I had an intriguing comment on a recent post, from a reader who offered to share a spreadsheet of Asian restaurants in Columbus. I love lists and I love Asian food so I didn’t hesitate to respond. We started comparing notes via email and decided to meet to try a restaurant new to both of us. Indochine has been high on my restaurant wish list for months. The signs were all telling me to try it – blog posts, mentions on WOSU, recommendations from friends and finally I did.
Indochine is in east Columbus on South Hamilton Road. It is light and bright with a spacious feel and it is very family friendly, as evidenced by the number of children in their Sunday best. The owners are extremely hospitable, chatting and joking with regulars and very willing to expand on menu items. I have never heard anyone describe a dish with such enthusiasm and pride. We ended up as a party of five adventurous eaters, willing to share and with an eye for the unusual.
The food is a mix of Vietnamese and Laotian with a variety of salads, noodle soups and pho, fried rice and sandwiches. I was curious to try the Laotian style dishes, which share similarities to both Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, as they were new to me.
We started with a Vietnamese classic, a bahn mi sandwich (ba mon) with 3 types of meat including headcheese. Not quite as delicately assembled as the Mi Li variety but with the same characteristic mix of flavors and every bit as fresh and craveable.
Next were two salads, papaya salad accompanied with pork rinds, which even at ‘2 stars’ was too spicy for most of us to enjoy, and marinated cabbage with shrimp and chicken that was so vibrant and refreshing with its lime, cilantro and chili dressing that it was an instant favorite.
Next were two beef salads, both Laotian style – Goi thit bo and crying tiger with ginger sauce. The crying tiger didn’t live up to its name: it was the papaya salad that was voted most likely to make someone cry. The Goi thit bo was a successful marriage of flavors, very similar to the Thai style dish yum nuea. The crying tiger was lightly seasoned beef strips to be dipped in ginger sauce.
One of our favorite dishes was a cold rice noodle salad bun cha gio thit heo nuong (number 22 I believe) with pieces of spring rolls. Presented in a four seasons style, the light dressing comes on the side and you pour it over the ingredients and mix them together.
We sampled two different types of noodle soups (banh canh), one with chicken and blood pudding and one special (pictured) that was not on the menu. These steaming hot bowls would be a perfect winter meal.
If Indochine were more convenient I would definitely be a frequent diner. Unfortunately it is not, but it is certainly good enough to lure me out to the east side and you can’t beat it for warmth of welcome.