1924 Pacific Ave, Tacoma

Nothing takes the chill out of the evening air quite like the smell of ginger, garlic, basil and curry. I walked into Indochine with my dinner companion and we were greeted by a friendly gentleman. The aroma of decidedly exotic spices tempted our taste buds and teased our empty bellies. We were led to our table, passing a scrumptious case of house-made gelato, which I vowed to keep in mind for later. With menus seamlessly placed in our hands, we began to peruse the vast offerings underneath the warm amber light.

The beverage menu presented an array of wine, signature cocktails, martinis and non-alcoholic beverages. We settled on a Lychee Martini and a Thai Kiss. The Lychee Martini was expectedly sweet and tropical infused with a slightly floral note from the whole lychee fruit resting at the bottom of the glass. The Thai Kiss, by contrast, was the creamy, grown-up version of a traditional Thai coffee. Both drinks were beautifully presented with a single orchid balanced on the rim of each glass. They were perfect accompaniments as we gazed at the peaceful fountain and pool at the center of the main dining room. The effect was lovely, offering a sense of privacy in a dining room nearly full of dining couples, friends and families.

Before we finished our cocktails, our appetizers arrived: Firecracker Fried Spring Rolls and Curry Vegetable Empanada Puffs. The spring rolls arrived hot and were delightfully spicy, crisp and incredibly meaty. Chili aioli and a sweet chili sauce were offered on the side for dipping, but the spiciness of the rolls stood alone, and the sauce is only necessary if you prefer a more supple bite. The empanadas were heavenly clouds of aromatic vegetables wrapped in puff pastry. A true delight!

We could have stopped there, satiated by our cocktails and the generously portioned appetizers; however, the extensive menu piqued our curiosities. The menu categories included soups, noodles, salad, curries and more, so we turned to our knowledgeable waitress for recommendations, deciding on Three Flavor Wild Salmon Steak and Gang Curry. The salmon, atop a bed of stir-fried vegetables, was colorfully adorned with a slightly sweet and spicy sauce, basil, toasted almonds and black and white sesame seeds. The plate could easily be shared between two people, as was the case with the classic red coconut curry, which I paired with tofu.

Dessert was not to be missed. We tried the Mango Sticky Rice, which, coated in coconut milk and sprinkled with sesame seeds, was the perfect balance of savory and sweet. We then tasted the creamy, smooth-as-silk, pleasantly tart orange-cranberry gelato. The dessert selection was a gentle end to our lavish meal.

I say with confidence (and a satisfied belly) that diners can expect bold flavors and ambiance that is unmistakably rich and tantalizing at Indochine in downtown Tacoma.