Indochine Kitchen + Bar

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In in my original and first post, I mentioned coming back. So here I was today, back to take advantage of their wing Wednesday deal. My first visit was well over two years ago, when the restaurant first opened. Today it looked a lot different as they grew to accommodate their business. Therefore this needs a new post.

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The location is easily identified as the dark building on the corner of Ontario and Broadway. The one with its window ledges lined with fake bamboos rods in a variety of lengths and width. Quite eye catching really. A sign at the door instructs you to “wait to be seated”, though this may be a while as the front of house was ran by three young women who were responsible not only for bar-tending, serving, but also the hostess-ing. We made the mistake of not calling in a reservation, as tonight was busier with not only the hockey game playing, but the popularity of wings. Thankfully I was here early enough to avoid the crowd and a potential wait.

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The place was bumping at 7pm on a Wednesday. Loud music with lots of base played as guests shouted. The dim lights and loud chatter made things feel like a dance club. Considering the hockey game was on and all six flat screens mounted around the room was broadcasting the game I knew to expect the eventual audio of “score” and “goal”. This would soon replace the now popular lyrics of “dance” and “baby”.

The bar was fully seated by men and women of all ages. They sat in groupings directed towards the two televisions behind the bar. These seats offer one of the only unobstructed views of the game. The entire bar was intimately lit. An amber and orange glow came from the actual counter, and continued as back lighting for the rows of premium liquors on display above. Bottles of Grey Goose and Crown 15-30 bottles deep were highlighted. They were definitely emitting the party atmosphere from all angles. These same lights then changed to green and blue when the game came on, in support of our Canucks. Above each high top seat were hanging lamps a little above head level. They came in a variety of shapes, sizes, heights, and widths; offering just enough light to squint out the food before you. Round ones, pointed ones, those coned shaped, and ones bulb like tulips.

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The rest of the seating was black tables and matching chairs. Their light weight enable constant shifting to accommodate large gatherings. A couch sat in the corner, by the side door of currently the unused patio, it allowed for a more casual dining experience. It certainly matched the lounge appropriate dance music. This is not the place for a catch up and talk, especially with the loud volume of the game and the chatter of voices around. If only we knew, but we were here for the food.

We were thankful for our seat in the corner. Even though it was by the entrance, it gave us a more peaceful setting in which to watch the room. The dark made it hard to see, amplified by black painted walls and a black tiled room separator to our right. Coming when we did, we were give the last booth. Not being able to hear one another we were forced to sit side by side to talk. And as other groups trickled in and were forced to wait, I felt bad that two small girls were holding up a table meant for 6-8. Though honestly we ended up ordering enough food for six people and therefore were certainly deserving of the space.

The menu was a tri-fold of limited selection. Definitely more a bar menu, than one of a sit down dining establishment. “Indochine” has become well known for offering food that is similar to that of the popular restaurant, “Phnom Penh”. The owners are related and know what the people want: chicken wings and butter beef. The menu here is divided by: salads, tapas, sides, mains, and desserts. Sides where extra bread and rice, or eggs, pea, and shrimp crackers.

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$4.99 import beers were on special so I took advantage. To compliment the genre of cuisine they offered a large selection of Asian brews. I enjoyed the “Tiger” from Singapore and “Singha” from Thailand.

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We came specifically for the half off wings so took advantage by ordering one of each flavour. Delicious and impressively cheap at $5 a plate. “Indochine garlic butter chicken wings”. These are their house wing, the one that bring all the kids to their yard with garlic chips and a lemon pepper dipping sauce.” As good as these are, they are not quite the same as the ones from “Phnom Penh”. Though very similar in saltiness and citrus flavour. With its great crispy skin, I found it better without the use of sauce.

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“Honey Garlic”. Sticky wings glazed with a honey garlic sauce. Crispy and gooey, a never fail favourite.

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“Sriracha Buffalo”. Traditional buffalo wings marinated with sriracha hot sauce”. I don’t like spicy foods, but these had a nice lingering burn after the initial sweeter bite. The ranch sauce that came with the plate also helped to balance flavours.

