The Restaurant That Has Helped New Yorkers Feel Famous Since 1984

At Indochine, which turns 35 this year, the pineapple-infused martinis and aura of celebrity remain much the same three decades after its heyday.

The designer Thierry Mugler dancing with the nightlife impresario Susanne Bartsch, with Diane Brill in the back, 1987.CreditCredit© Roxanne Lowit. Used by permission. From Indochine, published in 2009 by Rizzoli International, New York.

At Indochine on a cold night in December, Catherine Deneuve is in the booth next to mine, her big fur coat tossed with panache over her shoulders. “It’s probably so she can go outside to smoke,” says Jean-Marc Houmard, one of the restaurant’s three owners. A thin, handsome Swiss guy, he began as a waiter in 1986, a couple of years after the eternally charming and hipFrench-Vietnamese restaurant opened on Lafayette Street.

It turns 35 this year, and I hadn’t been over for a while, so I figured I’d drop in. Indochine is still ripe; improbably, like a great French movie star — or a good cheese — it’s barely changed in any way that matters.

Outside is the tiny orange neon sign (in the early days there was no sign at all, as if to say if you can’t find it, you don’t belong). Inside are potted palms, the bar area with rattan chairs and sofas, wallpaper with big green palm fronds, and you feel as if you are on a Hollywood set for a French colonial house in Vietnam, the movie scripted by Marguerite Duras. In the air, the odor of lemongrass. Farther back along the right wall are the four big green vinyl booths where I’m trying not to stare at Deneuve. “This is our theater,” Houmard notes, looking at these tables.

Indochine is the only place I’ve ever felt famous; it has a je ne sais quoithat lingers like a rare air freshener. In the 1980s, Indochine’s heyday, everyone came — everyone:Madonna, Warhol, Basquiat, Schnabel, Mick and Bowie, all the supermodels, and Fran Leibowitz, of course, who has said that she never shares her dumplings. For a while the real action was downstairs, where, allegedly, the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll really took place.

(read the full article at the New York Times: T Magazine)

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