Chef Ian Kittichai is a global celebrity chef with TV programmes and restaurants in New York, Barcelona, Mumbai and of course Bangkok. In Bangkok he has set up not just one - but several outposts. The flagship restaurant is supposed to be Issaya Siamese Club where he develop some of his inventive dishes. It is currently No. 39 on Asia's Top Restaurants List.
The restaurant is in a 100 year old house on Rama IV Road, surrounded by a lush tropical garden. The main dining room is on the ground floor which is converted from the living and dining room of the house. It has been given a very colourful makeover and charmingly decorated. There are other smaller dining areas on the 1st floor for groups and events. The overall setting is very charming - but it is best to go for lunch to fully appreciate it as we discovered - the night time lighting is a bit dark.
The food at Issaya is modern Thai cuisine. We opted for the Chef Ian Kittichai Tasting Menu which is priced at around RM600 for 2 persons. The meal started with a trio of appetizers - banana flower salad, crispy shallots and tuna tartare. All were very flavourful and appetizing.
Next came the homemade shellfish sausage with Hua Hin style broth. I was a bit underwhelmed by this dish - as the fish sausage had the texture of the common fish ball and tasted not much better. The broth which was quite aromatic saved the dish.
The grilled baby back ribs with house made chilli paste were fork tender and yummy.
Tender beef slices with bird eye chilli dressing - nice but not memorable.
Crispy prawns in batter with egg plant and chilli dressing. An interesting twist on an Asian staple.
Australian beef cheek in a red curry sauce - the beef was really tender and the sauce rich, creamy and flavourful.
Slow cooked salmon with house made red curry glaze - a good dish but I felt that an oily Asian fish like mackerel would have matched better with the strong flavours.
The biggest disappointment of the night was the Maine lobster with a curry custard. The curry custard killed all the natural sweetness of the lobster.
Some of the simplest dishes turned out to be the best - like this wok fried fresh seasonal vegetables which were garden fresh - sweet and crunchy.
The multi-grain fried rice with garlic, Chiang Mai mushrooms and sprinkled with mushroom oil had great depth of flavour.
Dessert was a quartet of house made sweets served in an Asian basket. There was a macaron, a coconut mochi, custard with mixed fruit and steamed cakes.
After all the anticipation of dining at one of the top restaurants in Bangkok - frankly the food did not blow me away. Although some dishes were inventive and tasted great - there wasn't really a wow factor that is expected of a restaurant of this calibre, and it always frustrates me when the dishes served do not have the look and polish of the photos posted at the restaurant's web site.