Stepping into Le Colonial off Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue is like stepping back in time. Though the restaurant itself spans some 7,000 square feet, intimate alcoves beckon diners to cozy up, imbibe, and feast on world-class Vietnamese fare with a French accent.
Le Colonial dates back 30 years, founded by restaurateurs Rick Wahlstedt and Joe King. The Delray Beach outpost is the brand’s fifth, and it reflects its South Florida surrounds, complete with palms aplenty, rich green and mahogany hues, a private dining space dubbed the Parrot Room, and a welcoming bar and lounge anchored by fragrant orchids. Here, vintage Vietnamese details and a French design sensibility recall an era when dining was an experience with a capital “E.” As such, patrons are asked to follow a dress code that prohibits athleisure attire, including baseball caps, jerseys, sweats, hoodies, sneakers, flip-flops, slides, and sports sandals.
While ambience is important, the food is the top draw. National executive chef Hassan Obaye has crafted a menu steeped in tradition, reverent of Florida’s coastal ingredients, and bursting with compelling, craveable flavors. Below, we outline a few must-try dishes and a game plan for your first visit.
- Start with a signature cocktail. Across the beverage menu, tropical fruits elevate classic cocktails. Opt for a Lychee Martini, for example, or the LC Spicy Kiwi Margarita, with Corazon Blanco, agave nectar, kiwi, Combier, and Ancho Reyes. Teetotalers will also find something to love on the mocktail menu. A standout is the Ha Long Lemonade with butterfly pea flower tea, fresh lemon, and simple syrup.
- Split a few apps. The Le Colonial menu is designed for sharing, and the appetizer options are so enticing, you’ll be tempted to try as many as possible. A mainstay is the cha gio: crispy shrimp and pork rolls meant to be wrapped in a lettuce cup and dipped in a chili-lime sauce. Seafood fans will appreciate the ca song, a beautifully composed presentation of spicy yellowfin tuna tartare dotted with soy caviar and served with rice crisps.
- Don’t skimp on the curry. Between your starter and entrée, take a slight gastronomic detour to try one of Le Colonial’s luscious curries. The cari ga is a yellow chicken curry that sings with vegetable delights such as Japanese eggplant, mango, yams, green beans, and toasted cashews.
- Go for the gold on your main course. There are quite a few stars among the cast of entrées. The signature bo luc lac, or “shaking beef,” is at once light and substantial. Diners are presented with caramelized pieces of Heritage angus beef and encouraged to dip them in a side of herbs finished with lime juice. The ca chim is another addictive dish, featuring galangal-cured halibut in a buttery lime au jus that packs a perfectly balanced punch of acidity. For a true showstopper, order the ca chien Saigon, a crispy South Florida red snapper presented whole and shareable for two.
- Yes, you want coffee. Specifically, the ca phe sua traditional Vietnamese coffee, complete with sweetened condensed milk and an individual, pour over–style presentation of Café du Monde chicory coffee.
- Save lots of room for dessert. The dessert menu is full of delicious surprises. Take the che chuoi organic tapioca pudding, for example, with its layers of warm coconut tapioca, banana, sesame seeds, and coconut crisps, finished with a blanket of crème anglaise. The key lime entremet is a playful take on the key lime pie flavors we all know and love, presented in the guise of cheesecake.
Le Colonial is open for dinner service Sunday through Wednesday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. It also offers lunch Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Reservations are strongly encouraged. The restaurant’s lounge is walk-in only and offers a full menu until an hour before close. Its hours are Sunday through Wednesday from 3 to 11 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 3 p.m. to midnight.