With New York Fashion Week fast approaching we at House of Coco are in prep mode, and what a better place to start then testing out where to pit-stop for those ultimately chic dinners after a day packed full of fashion. Our Lifestyle Writer, Helena, was invited to infamous fashion spot Indochine to check it out and have a chit-chat with co-owner Jean-Marc Houmard.
Behind the curiously red lit hallway you wouldn’t expect a “a timeless classic that combines stylish ambiance, tropical decor, and exotic French-Vietnamese cuisine that is perfect for intimate dinners and private events alike.” Since first opening in 1984, Indochine has become an iconic NYC landmark for not only the fashionistas and creatives, but everybody who’s anybody. Having been a favourite by the likes of Andy Warhol, Kate Moss, and Riccardo Tisci the classic restaurant shows it’s planning on staying relevant.
The first thing most noticeable upon arrival at Indochine was the iconic decor and atmosphere, with such a calm ambience that takes you right out of the hustle and bustle of New York City and transports you to a zen of exotic palm print dotted with palm trees and 80’s style low lighting. The iconic palm wallpaper didn’t originate at Indochine but gained it’s popularity from the Fountain Coffee Room at The Beverly Hills Hotel and has has been their signature as well.
The menu offers a various selection of cocktails, really well made can we add, along with exotic dishes. As lovers of Asian appertizers we had to try the favourites, Grilled Baby Back Ribs and then opted for something a little different, Spicy Squid and Summer Rolls, definitely recommend trying the squid, it’s amazing. For the main course, try the glazed duck breast and shaking beef, popular favourites at the restaurant, and you won’t be disappointed.
And of course, we had to try the exotic desserts and couldn’t help but notice the Classic Lemon French Tart which finally made sense of the French-Vietnamese style. We are already planning our visit back especially for the Roasted Banana, wrapped in sweet rice and coconut milk tapioca. Definitely up there as one of our favourite NYC spots and no doubt that we will be back.
We had a few questions for Jean-Marc about Indochine’s long running success…
Indochine first opened its doors over 20 years ago, how do you hold onto the elements that first made it famous?
Indochine opened with a bang thirty years ago (1984): the opening night was a party for Julian Schnabel which was attended by the art super stars of the moment, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat among many others. Since then it’s remained a hub for the art and fashion crowds.
The key is to keep the familiarity of the room but keep it fresh with constant small renovations that people don’t even notice. Same with the food: the menu has actually evolved quite a lot throughout the years but only a dish or two a year so that people don’t even notice the changes and the classics like the spring rolls, Vietnamese ravioli, spicy beef salad etc always stay the same.
What’s the trick to keep people coming back?
I wish I knew! I guess the pieces that make a restaurant work for so long click well together: the consistency of the food, the staff, the room, the lighting, the music, etc. Its not one of those elements that make people come back but the sum of them all.
I think part of the appeal is that people know what to expect when they plan a dinner at Indochine: they’ll have a good meal with dishes that are familiar, the lights will be dark and moody, the crowd will be stylish and fun and there will be a good chance they’ll run into someone they know, and the staff will most likely recognize them even if they haven’t been there in a few years.
How involved were you in the interior design of Indochine?
I actually did not start Indochine:’I started working there in ’86 and took it over with my partners Huy Chi Le and Michael Callahan, who both worked there since its start.
What’s your favourite dish at Indochine?
I don’t think there is one dish that I would call my favorite (although the ribs are pretty good!): the best way to enjoy the food is the order a bunch of dishes and share them with the rest of the table, thus having a little taste of everything: for me eating one whole appetizer and one main course is boring: I want to taste everything and enjoy all the different flavors and spices that dot the menu – which is a very typical way of eating all over Asia.
In May of 2014, Houmard branched out and opened his first small boutique hotel in Nicaragua—Tribal Hotel, a seven-room hotel in the colonial town of Granada on Lake Nicaragua. It opened to great acclaim in and was prominently featured within months in Conde Nast Traveler (“Cool Central”, September 2014), among many other publications.
430 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10003 | www.indochinenyc.com
“Indochine is by far one of my favorite restaurants in New York. I like it so much that it is always where I celebrate after my shows. I like the décor, the welcoming staff, and the fact that it is so cool, and only gets cooler as it ages.”—Diane Von Furstenberg
“Indochine is virtually unique in New York – and pretty much everywhere else, for that matter: A fashionable restaurant that has never been subject to the vagaries of fashion. Over the years, I’ve eaten there a lot, but my absolute favorite evening has to be my Vogue colleague Grace Coddington’s 50th birthday party. Outside of the shows, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many models crammed into one room.”—Anna Wintour