Solange Thompson is on an ambitious path to expand her distinctive take on Southeast Asian cuisine to the greater Wilmington area.
The owner of the ever-popular Indochine restaurant on the corner of Wayne and Market streets recently announced that a new location for her Indochine Express brand is coming to a mall across from Independence Mall. It plans to unveil this newest member of its growing restaurant network in early August.
The downtown Indochine Express will be similar to other express restaurants in Thompson and will have a particular focus on introducing Vietnamese cuisine to new audiences, she said Tuesday.
She said, “My concept is totally different from Chinese or Thai restaurants in Wilmington. It’s avant-garde Asian cuisine with a twist: all my stores have the touch of food with art. I want to promote Asian art culture. Even though it’s fast food, I got art in it and [represent] the history of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Thompson, known to many of her clients as Niki, is of French-Vietnamese descent. Born in Vietnam – which until 1954 was part of French Indochina and still retains a certain French flavor – she grew up in neighboring Thailand and absorbed the cultures of Southeast Asia. A Wilmington resident since 1975, she opened Asian fusion restaurant Indochine in 2000.
Twenty years later, Thompson began to expand. In less than six months, she came out with two new establishments. The first was Indochine Express on South College Road at Monkey Junction, which opened at the dawn of 2021. Soon after, Thompson followed with Café Chinois at Fulton Station at the intersection of South 17th Street and South College Road.
His goal with Indochine Express was to offer a satellite location with a menu that was smaller than Indochina’s vast array of dishes but still representative of its Asian fusion flair. The aim of the Café Chinois was to highlight Asian cuisine, such as pho, which is not on the menus of Indochine or Indochine Express.
Finding success with both of these ventures, Thompson opened an Indochine Express in Southport about two months ago and is in the process of obtaining permits for a similar location in Leland. But the downtown Indochine Express is firmly in its sights for now.
“We will have a very good Vietnamese soup, bun bo hue, a traditional soup from my hometown in Vietnam, the imperial city of Hue. It’s delicious,” she says. “We will have an entry into the [mall-facing] back of the restaurant for mall customers and staff.
Thompson said she was selective about her ingredients.
“Even in my Indochine Express stores, I try not to use cheap products. I pay a little more but the quality of my food is really great,” she said. “I just want to bring another restaurant that provides healthy food for people in Wilmington because Wilmington is my favorite city in the whole world I came here when I was 20 and Wilmington was wonderful to me.
The new Indochine Express will be located at 3608 Oleander Drive (shown above)in the same complex as Firehouse Subs.