Indochine's dining room, with panoramic windows, is situated on the Upper Deck. It is an open-seating setup, usually arranged with a choice of tables for two to eight, which can easily be reconfigured if people want to sit together. With predominantly French groups, it seems the norm for diners to stay together and not move for the whole week, which is what happened during our cruise. That said, our fellow diners were a happy and sociable bunch, and we all got on well, despite my inadequate schoolgirl French and a few language barriers.
Breakfast and lunch are both buffet style and, depending on the time of excursions, tend to run from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m. On a small ship you are never going to get the expansive choice of larger river vessels, but the food for the duration was fresh, tasty and imaginative, and you'd be hard-pressed not to find anything you like. During our cruise, the meals certainly got the thumbs up from the French, who are renowned for their love of good food. As Indochine is French-owned, it even employs a dedicated onboard baker, creating all manner of delicious croissants, pains au chocolat and freshly baked white and wholemeal baguettes at breakfast and pastries and sweet treats at other meals.
At breakfast, a central table is set out with cold dishes, including a selection of fruit and juices, yogurt, cereals, cold meat, bread, rolls and sliced cheese. Preserves include more unusual varieties, such as pineapple jam. Hot dishes are available at the counter next to the kitchen. In addition to favorites such as sausage, bacon, tomato, fried potatoes and eggs (including fried, hard boiled and omelets cooked to order), local dishes, such as fried rice with egg and vegetables or noodles and exotic dragon fruit, are on offer.
Lunchtime is along the same lines, and always includes a soup of the day and a selection of salads. Main entrees again include Western and Asian cuisine, such as stir-fried seafood with chili sauce, cauliflower in blue cheese sauce, roast meat or a whole fish carved by the chef, or freshly cooked pasta with a choice of sauces, with fresh fruit and desserts to follow.
Dinner, usually 7:30 p.m., is an a la carte meal served at the table, with linen napkins replacing the paper ones used at breakfast and lunch, and more formal table settings. The menu always includes a choice of two appetizers and three entrees. These might include tomato, mozzarella and eggplant antipasto or seafood gumbo soup to start, followed by slow-roasted pork loin in crusted mustard, baked Mekong fish fillet with herbs or steamed okra with tofu and rice. A set dessert follows, and might include a chocolate ramekin or fruit pancake. A vegetarian option is always available, and the chefs will do their best to cater to other dietary requirements.
Our gala meal featured Indochine prawn cocktail, cream of tomato soup, followed by a choice of sirloin steak with green peppercorn, roasted duck breast with hoisin sauce or baked eggplant in tomato sauce and rounded off with ice cream and a cheese platter.
Both lunch and dinner include unlimited water and a choice of one complimentary beer or soda. Each evening menu features a suggested red or white wine, from countries including France (naturally), Italy, Germany, Chile, Argentina and the U.S, priced at around $20 per bottle.
The trio of ever-smiling waitresses were delightful, quickly remembering our food preferences and favorite drinks and readily bringing second helpings if wanted. Each evening, they wore elegant traditional dress, which switched from Cambodian to Vietnamese when we crossed the border -- a nice touch.