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Colonial Times

NEW YORK -- Le Colonial has been open less than a month, but the new Vietnamese restaurant on East 57th Street already seems like it'll be the uptown Indochine.Barry Diller has begun migrating. So have Uma Thurman, Lee Radziwill, Nina Griscom...

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NEW YORK -- Le Colonial has been open less than a month, but the new Vietnamese restaurant on East 57th Street already seems like it'll be the uptown Indochine.

Barry Diller has begun migrating. So have Uma Thurman, Lee Radziwill, Nina Griscom and Ron Delsener. Designer Richard Tyler was feted there the other night by Bergdorf Goodman and Vanity Fair.

Le Colonial is the brainchild of restaurateurs Jean Denoyer (La Goulue, Le Comptoir), Jean-Francois Marchand (Le Comptoir, Le Relais), Jean Goutal (Tapas Rouge) and Rick Wahlstedt (Punch), who've been friends for years and wanted to create a singular environment together.

The four partners pulled in designer Greg Jordon to transform the townhouse into what a Vietnamese club might have looked like during French colonization at the turn of the century. That means lots of palm tress in the main floor dining room, which has tile floors and high tin ceilings dotted with period lamps; white lacquer walls decor- ated with mirrors and wooden louvered shades over fake windows. The lounge upstairs is a completely different settlement. You can't really belly up to the bar -- which is only about 10 feet long -- but one could easily spend the evening nestled in cushy rattan chairs and sofas scattered in small conversational clusters set on faded Oriental carpets.

"I've never been to Vietnam, but people who have tell me this looks exactly like places they've seen there," says Marchand.

"It also has a sort of Casablanca feel," adds Wahlstedt. "It's all really kind of the same -- all those places that were colonies."

French influence is also evident on the menu. "Because the French were in Vietnam for so long, they really had an influence on the cooking," explains Marchand. Author and chef Nicole Routhier was brought in to design the menu, which includes such specialties as goi cuon (soft salad rolls with poached shrimp, bean sprouts and rice vermicelli), ga nuong xa (roasted chicken marinated in lemongrass) and bo lui (beef brochettes basted with five-spice sesame marinade.) Vietnamese-born Viet Tran is the executive chef -- and a former chef at Indochine -- who pulls it all together. Now all they need to make it authentic is for Oliver Stone to show up.