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Eat Up Downtown: Indochine

written by 1 September 2011 6 Comments

Eat Up Downtown’s purpose is clear — draw Jacksonville’s citizenry away from their favorite outlying restaurants and into downtown.  Some of the most highly regarded establishments in the city trot out their three course prix fixe menus once a year for the low, low price of $25. Galloping hordes of diners (in theory) pour into their chairs, sample the fare and establish a relationship that will last the whole year through. So, what happened at Indochine?

Indochine stormed onto the scene last year to become one of the most buzzed about restaurants in Jacksonville. Modern Thai dishes coupled with a hip and beautiful downtown location made for many the breathless thumbs up on various restaurant rating sites. The 93% positive rating on Urbanspoon alone tells the casual observer that it’s a place to be reckoned with. I had never been to Indochine, so in the spirit of Eat Up Downtown, I gathered up my usual posse and climbed the stairs above the Burrito Gallery to explore the Far East.

The ambiance is very pleasant. Modern art and tasteful furnishings combine with a candlelight vibe to provide an oasis from the bustle of the street. It turns out that was a much needed oasis, considering the JSO officer that approached one of my companions with a flyer instructing her how to stay safe downtown. This would have been a lovely gesture, had it not been full of silliness like “how to create a soothing atmosphere inside your car.” Also, it didn’t sit well that the officer said, “Things are bad down here. Real bad.” Sure, downtown seems to have turned into the OK Corral recently, but it’s not so hot for PR.
Dear JSO – Not helping. Love, Downtown Merchants.

As we were told about our menu options our waitress mistakenly listed scallops, which were not on the printed menu. We asked her, she asked the manager. The manager looked at the computer and said no. We were fine with that, but then the manager came across the room and nodded his head and said something that sounded positive, so we asked again. Big mistake. Our waitress was less than pleased with us for the rest of the evening even though we were polite and did not insist on anything not on the menu. In fact, we told her we didn’t want to cause any trouble. Her smile had, alas, disappeared. (Along with our water refill bottle for 20 minutes.)

We all chose the same appetizer sampler plate, which included a fried roll, a spring (which was actually what I consider a summer) roll, calamari and crab Rangoon. Oddly, I had a different dipping sauce than my other two dining partners, yet there was no comment given as to why. The summer roll had so much basil in it I felt like I was chewing grass clippings. The fried items were so thick and hard-fried that I actually skipped the top of the Rangoon in fear of losing tooth enamel. The squirty orange sickly sweet goo that came out of the bottom showed no signs of ever having met with crab, but who could tell over the sweetness? The calamari was honestly the only decent thing on the plate and even chains like Roy’s still blow that out of the water.

I ordered my standard first-Thai-date entree, shrimp phad thai – spice level 1. I like spice, but it’s my canary in a coal mine with Thai places, like cheese pizza at a pizza joint or a spicy tuna roll at a new sushi bar. I might as well have ordered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was shockingly sweet, absolutely without seasoning and so greasy I could taste very little other than oil.


You may be saying, “But wait, Jodi! What the hell? Finding a shrimp in that photo is like finding Waldo! Didn’t you say you ordered SHRIMP Phad Thai? ” Why yes! Yes I did. In this giant plate of phad thai, I got FOUR shrimp which were so undercooked and rubbery that they were still transparent, as you can clearly see in the photograph below.



Finally, we had dessert. We were going to each try one of the three offered desserts, but the warm chocolate lava cake was sold out. We were there on the second night of “Eat Up” with a 7 p.m. reservation. It’s awfully poor planning not to know the chocolate might be popular. It’s even worse planning not to warn diners when a menu item is sold out BEFORE they order. That’s something you might want to mention when you hand around the menus, no?

We ended up with two mango sticky rice dishes and one coconut crème brûlée. As they came out, we noticed something odd… my sticky rice was NOT the same as Cari’s sticky rice. Can you spot the difference?


Cari’s Mango Purple Sticky Rice


Jodi’s Mango Purple Sticky Rice

That’s right – hers is topped with a mango, as advertised. Mine is topped with some sort of odd flan-like custardesque substance. I would be more descriptive, but the only discernible flavor there was sugar. Yet, our server placed these two dishes in front of us without comment. It may be helpful here for me to explain my philosophy about reviewing restaurants. I take service as it is given. I do not send back food and I do not complain unless I feel that a dish is unsafe, in which case I send it back as courteously as possible. We did not ask for, nor did we receive, any explanation for two people at the same table ordering the same dish and receiving two different dishes. Consistency and communication are obviously not strong suits at Indochine.

