Le dalat indochine, hot tables in bangkok, Thailand
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Le Dalat Indochine, Bangkok

 Le Dalat Indochine

Charm best describes this Vietnamese restaurant. Located on busy Soi 23, a short walk from Sukhumvit Road and the infamous Soi Cowboy.

Le Dalat Indochine captivates customers even before they enter the building. Housed in an imaginatively converted 1950's era villa, the restaurant's exquisite garden always elicits favourable comments as customers stroll along the walkway leading to the entrance.

Drinks are served at a small bar off the entrance while awaiting a table or the arrival of friends. The walls are covered with posters, photographs and other memorabilia. The rooms are packed with plants and works of art - all belonging to the restaurant's founder, Madame Doan-Hoa-Ly, the matriarch of a prominent French-Vietnamese family. There is a massive window overlooking the beautiful garden.

The food is delightful to both eyes and taste buds and is truly representative of the best Vietnam has to offer. Although the Vietnamese cuisine has been strongly influenced by both France and China; it is probably safe to say that French influence is represented more deliberately at the restaurant than is typical with Vietnamese food. This does not mean that the food isn't authentic; rather it is a reflection of the style of food served. This is the type of food that was eaten in Indochina by those with cultural roots in both Vietnam and China. It is decidedly elegant and something that was eaten by people possessing status and wealth.

As is the case in much of Asia, presentation is of vital importance and every dish at Le Dalat Indochine is as delightful to eyes as it is the taste buds. The food is arranged and sauced with care and serving dishes are selected to compliment the food they contain, rather than to match a set of dinnerware.

Among the numerous appetizers, Hue Flute, a mixture of crab meat and herbs that is tightly rolled in rice paper, tied with a strip betel leaf and then delicately fried, is a standout signature dish. Although similar to spring rolls, they are thinner and crisper and don't contain shredded vegetables. Another starter, Goi Sen, a salad of chicken or prawns and julienned lotus root that has been tossed with a port based dressing, drew rave reviews from our dining party.

Seafood plays a significant role at the restaurant and its most spectacular manifestation is Cua Rang Me, a whole pan-fried crab that is coated with tamarind paste, spring onions and pounded garlic. To eat this unique and delicious example of what the Vietnamese can do with crab, you have to don a bib to keep from splattering yourself with the sauce. Then you dig in, using your hands to help extract the crab meat from its shell. The taste of the sauce as it is sucked off pieces of shell is heavenly. Although not for the fastidious, this is a never to be forgotten dish.

Another popular main course is a "bouillabaisse" of baby clams, prawns, crabmeat, crab roe and anchovy paste. The style is French, but the flavouring is Vietnamese and the taste uniquely delicious. It is one of the most popular dishes at the restaurant. If you enjoy duck, try the Cari Vit, a memorable concoction with its roots in the French enclave in India. It is served with either a baguette or pullao rice. The taste of this dish is an amazing amalgam of French, Indian and Vietnamese flavors.

The influence of the French is reflected in the selection of desserts. Some of our party tried the "Dragon Lady Surprise," a combination of the exotic dragon fruit and rum raisin ice cream. It was delicious, but we were surprised at how bland the fruit proved to be. The Flan Brule is typical French flan, but flavoured with lemon. Our entire group immensely enjoyed this attractive bit of sweetness.

The bar can create any mixed drink you desire and there is a selection of aperitifs and after dinner drinks available. Wine is expensive in Bangkok and the proprietor wisely includes less expensive New World wines as well as wines from France. Our Chilean Chardonnay was THB1,100 and proved to be excellent. The coffee is authentic and there is a wide selection of teas available. If you want something unique, try the artichoke-smoked tea.

There is a sister restaurant, Le Dalat, located across the street. It possesses much the same food, but the impact of France is less apparent and there is less emphasis on seafood. To reach either of the restaurants by taxi, tell the driver you want to go to Soi Cowboy, as they all know its location. Then proceed down Soi 23 for a couple of hundred meters. Le Dalat Indochine will be located on the right. If you use the Skytrain, get off at Asoke station and walk across busy Soi Asoke (Soi 19) to Soi 23. Then walk down the soi until you come to the restaurant.

Le Dalat Indochine
14 Sukhumvit Soi 23, Sukhumvit Rd.
Tel and Fax: 0-2261-7967-8
The phone for this outlet: 0-2260-1849 or 0-2258-4192.

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- October Issue, 2002

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