I had vague memories of passing Indochine on my way back and forth to Tower Records back in the day. So I relied on sense memory to find it from the F train on Layayette. And there it was, up the staircase like I remembered. I sat in the lounge, listening to them get ready for service, playing with my phone until Shirley arrived.
We hadn’t seen each other in years. We once worked for the same giant financial corporation, but she moved on to bigger, better things. She was a kid when she worked for me, but we still had a very synergistic relationship. We learned a lot from each other. She quickly became a subject matter expert in anything she put her hands on.
Now here she is, a veritable grown-up, communicating like the adult she wasn’t then, with all the poise and finesse of a lady. Me? I was just older and fatter, and truth be told; unemployed.
“Are you looking?” she asked.
“I spent about nine months doing other stuff, but I’ve been looking for the last few months. Sent out a few resumes, but no bites just yet.”
I order a Dirty Martini; vodka, rocks, olives. Shirley gets the Indochine Martini; Citrus vodka infused with pineapple, ginger and fresh lime juice.
We start with Steak Tartare with lemongrass, coriander, sesame, and ginger chili. As any reader of this blog knows, I’m more than mildly obsessed with tartare these days. This was served with some rice crisps and no egg. I dug it.
Shirley wanted the Grilled Baby Back Ribs, but changed her mind when the waitress took the order. I steered her back to it and am glad I did. Those were the hit of the night. Not traditional, so manage your expectations. More like an Americanized Thai version. Not slathered in sauce, just soft and decadent, with Asian spices and a dry coriander seed rub. Nice heat on these. We were both too polite to eat the last one so we added it to the doggie bag.
“It’s nice that we can easily pick up where we left off. I feel like we can say anything to each other.”
“Yeah, definitely. We always had that rapport. I think that even though you worked for me, I learned a lot from you.”
Next up, I had the Skirt Steak, or was it Hanger Steak? One or the other. Don’t ask me to remember. And no, I didn’t get a good picture of it. I know, I should have my blogging license revoked. I do remember digging it. Nicely medium rare with a good char and a slight Thai funk.
Shirley wasn’t blown away by her chicken dish. It was a bit safe and bland for her tastes.
“Rajiv told me he really liked this,” she said, a little unimpressed.
“Maybe he had a different dish. Well, you can always bring the rest home to him.”
“I hate shlepping,” she said.
Desserts were a high point. I had read about the Roasted Banana and knew it had my name on it. Wrapped in sweet rice and served with coconut tapioca, we polished it off happily. And how can you go wrong with Salted Caramel Gelato?
Time flew. We had no idea we were drinking and talking for about five hours until a waiter came over and offered to buy us another round at the bar so they could have the table. And they sure needed it. The place was packed on a Thursday night.
The check came and I grabbed it. Shirley tried to steal it and I swatted her fingers away with my smartphone. So she slid her hand into the holder and ripped out the check from inside.
“I wanna pay,” she said.
“How about we go halfsies?” I ask, but she wasn’t hearing it.
“This isn’t about you being unemployed,” she said. “This is my way of thanking you for being a great boss.”
Slightly embarrassed, I decided to accept her offer with a little grace. “Well, I appreciate it, Shirl, I really do.” Then she gave me little box of chocolate truffles. Thoughtful as ever.
We made our way to the bar and had one more drink, talking about how we used to arm wrestle during meetings back in the day.
“I rock climb like four days a week,” she said. “I can probably beat you now.”
“I’m not gonna humiliate myself.”
I walked her to the train and we said our goodbyes. I headed back to the F with a smile on my face and no concern about being out so late on a “work” night.