Sassy Hong Kong was recently invited to lunch by Lan Kwai Fong Entertainments to review Indochine, the newly renovated three storied Vietnamese restaurant in the middle of bustling LKF. It was a sticky, humid day when I took up the lunch offer on Sassy’s behalf, the first of many frizz-inducing days to come in Hong Kong.
I was led to the third floor terrace area when I arrived. Banana leaves shield the open but covered space, providing instant respite from the heat. Rattan and wicker furniture, whirring fans, white lampshades, and traditional conical Vietnamese hats on a fake turf wall complete the pseudo-colonial look and feel. It’s simple, pleasant, and while the astro turf on the wall could be replaced by something living and breathing, charming.
Indochine offers three bento boxes for lunch, priced between $108 and $168. The first is the Ho Chi Minh, the second is the Hanoi, and the third is the Vegetarian. I decide on the Hanoi, which Caroline Chow, the Sales and Marketing Director at LKF Entertainments, who joins me for lunch a little later, tells me is the most popular.
All three options offer a choice of soup: prawn with tomato and pineapple or winter melon (one assumes the ‘Vegetarian’ would pick the winter melon). Carnivore that I am, I choose the first. It’s a light, translucent soup, with vermicelli, one prawn, a few pineapple pieces, some surprising pieces of okra, and large chunks of tomatoes. Mild and fragrant, it goes down easy unless you aren’t a tomato fan. I would have preferred it a bit spicier with a bit of a chilli zing to it. I quite enjoyed the unexpected okra.
Third, we have the fried spring rolls with pork, crabmeat, and mushrooms. Fee fry fo fum, I can barely taste the flavours of the filling. Then again, most deep-fried spring rolls leave me with the same feeling.
Next up is the fried rice with Vietnamese salami, which is takeout quality egg-fried rice with a few chunks of meat tossed in. Filling and strangely satisfying, but not worth ordering if you’re actually sparing time in your day to sit down for a leisurely lunch.
Saving the best for the last, is the grilled beef and lettuce salad with lime vinaigrette. I could have just eaten this for lunch and been perfectly satisfied. The beef – and I don’t usually eat beef in an effort to be environmentally conscious – is a thin, delectable strip of medium-rare, slightly spiced goodness. Caroline tells me that Indochine does a particularly great job with its many beef dishes (quite a few on the dinner menu), and this little strip I inhaled makes me a believer. The salad is refreshing on a hot day, and the vinaigrette is just citrusy enough in just the right quantity.
I walked around the rest of the restaurant with Caroline while waiting for dessert. Despite the three stories and several private dining rooms, the place doesn’t feel huge. The two levels beside the terrace that I was lunching on, are enclosed dining rooms with a semi-casual (white linen but relaxed) feel and tinted photos of French Indochina (think of your iPhone Hipstamatic lens, just, decades ago and taken with a real camera).
Back to dessert on the terrace: its fried bananas with ice-cream accompanied by a thick, strong, sweet Vietnamese coffee. Scrumptious. I’d strongly consider dropping by Indochine just for dessert and coffee, though most of the crowd is here for business lunches, dinners and the late happy hour (10 pm – 2 am) on offer.
I bought the Ho Chi Minh bento box to take away for my husband, so when I got home, I had a chance to sample that as well. The zesty pomelo salad easily crawled past the soft shell crab to nab the honours in this set.
For those of you who have been going to Indochine in its many years of existence prior to the recent renovations, the main changes, according to Caroline, are the addition of more vegetarian options, and the availability of mores wines. Indochine has a new sommelier to help you pair wines with your food. The food isn’t likely to be significantly different from before, as they’ve retained their staff and chefs.
All in all, Indochine is a relaxed dining option in busy LKF, with the terrace atmosphere unrivalled unless you have the time to skip down to Stanley to eat at Saigon on the waterfront. I would certainly go back for the salads, fried bananas and coffee.
Indochine 4/F, The Plaza, 21 D’Aguilar Street, Central