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Ordering this many wings we expected to doggy bag what we couldn’t finish. Though when the time came were denied the possibility, given that they are on special. I guess the policy makes sense seeing as the prices are to encourage you to eat in. Though considering that we ordered six plates two share between two girls, they ought to know we wouldn’t finish it all. A warning from our server that wings were dine in only would have been appreciated. There was no star by on the menu and we missed the sharpied in mention of it on the table list of specials. Had we known we would have eaten them and packed the rest that we could. We weren’t able to finish the full portion we had left and were sad that the restaurant rather waste them then let us leave with them.

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“Butter beef carpaccio”. Buttery smooth slices of raw beef in a citrus Vietnamese vinaigrette. Topped with garlic chips and cilantro. These tender cuts of beef were thoroughly coated in sauce. A sauce that highlighted the dish and masked the fact that you were eating raw beef. If you can get past the chewy texture it is certainly a taste worth trying.

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“Beef Luc Lac”. Vietnamese and French style stir fired steak cubes in a rich garlic butter soy sauce. Served with your choice of white rice, tomato rice, or French baguette. We went for the tomato rice, wanting to try something different, but wanting to eat our meaty stew with rice, the Asian way. The rice was red like a tomato with only just a hint of its flavour. The beef was melt in your mouth soft, a texture only seen from long hours of cooking over low heat. It had a rich meaty taste that paired will with the sweet rice. Together with the side salad of raw veggies this plate had the right about of crunch and chew and hearty and fresh.

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“Singaporean laksa”. Rice vermicelli noodles in a spicy seafood coconut curry broth with prawns, tofu puffs, fish balls, fish slices, a hardboiled egg, and beans sprouts. The noodles were a thicker strand than the thin vermicelli I am familiar with and was expecting. They were hard to grab, with a stingy portion compared to the amount of broth and side ingredients also in the bowl. The awkward ladle meant as a spoon certainly didn’t help. A scoop that large and that wide offered no ease in eating. I was forced to sip and slurp noisily as noodles continue to fall. This is the worst bowl of laksa I have ever had. If it weren’t for the overwhelming spiciness of the noodles, the dish would be boringly bland. It had more chilli than flavour. Enough that I broke out into panted coughs on several occasions. This was as I was making an honest attempt at not wasting food.

Despite the ethnicity of the appetizers and entrees, there was a disappointing collection of desserts. Either ice cream in three flavours or cheesecakes with one of three condiments. We passed on this very common selection. Though you shouldn’t expect to see lots of sweets at a bar. Beer doesn’t really marry well with dessert.

The service interaction was minimal. Like a bar you can’t expect much. There were too many bodies and the place was too loud and dark. This made it had to attract any server attention, after the initial ordering and drop off. I struggled to ask for another beer and if someone checked in on us more regularly or at all, I would have had at least two more. And as I mentioned early I was pretty upset that no one clued in to mention that today unfinished wings could not be packed to go. When was the last time two girls ate enough food for six people?

As is common with many Asian bars and tapas places, the single stalled washrooms were equipped with toiletries that allowed guests too freshen up after eating. Something important as majority of the food came heavily seasoned and garlic-full. A collection of cups for communal mouth wash and cotton swabs to touch up makeup.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
I would come back for and recommend the wings. But would be willing to pay full price to be able to take them to go. I didn’t like the atmosphere. It was too loud to talk or to enjoy my meal, and it was too dark to even see what I was eating. I had to be ever so cautious to avoid staining my white top with yellow laksa broth, which was difficult to do without proper table lighting. The space is set up as a sports bar with qualities of a club. This does not partner well with food meant to be eaten with a full array of tools. Bar fare is typically finger foods and one bite treats. When was the last time you have rice or soupy noodles at a bar? Though with a healthy list of Thai and south East Asian dishes and drinks, this is a bar for the Asian food lover. Someone who is craving the food while being able to enjoy a beer and watch the game alone. Don’t deny your cravings.

INDOCHINE
1 East Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5T 1V4
604-568-0828
indochinekitchen.ca
Indochine Kitchen + Bar on Urbanspoon

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