I was extremely dissatisfied with my Indochine experience. We’ve all come to expect hulking wrecks like the Wine Cellar to put out substandard prix fixe menus for Eat Up. But, this young, buzzy hot spot should be beating folks away at the door and knocking my socks off. Yet, there we were at 7 p.m. on a Tuesday and there were only three other tables filled. Maybe it’s more of a lunch place, but any Eat Up Downtown review must ask – does this experience bring in more dinner customers to downtown?

In my case, I won’t be back. The cost savings for Eat Up was very small. My entree would have been $15. Apps are around $6-7. Desserts aren’t listed on the menu, but even if they are $6-8 too, my total savings was about $3-$5. Therefore, this meal should have been comparable to ordering from the standard menu. If this is what they serve to bring folks in for the rest of the year, I’m not interested.

Every restaurant considering participating in Eat Up Downtown should seriously consider their capabilities. If you can’t deliver service and quality that properly represents your menu at the $25 price point, you are not doing your restaurant any favors by bringing in new customers only to give them poor service and bad food.


Indochine is located at 21 East Adams Street in Jacksonville.
Indochine on Urbanspoon


Eat Up Downtown website

Indochine website



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all images copyright © 2011 by jodi a. kasten • all rights reserved

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  • avatar
    John said:

    i've also heard good things about this resteraunt, but I can tell just by looking at it that it is underwhelming.

  • avatar
    TEW said:

    We dined there on on 9/20 – party of 6. Atmosphere seemed inviting. At the time we arrived the restaurant was sparsely populated which made us think we were ahead of the storm (Fleet Foxes at Fl. Theater – sold out concert). It was quite awhile before we saw our waitress (quite chirpy – no apologies) . When all 6 of us were present it was quite awhile before she was back. I started realizing they were way understaffed for the night. Then the place filled up and we finally persuaded to get out order in. Appetizers took for ever and were delivered sporadically. Then 5 out of 6 received dinner and the courier was apparently clueless, but at the least a mis-communication. One of us (me) sat while the others in the party tried to enjoy their meal but anxious about mine … It took awhile and finally one person from our table (I was embedded in the booth) went and flagged down the waitress who was apparently shocked that I had not received my dinner by now (where has she been all of this time?). When the host finally delivered it (everyone else almost done) I asked him if there was no charge and he said he didn't know and scurried off. I pay for what I eat, so that was just a point I made, but obviously he nor the waitress were concerned from what I could tell. They were overwhelmed. Either they did not use their resources to know there was a concert or something else went wrong. It was a very disappointing night to say the least. My wife and I will never go back there again. If it is a concert night and you want to try it, I would highly recommend that you proceed with caution. BTW, the concert was awesome!

  • avatar
    jodikasten (author) said:

    TEW – Sorry to hear you had such a hard time. The sad thing about this review is that I've received several emails telling me about experiences just like yours. The overwhelmingly positive buzz about this place has kept a segment of unsatisfied patrons quiet, evidently. Thanks for sharing with me because restaurants can't improve if they don't know there is a problem!

  • avatar
    Ladda said:

    TEW, Im also sorry to hear that your experience was subpar. We were understaffed for that evening, running with a usual staff for a usual Tuesday night, not for a night that is equivalent to a weekend! :) Nonetheless, I truly am disappointed in ourselves. I understand that you were most likely in a rush to get to the show, but please in the future ask for me or my husband, Mark, as we can rectify problems immediately before you leave the premises. As Jodi said, we cant improve (or fix) things if we dont know theres a problem. We do hope youll give us another try.

    Ladda Salter

  • avatar
    bazbaz65 said:

    I went there for lunch today. First time I'd been there. I thought the meal was pretty good but the service was not great at all. Would it hurt these servers to smile once in awhile? When we asked for something, it would be brought and practically slammed down on the table. No one ever said, "How is everything?" We had to ask for boxes (which I note are often offered at many other restaurants when they see you have leftovers) and we had to ask for our bills. Ladda, you need to teach your staff that a friendly smile makes a big difference in how the restaurant is perceived.

  • avatar
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