Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bangkok - Issaya Siamese Club

The Garden
With the rapid urbanization of cities, especially in populous Asia, it is a sweet rarity to be able to enjoy dining in places like the Issaya Siamese Club.  Set in a 1920s villa, stepping in through the gates and  onto the walkway leading up to the beautiful black-and-white structure transports you back in time where there was little else to worry about except the one telex you got earlier in the afternoon instead of the 200 emails in your inbox..  and the things to be done about that one telex had to wait till the post office opened for business the next day, instead of having to get on 2 conference calls and do recap emails later the same night after dinner.

Times have changed drastically but at Issaya, you can almost feel the time machine had been set for 1925 and is going to stay there on that chillaxing pace, till you finish an enjoyable dinner with good mates.

The table is set
Decor is an all important part of making the time machine experience real and at Issaya, the ground floor dining area is a welcoming room of bold colors that miraculously come together .  The lush garden on the outside is a lovely setting to look at through the big square windows.

The bar
Smiling faces at the bar serve to open up your imagination as you cruise the menu for the concoctions these wizards can whip up for you.

Club grown produce
As you step outback, varieties of plants are grown and harvested onto Ian Kittichai's creations.

Private dining
The upper level of the villa can be reserved for private parties.  A beautiful setting sure to impress guests.

TV area
When not dining, you can even "watch TV" in the living area, although no one stopped to test if the TV still works in 2013.

Tangerine ice tea
After the grand tour, we sat down and had drinks while we pored over a pretty long and comprehensive menu.  Nothing like a long ice-cold drink to beat the heat and humidity of the city.  Instead of pondering over what to order, the 4 of us ultimately decided on splitting the 2 tasting menus since each menu required a minimum of 2 persons to execute.

Here are some highlights:

Amuse Bouche

Banana blossom and heart of palm salad, crispy shallots and roasted peanuts in a chili jam dressing
This is the much talked about salad by Ian K although I would have preferred a more delicate dressing.  I love banana blossoms but feared that they were overpowered by everything else, which thankfully happened to be decent.  I was almost tempted to ask for a second helping of banana blossoms just to balance the dish out.

Grilled imported tender beef, fresh herbs, organic vegetables in a charred bird's eye chili vinaigrette
This was extremely well executed, with enough heat to stimulate but not to overwhelm.  And the beef although quite a big piece for a mouthful, was so tender, that no effort was required to break it down, so you can still keep it elegant while savoring all of the components in one mouthful.  Good news, we each get 2 mouthfuls each.

Spiced rubbed pork baby back ribs glazed with Issaya house-blended chili paste
This didn't look like much when it was served despite the cute Japanese inspired stone stove it came on.    As it heated up at the table, the aroma started to open up the senses, and biting into it, it was not reminiscent of anything Thai but was could be any piece of world class pork rib from any cuisine and of course, melt-in-your-mouth tender.

House made shellfish sausage with Hua Hin style seafood broth
Since we shared, I didn't get any shellfish sausage, but the broth was unbelievably tasty for the thinness of the consistency.  Sea sweet but without the usual heat of a Tom Yum Goong, this was addictive and pretty in the use of paper as a serving device.  My only complaint was that it couldn't contain more given its limited size..

Tamarind glazed crispy duck leg, pan-seared foie gras, sauteed red okra leaves and crushed cashew nuts
No doubt French-inspired and techniques unmistakably so, but it still fit right into the menu without confusing.  Again well executed and despite the heaviness of the ingredients, did not wear us down at all.

Grain fed Australian veal cheek simmered in house-blended spices, hand-pressed coconut milk, and kaffir lime leaves
This and the next were perfect for the rice fiend since you can go on forever eating rice if you had these 2 dishes.  Again, a tender cut of veal that you can break down with your tongue and keeps the focus on the slightly spicy sauce made that much richer with drizzles of coconut milk.

Boneless lamb shank simmered in Mussamun curry served with pickled cucumber
A little anomaly since the boneless lamb came bone-in.  They might have meant it was fall-off-the-bone which was nothing but accurate.  I actually liked the spices in this curry even more than the previous and can prove it based on the spoonfuls of rice I had with this one over the other.

Seasonal vegetables
Likely to have been plucked from the garden too.  I would have liked less sauce with this one since the vegetables were so good since the slightly salty sauce distracted from the natural goodness of the vegetable (almost like flower buds) which I did not recognize.

Asian multigrains, Chiang Mai mushrooms, and garlic sprinkled with a mushroom-scented oil
An Asian play on a truffle risotto, just fluffier and lighter even though it was a little too well-oiled.  Aromatic from the herbs and oil and if not for the amount of food already on the table, I would have had more.

Desserts (bottom up) - Jasmine flower panna cotta, Sticky rice mochi filled with black coconut ice cream, and with fresh coconut, Saree cake (jackfruit semifreddo, Thai miso and mulberry sorbet), macaron
These were all very decent and the panna cotta and Saree cake were standouts for me in terms of creativity and in keeping with the Thai theme, despite the use of western techniques.

An awesome meal to remember for a while and definitely worthy of repeat visits.  Word of caution, the tasting menus are more than generous so make sure you are hungry especially if you go for the more expensive one.  Despite our hearty appetites, we ended up packing up leftovers which we passed to our happy drivers.  Otherwise, the a-la-carte menu has most if not all of the items you might like from the tasting menus.

4 Soi Sri Aksorn
Chua Ploeng Road
Sathorn, Bangkok
Tel: +66-2-672 9040/1

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