Food

A Talented Indian Chef Transforms an Alexandria Restaurant Into a Destination for Indo-Chinese Cooking

IndoChen, formerly known as London Curry House, debuts August 5.

Chicken biryani at IndoChen. All photographs by Maya Oren/MOJALVO.

The pandemic has caused many chefs and restaurateurs to rethink their game plans, and Ashok Tamang is no different. The co-owner of London Curry House, the opulent dining room in Alexandria’s Cameron Station development, says he will transform his space into “the restaurant I really wanted”: IndoChen. 

IndoChen’s chop suey, topped with a poached egg.

Gone are the chandeliers and crimson walls that made London Curry House stand out among more casual suburban standbys. In their place is a subtler grey dining room that serves chef Ram Thapa’s specialty: the rice dishes, stirfries, and dumplings that are emblematic of IndoChinese cooking.

New to Indo-Chinese food? While it exists in the area—largely in Northern Virginia—there are only a handful of places that serve more than say, a single plate of peppery, deep-fried chicken Manchurian. The cuisine, the result of an influx of Chinese immigrants to Kolkata over a century ago, fuses Indian and Chinese techniques, spices, and ingredients.  

Thapa fell in love with the style of cooking during his childhood in Nepal, where it is popular. Between the time he graduated from culinary school and came to the States, he worked mainly in Indo-Chinese kitchens.

Chef Ram Thapa.

Thapa’s chop suey will be dashed with turmeric. He’ll also serve chow mein, the popular wok-fried noodle dish that’s served as street food in parts of India. Chilli chicken is battered in cumin, coriander, ginger, and other spices, then fried and tossed in a chili-garlic sauce.

Fried sardines with charred-tomato sauce.

Family-style shares include three kinds of biryani, the festive Indian rice dish; a whole fried chicken, served with chili vinegar sauce and eggy fried rice; and pork ribs which are cooked for a day and accented with hoisin sauce. Among the appetizers, there’s a fried sardine, a riff on a classic dish from Assam that’s marinated in garam masala.  Pork belly gets a day-long bath in the sous vide machine, and is then glazed in honey.

Bestselling Indian dishes like butter chicken and rogan josh aren’t going anywhere. Neither are the momo, the thickly wrapped dumplings served here with tomato chutney. Kale chaat—the feathery fried leaves of kale with yogurt and chutney—is one of the carryovers from the old menu.

Fried whole chicken with fried rice and chili vinegar.

Tamang came up in a number of DC fine dining restaurants (Fiola Mare, Bourbon Steak) and has revamped the cocktail menu. His current lineup includes a barrel-aged Manhattan, blueberry mojito, and a mule with an India-inspired touch—mango vodka.

Co-owner Ashok Tamang’s barrel-aged Manhattan.

IndoChen is launching with indoor and patio dining and takeout. Tamang, used to carefully coursing out guests’ meals from, as he puts it, “amuse bouche to petite fours,” is tweaking his service approach. Now, food will come out as its made. Silverware won’t be changed for each stage of the meal. And Tamang says the restaurant will follow Virginia’s Covid-era dining protocols.

IndoChen, 4906 Brenman Park Dr., Alexandria; 703-419-3160. Open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 9 PM. 

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.