivalled intimacy, no matter where you may be positioned. Aside from the stunning interiors with their hypnotic whirring ceiling fans, rattan furniture and finely pressed table linens, it’s the electric soundtrack that has us immediately enraptured. The music is compiled by a DJ who spins an obscure collection of tracks that move from Motown classics to Cuban Funk, from the comfort of a sunken couch, immersing guests into the luxurious experience of the evening.
This addictive atmosphere is matched by some of the most outstanding service. Our waiter Manny is the epitome of confident, treating us like old friends while also taking the time to get to know us, and creating a culinary journey entirely tailored to our preferences. We quickly become swept up in a menu that effortlessly blends French and Vietnamese cuisines with ease. Beginning with the Sea Bream Carpaccio, we are utterly impressed by the delicate nature of the fish enhanced by the ginger dressing, pomelo and crispy garlic.
The Crispy Eggplant is far from simple; it is a moreish choice thanks to a glorious spiced caramel glaze that elevates the garden vegetable beyond any preconceived expectations. We also adore the Fried Vegetable Spring Rolls stuffed full of smoked chilli bean curd, taro, shiitake mushrooms, glass noodles and nuoc cham. Kudos to Executive Chef Steven Nguyen and the kitchen team who turn out plate after plate of exceptional food, despite the restaurant nearing capacity.
With main courses such as Typhoon Shelter Lobster, Hanoi Chicken and Caramel Black Cod available, we’re spoiled with main course items. But, having heard plenty of compliments regarding the Crispy Scale Amadai, we knew we would have to order the fish, which is an exclusive signature to the Dubai outpost of Indochine. While the scales are the main draw to this particular order, we were excited by both the textures and flavours of ginger, shishito peppers and lemongrass tomato nage.
With very little room left for dessert, we were happy to indulge in the sugar-coated Banana Beignets and the Passionfruit Tartelette, which offers a beautifully-created plate and one that strikes a careful balance between sweet and tart. Dining an Indochine feels both intimate and lively as if you have stepped into an exclusive members-only club, complete with staff who embrace their individuality and all of whom wouldn’t be amiss on a Paris catwalk.
We’re not quite sure how the overall effect is achieved, but Indochine does a remarkable job of transporting guests into whole different era for an evening to remember.