Housed in a beautiful historical 1920’s Thai home, Ian Kittichai’s Issaya http://www.issaya.com/issaya-index.php was the newest Bangkok addition to this years “San Pellegrino’s Asias Top 50 Restaurants” We had chosen Issaya in order to celebrate my friend Bekahs birthday in true style and arrived all glammed up ready for an amazing meal and it certainly didn’t disappoint! We started with cocktails whilst we waited for the whole gang to arrive, my “Ginger Basil Kicker” with Cazadores tequila, ginger and thai basil was definitely one of the best Thai cocktails I have ever tried. Similarly high praise came for the other cocktails we ordered, “Le Issaya Cocktail” with Grey Goose, mulberry sorbet and sparkling rose wine and the “Pandan Cooler” with 42 Below, sparkling elderflower and pandan leaves and whilst they weren’t cheap at 330 THB they were certainly worth it in my book, the premium spirits making a refreshing change to the standard pours used here in Bangkok.
As we were celebrating, we decided to splash out on the first of their tasting menus and the chef arranged for me to have a vegetarian version as I was just so impressed with their vast selection of veggie dishes on offer that the rest of the menu didn’t appeal nearly so much to me.
Our amuse bouche was a mini trio of dishes that included a tuna tartar and a little kueh pie tee style cup filled with minced chicken (i cant remember the other one sadly!) The next courses were served to share amongst 2 people; “Kradook Moo AOB Sauce” or Spice Rubbed Pork Baby Back Ribs Glazed with Issaya House-blended Chili Paste served atop mini charcoal bbqs on the table which was a fun approach to the dish and I know the girls were impressed with how succulent the ribs were, “Yum Hua Plee” was a Salad of Banana Blossom And Heart Of Palm, Crispy Shallots and Roasted Peanuts in A Chili Jam Dressing and “Yum Nua” – Grilled Imported Tender Beef, Fresh Herbs, Organic Vegetables in A Charred Bird’s Eye Chili Vinaigrette.
My vegetarian version was the same Banana Blossom Salad (yum!) and “Larb Pak Sod” which was a great Salad of White Cabbage, Honshimeji Mushrooms, Basil, Mint, Japanese Cucumbers, Shallots in a Roasted Sticky Rice Dressing. Next up I received a mini trio of dishes, all with differing flavours and textures which made them a really interesting contrast to each other. For crunchy freshness the “Pak Grob” was a beautiful fresh Salad of Green Papaya, Radish, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Japanese Cucumber, Seaweed, Spicy Sesame Dressing, sweetness came in the form of “Tao Hoo Tod” a Crispy Homemade Japanese-style Silken Bean Curd and Chopped Peanuts in A Sweet-chili Dressing and my favourite the “Makur AOB” – Slow-roasted King Aubergine Glazed with Chili-salted Yellow Bean Paste which was so good the rest of the ladies ordered a portion to share amongst themselves.
After a palate cleanser of mulberry sorbet (its been a LONG time since I’ve had sorbet as a middle course!) we were onto the main courses. The girls received “Mussaman Gae” which was a mammoth Lamb Shank Simmered in Mussamun Curry Served with Pickled Cucumber which was so moist and tender it fell away from the bone at the slightest touch, “Gai AOB” Charcoal Grilled Sankaburee Chicken in an “Issaya-spiced” rub and “Goong Pad Char” – Day Boat Caught Tiger Prawns in A House Blended Pepper-holy Basil Sauce which they set fire to at the table much to our surprise!
My main courses were a crystal clear mushroom broth, “Pad Fukthong Yee Poon” – Wok-fried Japanese Kabocha Pumpkin with Thai Basil and Oyster Sauce and “Geang Kamin“, a Yellow Coconut Curry with Royal King’s Project Vegetables. One of our favourite dishes was infact the accompaniment to the main courses, Asian Multigrains with Chaing Mai Mushrooms which was so good I would return just for that! Dessert was a wobbly “Kanom Dok Mali” or Jasmine Pannacotta with Jasmine Rice Ice Cream and Jasmine Rice Tuile which was a lovely light end to the meal.
Issaya is definitely a special place and you would struggle to find a nicer restaurant setting in Bangkok, perfect to celebrate those special occasions in. The room is particularly romantic so I would imagine it would be a great “date” place if you really wanted to pull out all the stops and impress someone.
Whilst I really enjoyed Issaya and would definitely go back in the future, I didn’t think the food matched the heights of say Bo.lan and nahm, maybe because the dishes at nahm and Bo.lan seemed less familiar and had more potential to “wow” me with but that’s not to say it wasn’t very, very good indeed. For a vegetarian however, I would say that Issaya is simply unmissable. I could not believe how much choice there was on the menu and how much thought went into each dish. Expect to spend around 4,000 THB for the tasting menu with wine.