Bangkok Post reviews
Wonderchef wows with club classics
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: February 3, 2012 at 8:16 am
Multi-talented chef adds his worldly, modern touch to home-grown favourites
In the world-class gastronomic scene, it's not uncommon for a celebrity chef to simultaneously play a multitude of different roles. But when one is a TV personality, cookbook author, culinary instructor and restaurant consultant while conducting the kitchen of 10 restaurants of various cuisines in several international cities at the same time, that's really awe-inspiring.
Over 19 years in his culinary career, the globally acclaimed chef Ian Chalermkittichai has successfully opened more than 20 eateries in big metropolises across the world including New York, London, Mumbai and Barcelona.
At home in Bangkok, the truly talented, ever-active chef has been the energy behind the achievement of several dining joints and is now managing three busy restaurants with another two set to have their grand opening celebrated within the next month.
The subject of this week's review, Issaya Siamese Club, is the chef-cum-superman's latest sanctuary that opened a month ago in the middle of Bangkok.
Set in a 1920s colonial-style mansion, Issaya Siamese Club exhibits a ‘colourful colonial’ concept with cheerful hues and vivid-coloured interior.
As its name suggests, it's an authentic Thai restaurant with a display of sophistication.
This one-of-a-kind dining establishment is set in a 1920s colonial-style mansion, which between 1997-2010 was the home of Le Cafe Siam. To exhibit Issaya's "colourful colonial" concept, the interior of the century-old house was thoroughly renovated and is now decked in cheerful hues with vivid-coloured walls and upholsteries.
Issaya's Thai cuisine is a blend of home-comfort delicacies and street-side favourites. Yet every dish is creatively prepared in modern gourmet style with prime-graded international ingredients.
Chef Ian divides his menu simply with categories like appetiser, soup, entree and dessert. There are also special sections _ "home-grown organic vegetables" and "market menu". The first features a dozen dishes prepared with fresh produce from the restaurant's small backyard plantation, while the latter is dedicated to seasonal local dishes chosen upon the best ingredients available in the market at that time.
Of the home-grown vegetable menu, I was delighted by what I'd call "banana blossom three ways". The dish, described as yum hua plee (250 baht) in Thai, presented a well-flavoured pungent salad prepared with banana blossom (in fresh, boiled and deep-fried forms), heart of coconut palm, crispy shallots, roasted peanuts and tamarind paste-chilli jam dressing.
Another sour and spicy salad item also worth having is the crispy fish salad (380 baht). It was made with crisp white fish, Meyer lemon, lemongrass, cashew nuts, spearmint and lotus seed dressing and proved delectable.
The pungent salad of banana blossom, heart of coconut palm and crispy shallots in tamarind paste-chilli jam dressing.
Meanwhile the moo manow (450 baht), which featured thin slices of kurobuta pork loin and crunchy cubes of Asian broccoli dredged with lemongrass, chilli-lime dressing and truffle oil, proved amazingly good.
As a "club", Issaya is quite a nice place for a lounging meal that begins with cocktail and nibbles. For that purpose, a variety of delicacies is designed to be enjoyed without spoon or fork.
I liked khanom khrok tom kha (180 baht), a domestic fusion between tom kha (sour and spicy galangal-coconut cream soup) and khanom krok (Thai sweet coconut milk pudding) that offered the flavour profile of the savoury soup with the delicate souffle texture of the dessert pudding.
Less impressive, however, was khanom bueang yuan, or crispy turmeric crepe with sauteed shrimp, bean sprout and vegetables (230 baht), which I found a bit out of any context.
Grilled chicken and barbecue pork are also designed for small bites. Try gai yang (220 baht), which featured chicken fillets marinated in fresh turmeric, white turmeric and green pepper before being grilled in Thai style. The bird was served in a dried banana-leaf basket with chilli-salt on the side.
While the chilli-glazed baby back ribs (360 baht), served over flame on a portable stove, should not be missed. The ribs had been slowly simmered in tom yum broth to allow the spicy herbal flavour of the soup penetrate the meat and make it tender before being rubbed with house-blended chilli paste and charred on woodfire. The result was smoky flavourful meat that was so tender it fell off the bone easily.
Should you like to have a family-style sharing meal I highly suggest that wok-sauteed Asian multigrains (280 baht) be ordered firstly as a rice dish.
The super tender chilli-glazed baby back ribs.
Served in a hot stone bowl just like Korean bibimbap, this vegan delicacy featured a tastily crunchy amalgam of barley, gaba rice, black sticky rice, red beans and bean sprouts wok-fried with Chiang Mai mushrooms, garlic, Chinese salted black olives and mushroom-scented oil.
The fried rice was marvellously complemented by the salty sweet gaeng hunglay moo or Northern-style spiced pork stew (580 baht), made with kurobuta pork belly slow-cooked with Chiang Mai spices, fresh ginger, taro and lotus root in hunglay sauce until melt-in-the-mouth soft.
Equally magnificent was massaman lamb shank curry (690 baht). The well-flavoured and not overly sweet curry, in which tender lamb shanks came bathing, was one of the best massaman dishes I've ever had.
The restaurant has an outstanding collection of desserts. Among the most recommended choices is smoked coconut cheesecake (180 baht), Chef Ian's smart interpretation of the traditional flavours with a Western presentation that has proved very popular at his bakery restaurant in New York.
Another sweet option worth sampling is salee cake (180 baht), a contemporary version of the old-fashioned Thai ice-cream sandwich made with layers of cake and ice cream bounded together with sweet jackfruit semifreddo, salty Thai miso and tangy mulberry compote.
If a rich and creamy dessert is your preference, you may want to try the Thai tea creme brulee (180 baht). The silky textured Western custard with its characteristic brittle face nicely portrayed the classic Thai dessert, khanom moh geang (mung bean pudding), enhanced by a heavenly fragrance of Thai black tea.
Chef Ian Chalermkittichai
Wok-sauteed Asian multigrains is a must-order.
The salty sweet Northern-style pork stew with kurobuta pork belly and Chiang Mai spices.