Adam and I felt like Vietnamese for lunch after church on Sunday so we rocked up at Indochine, Box Hill. Dave’s recommendation of their bun bo thit nuong (vermicelli noodle salad with pork) was what sparked our decision to go there rather than our usual Vietnamese-At-Box-Hill joint, Tien Dat. It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Indochine but I remembered it being pretty impressive, both in terms of food and of décor which is a bit like Nam Giao’s but more spacious, more charming and more French.
We arrived at 11:45am to a room almost filled to capacity. For some reason, it was also very dim which made photo-taking a bit dificult. After choosing a comfy booth by the kitchen, we were promptly given menus but no tea (50 cents per head if you wanted tea). A quick glance at the very extensive menu showed that there would be something for everyone – they had about 10 varieties of vermicelli noodle salad (bun), including the beef and spring roll combination which I could never find in Vietnamese places (most places usually only offer pork with spring rolls and when I ask if I could have beef instead of pork, I would usually get a ‘wha? Me no understand’ look). I thought about getting my usual boring pho but in the end, the bun bo xao (char-grilled lemon grass beef) prevailed. All our dishes came out at the same time, something which irks me a little as I like my dishes to come out one after the other but whatevs…
We shared a serving of Hanoi spring rolls (4 for $8.90). Tien Dat is the only other place that serves this (as far as I know) and they make pretty good ones so I was keen to see what Indochine’s ones were like. For those of you who aren’t sure, Hanoi spring rolls are like “normal” Vietnamese spring rolls but bigger and wrapped in (fried) rice paper as opposed to the standard wonton wrap that Chinese people use. Apparently they’re fairly common in Vietnam but only a handful of Vietnamese restaurants in Melbourne serve Hanoi spring rolls. Anyway, four crispy logs were served with a small bed of noodles (too small, I reckon) and the obligatory lettuce leaves, Vietnamese mint and basil. I felt that there was too much pork in the filling and not enough prawn, which made the spring rolls not as nice as Tien Dat (sorry, my bias towards pork shines through).
Dave’s recommendation plus awesome memories of years gone by created high (but reachable) expectations so I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed as I walked out of Indochine. The prices were very reasonable (just over $30, including drinks), the décor fantastic and the service better than what you get at other Vietnamese restaurants. Clearly the problem lay with the food and Indochine’s, in my humble opinon, way too ambitious and too long a menu. To use cricketing analogy (forgive me if you’re not a cricket fan), if Indochine was good at everything like Flintoff or Kallis, all would be okay. Unfortunately, they are not. Indochine is more like Andrew Symonds – while not as polished as Flintoff or Kallis, Symonds used to be respectable. But now, he’s gone off the radar by trying to be too many things at once instead of focusing on one thing. And that’s where Indochine gets it all wrong.
In short, Indochine completely misses the wicket by a whisker … but I will not rule out a comeback if there are MAJOR changes to their menu and overall food quality.