At Indochine’s retro-Shanghai-themed 25th anniversary party on Friday, Nov. 20, near-naked women in pasties shook their rear ends while hotelier André Balazs, in a khaki suit, danced with a tall blonde in a downstairs nightclub called the “Undochine” (which hasn’t been open since the ’80s).
Upstairs, designer Narciso Rodriguez, taking refuge in an air bubble near the front of the room, said he couldn’t remember when he’d first visited the place, long popular with the fashion crowd. “I don’t know, it was a haze,” he said. “I was talking to somebody and I said, ‘You know, everything that was fun that happened in New York happened at Indochine at one point or another.’”
Recently, Mr. Rodriguez hosted another party, for the book Indochine: Stories, Shaken and Stirred (Rizzoli) at Bergdorf Goodman. The city has changed, but Indochine has not, he said. “We just grew up.”
Jean-Marc Houmard, the most visible of the restaurant’s three owners, bought and reopened Indochine immediately after Brian McNally—restaurateur and brother-of-Keith who escaped the city for a simpler life in Saigon—closed it in 1992. Mr. Houmard had been the maitre’d. He said he first visited the restaurant as a customer at age 25, after graduating from law school in Geneva and taking a law firm job in New York. “I saw Bianca, I saw Halston, I saw Jerry Hall; it was like being in a movie,” he said.
In his tenure as owner, neither the food nor the faded-wicker décor has been updated. So what’s different? “People don’t go out quite as late now,” said Mr. Houmard, who has negotiated another 15 years on Indochine’s lease, which is not yet up. “I remember we were still seating at 12:30 or 1 early on, but now after 11 or 11:30, it’s kind of the end of seating. The after-hours culture is not what it used to be.”
Slender and reserved, Mr. Houmard claims not to follow fashion. He attributes Indochine’s enduring popularity with models to its non-greasy food and flatteringly low lighting.
Onetime regulars like Calvin Klein weren’t at the party, but actors Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber, Willem Dafoe—who is currently in a production across the street at the Public Theater—stylist Pat Field, and socialites Yvonne Force Villareal and Genevieve Jones made appearances. Designer Anna Sui commandeered a booth with model Carolyn Murphy. Model Julia Restoin-Roitfeld stood behind the hostess’ station. “I come here all the time, so I feel like I should be on the other side,” she said. “I’ve had my three last birthdays here, my brothers’ three last birthdays, all the big events … It’s quite a magical place, you know?”