22 February 2018

  • reviewer's rating :
summary : Thai food cooked in the very individual style of Chef Ian Kittichai, Thailand's first international superstar chef, and served in a lovely old house in the unlikely surroundings of Klong Toey.

About: Ian Kittichai was Thailand’s first superstar chef, with a career made all the more remarkable by his humble beginnings, when he would push a cart through the streets, selling curries that his mother had made. We first made his acquaintance in the mid 1990s, when he was demi-chef at the Four Seasons, and he was impressive even then, with a great flair for showmanship; essential perhaps for any great chef. Nowadays, of course, he heads a culinary empire, but Issaya is a jewel in the crown because here Ian presents Thai food that is prepared in a style that is all his own.

Décor: In the unlikely surroundings of an industrial soi immediately next to the roaring hell that exists under the Klong Toey overhead expressway, with its car-breakers’ yards and shantytown, stands the most beautiful century-old house. A railway runs through here – it is a freight line that connects the marshalling yards in the north of the city with the docks and oil refinery – and one of the directors of the railway company built this house for himself. Examine it, and you will see that he has used a railway-trestle design for the structure, and locomotive wheel motifs above the upper windows. Inside, the walls are a sensuous turquoise colour, there are ceiling fans, and some of the seating consists of country-house-style sofas. There are private rooms upstairs, and lots of seating under an awning in the garden.

Menu: We started with an Issaya Mojito (350 baht), served medieval fashion in an iron goblet, and spiked with lime leaves, mint, and lemongrass. Then we moved on to a glass of Echeverria Chardonnay Reserva from Chile (230 baht). Our appetisers were a salad of banana blossom and palm heart, with a tangy chilli jam dressing (260 baht), and Hokkaido scallops finely sliced, seared, and served with morning glory amongst a pink foam made from red peppers (450 baht). We switched to a glass of La Chapelle de Saint Dominique from France (295 baht) for the next three courses. Black Angus Australian grass-fed beef (320 baht) was served with a pungent dressing made from red finger pepper, the beef carved in a geometrical oblong shape and with a delicate fibre texture. Pak grob was a raw vegan salad with green papaya, radish, cabbage and cucumber, with a sesame dressing (230 baht). Dish of the evening was larb kua, in which a capon chicken from Khao Yai was served both minced, larb style, and sliced, and accompanied by two sheets of crispy chicken skin (990 baht). For dessert, the house special, Broken Bucket (560 baht), or kanom tung taek: a banana leaf is spread on the table, condiments are splashed upon it, and then a cold coconut soufflé smashed onto the leaf, sending a rather alarming dry-ice chill across the laps of the diners.

Evaluation: Absolutely outstanding as an entire experience. Good for families, with three families present with young children on this evening. The garden seating was packed out, and so were the upstairs rooms.