I normally ignore a Groupon or forget I have one, or it’s not that great of a deal. However, when DJ Snuggle Monster told me the restaurant Indochine (Thai/Southeast Asian fusion) had gotten a lot of good reviews and that we should try it, a Groupon just so happened to pop up in my inbox a few weeks later. Pretty sweet Groupon too (a bit more than half off), so I’d check to see if it’s still up if I were you. I’m never sure how I feel about Thai food – the menu all starts to sound the same, and the resulting dish is never as good as the menu describes it as. But, I wanted to give it another shot and Indochine is more of a fusion spot, so what the heck? Indochine has multiple locations (Urban Core and San Marco), but we decided to try the San Marco location (and it happened to be the one the Groupon was for – don’t blame me), which is close to Fuji sushi in the triangle.
When we first walked up, we noticed it is a HUGE building. Two stories with a full patio for outdoor dining too. We also noticed (with dread) that the outside patio was pretty full AND that there was a live performance happening. We generally dislike live music while we’re trying to eat, because it’s a conversation killer. But when we walked inside, we noticed the bar that is downstairs was pretty much completely empty. Strange, but then you note that the dining room is actually upstairs in the building. Great for us – less music interference (and honestly, the musician was actually pretty awesome). Upstairs in the dining room, it was a pretty comfy feel, with vibrantly color pillows dotting wooden tables.
I will say that it was pretty slow when we first got there (about 7:30 or 8:00pm on a Saturday night), but it quickly filled up around 8:30. Which is probably part of the service problem. Our waiter was awesome in the beginning – he showed up promptly with some cold water, got our drinks quickly, and our food orders were placed swiftly. He checked back once too timely, but then when we were ready to get our check and leave, he seemed inundated and we didn’t see him as much as we should. He was apologetic when he was able to break free and come to our table, and overall, the service was pretty stellar, so I can’t complain. It appeared that there were only two servers for 20 or so tables, so perhaps they should hire one more server during peak hours. I also noted that a table of four (we were a table of two) who came in about 15 minutes after us got their food before us. Were we waiting a whole 30 minutes to get food? No. But even if the food is quick, patrons definitely notice the order of receiving food compared to other tables and get a bit offended if it comes out of the priority order.
Our server (and it appeared the same could be said for both servers working that night) was super knowledgeable on the menu. It’s pretty much a given that they are used to the questions about spice level and the different kind of strange sounding dishes. Our server was prepared though. He suggested that the 3F spice level was about the same as how spicy a dish with jalapenos is, and he was pretty spot on. Perfect amount of spice for myself and DJSM – enough to make your nose start to run mid-way through and drink some water, but not so spicy that you start to despise having to take another bite. If you are one of those crazy heat addicts though, Indochine has what you need – as level 3F is not even remotely their spiciest (it’s a bit under halfway on their scale). I’d hate to see what that looks like.
We ordered drinks to start off their cocktail menu, but were warned that their draft beers were not available due to the renovations of their bar. Totally understandable (and explains the dead vibe in their bar downstairs), so stay tuned for the revamp! While DJSM and I ordered two completely different drinks, we were both shocked by how strong the alcohol was in the drinks. Don’t get me wrong, I like getting more bang for my buck, but I think a well-crafted cocktail is one that is balanced, and these were far too strong. Let’s be honest, the more balanced (and honestly less “alcohol-tasting”) a drink is, the more likely it is that you will order more than one. But if you have to struggle to get through the first one, I highly doubt you’d go back for round two. And we definitely weren’t. I ordered the Kafir Gimlet and DJSM ordered the Angel’s Envy Manhattan. There was some good flavor in both, but it was a struggle to get to the flavor through the alcohol.
We also ordered an appetizer (hello, we were starving) and wanted to check out their Chicken Satay, a Thai staple. There were seven chargrilled skewers of chicken (so plenty to share!) and a thick, creamy peanut sauce. The chicken on its own was a bit bland…you can tell it was marinated or basted in something, given it’s color, but it didn’t taste like much outside of chicken, and the seasoning was a bit bland. However, the peanut dipping sauce was AMAZING. I would’ve guzzled the whole thing like a shot if I wasn’t trying to save room. It had a perfect texture with crumbled peanuts and smooth sweet, tangy, savory liquid. I’d eat that on anything honestly.
DJSM has been raving about a special dish he used to get at a different restaurant that he hasn’t been able to find anywhere else. I’d never heard of it before – Curry Fried Rice – but it was on the menu at Indochine, so DJSM couldn’t resist. The fried rice was what you expect in fried rice – a little bit of veggies, some chicken, and some crispy rice in a mild sauce. But, here’s where it gets a bit fun – there’s a bit of yellow curry thrown in the mix here for added flavor. I LOVE the taste of curry, but I don’t order actual curry because the flavor gets lost in the mix-ins and the whole dish starts to become just too unnecessary. So this is a great compromise. The curry flavor was not overpowering – just in the background at the finish of the flavor. DJSM was a bit disappointed that the curry flavor wasn’t stronger, which it could have been a bit more punchier, but you still got the flavor there.
I ordered Pad Thai – which I admit I have never tried before. I know, I know – I claim to be one to try anything at least once and enjoy new food experiences, but I’d always seen something else on the menu or wasn’t quite sure about how the flavors would work together. But I am a newly converted Pad Thai nut (Haha, see that pun I did there? No shame.) The Pad Thai has a semi-sweet sauce, with some savory/salty peanuts/peanut butter, finished with a squeeze of sour lime, and a bit of spice. A great combination. The noodles sort of look and feel like sauteed onions at first (which is a bit strange), but the textures of all the other ingredients counteract any thoughts of sliminess (yes, there are small bits of peanuts in it too). I couldn’t stop eating it, but tried to save room (and save some for leftovers). DJSM of course tried some and proclaimed that my dish was definitely the better of the two and was some of the best Pad Thai he’s had (and then he stole my leftovers for lunch the next day, if that tells you anything about how much he loved it).
I’d definitely go back, and I’d definitely get it as takeout too.