WILMINGTON — It’s been less than a week since Café Chinois — the latest eatery from the Indochine restaurant group — opened its doors to the public. Yet, its expansion is already on the horizon, according to owner Solange “Niki” Thompson and her daughter Marie Bartsch, who oversee the restaurants, along with director of operations Kathy Long.
“It’s in a strip mall, so you’re limited where you can go,” Bartsch said, speaking of Chinois’ location in the former Southern Thai space (3715 Patriot Way) in Fulton Station. “So, Mom’s taking over the driving school next door soon.”
Currently, the restaurant seats about 40 and has a few outdoor patio tables, but by summer will be adding around 30 more seats. Thompson will knock down a wall between the restaurant and where Coastal Carolina Driving School is located.
Interior designer Denis Castro traveled from Alabama to help Thompson renovate the space since she bought it at the end of 2020. The eatery’s vibrant facelift comes with animated purple and teal walls, lime green chandeliers, and a red accent wall showcasing an Asian woman looking over the entire restaurant.
Every square inch of space showcases Thompson’s international art collection, with most imagery celebrating women. “They are in different tones and different outfits,” Thompson told Port City Daily when she announced the restaurant’s opening last month. “It’s mostly Asian queens and princesses that I had painted in Vietnam – some of them are very contemporary.”
One trio of paintings hangs above a marble bar top and features the same image but is replicated in the style of Andy Warhol with bright filters — green, pink, yellow.
“Mom is selling replicates of them, too,” Bartsch said on Saturday during Café Chinois’ first weekend lunch service.
“It’s a place where food meets art and art meets food,” Thompson said.
Thompson kept the Southern Thai staff and a great deal of its old menu, including its well-known Thai Southern chicken dish. Plates of Vietnamese banana-blossom salad, Thai pad udon, Chinese duck with kumquats, curries, dumplings, and lemongrass-pork lettuce wraps wafted through the air as diners trickled in to take advantage of $8.95 lunch specials.
“We brought back Vietnamese crepes,” Bartsch said, noting diner outcry when they had to remove the popular item from the Indochine menu more than a decade ago. “It was too much on our kitchen staff, and diners have asked us to bring it back for years.”
Café Chinois’ menu focuses on Thai, Korean, Vietnamese-French and Chinese flavors. It offers 50 or so appetizers, entrees, soups and salads — not quite as large as Indochine’s menu, Bartsch said. It’s also economical; prices don’t top out over $21 for dinner, with most dishes averaging around $15.
Click the first photo to view a gallery of Café Chinois images — or just scroll down. The full menu is available to view at the end of the photos.
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