Second Helpings

Second Helping

10920 South Parker Road, Parker

The two restaurants in the mini-empire of Yume Tran and Jeff Nghiem are almost exact opposites. Where Sapa is sprawling, Indochine is tiny. Sapa is meditative, Indochine is cozy. And while Sapa's interior is cool and green, Indochine is all black lacquer and tapestries.

The restaurants both specialize in Vietnamese and Thai cuisine from the Vietnamese hill country, smartly translated and perfectly prepared. But I like the menu at the two-year-old Indochine a little bit better, since it offers a few more street-food dishes in place of Sapa's more expensive specials, as well as a couple of additional curries and an amazing board of appetizers. There's shrimp mousse, steamed on sugarcane, then deep-fried; baked mushrooms stuffed with salmon eggs and fake crab; huge bowls of pho; green papaya salad tossed with garlic, lime juice and tomatoes. I burned my fingers eating the shrimp cakes -- fat, meaty, golden-brown, and fresh out of the oil. And the garlic pork with vegetables was so deeply infused with minced garlic that it was almost sweet.

All of the food at Indochine is wonderful and shows the kind of care that restaurants four times its size rarely bother to muster. Even more amazing, all of it comes out of a galley no bigger than the walk-in closets of some customers.