A warm breeze blows off the surface of the Cape Fear River. The air is muggy and humid, sucking you in like a vacuum and clogging your pores with sweat; it’s the South. On the coast of North Carolina, the small city of Wilmington offers locals and tourists alike the true flavor of a country town, catering to barbecue-eating, grit-slurping, howdy y’all yelling, truck driving city/country folk. It’s in this true Southern town that a uniquely vibrant restaurant adds spice and Asian flare to this simple country town.
Set back off the main drag of Market St, Indochine Restaurant fuses the flavors of typical Japanese cuisine with the sweet and sour tastes of Thailand. Throwing open the doors of this long, low building, the restaurant unfolds in bold, bright artwork and deep, sultry red walls. The dining room is an incredible display of Thai culture, featuring bamboo green banquettes, Buddha statues, and obscure Asian artifacts. Soft cymbals chime in the background, adding a tranquil air to the room, transporting diners to the exquisite Asian country. Even more amazing than the inside, the outdoor garden/ seating area is a stunningly breathtaking example of Thai beauty. Littered with exotic plants and even more bronze Buddha statues, the garden’s winding stone path winds and weaves stopping in front of individual bamboo huts and hidden intimate nooks. Fountains, over-sized clay vases, and pergolas decorate the lush outdoor grounds, creating a peaceful dining environment. A simple step into the garden sends you on a journey through the exotic depths of Thailand, booming with pure natural beauty.
Indochine not only embraces Thailand’s culture through its decor but through entertainment as well. Throughout the dimly lit dining room, the swish and rustle of gold coins alerts customer’s ears. Among the shadows, red and gold silk emerges hugging the tanned curves of a tall, brunette woman. Swinging and twisting her hips, the woman belly dances up and down the rows of tables. Loud clapping and the clang of tiny finger cymbals ring through the room, releasing gasps and cheers from the patrons. An unlikely dinner surprise, the belly dancer dazzles and charms dinner guests, adding a memorable touch to a meal.
More impressive than the ambiance are the perfectly prepared dishes leaving the kitchen. Based on presentation alone, the plates look like works of art, displaying steaming mahi-mahi wrapped tightly in bright green banana leaves or lotus flowers made from carrots garnishing the top of every dish. Deep, white bowls piled high with mounds of jasmine rice and sizzling stir fry shift on waiter’s trays as they dodge and weave through tables and booths. Thin strips of chicken and Asian vegetables steam and bubble in a sweet zesty brown sauce, carrying faint hints of citrus through the room. Tiny blue-etched bowls are placed on the table, containing shredded pieces of cabbage and chunks of peanuts, sending strong punches of vinegar into the air. Several rectangular plates of sushi sit on various tables, overstuffed with fresh chunks of crab and strings of cucumber, topped with plump slices of salmon. Every visit to Indochine results in an incredible explosion of flavor and culture, igniting your senses, sending you on a culinary journey to Thailand.
Indochine restaurant is located on 7 Wayne Dr. in Wilmington, North Carolina. It is best to go earlier in the evening; the restaurant gets very crowded and they only take large party reservations. Price range: $$