When planning for our trip to Asia, we did not have much fine dining in mind. However, after looking at the prices for tasting menus at some of Bangkoks hot spots, we changed our mind. An eight (8) course lunch at Issaya Siamese Club set us back only 1500 bath (below €50), so it felt impossible to pass by. After a sweaty walk (45 min in the scorching mid-day heat) we arrived at Issaya Siamese Club. A beautiful green garden surrounding a colonial style Thai villa. Looking at the pictures one could almost think the building is in the middle of the field with no signs of the concrete jungle on the other side of the walls. As we were hot from the long brisk walk, we opted to sit inside. The terrace looked nice as well.
We started of by ordering some cocktails (we are on holiday after all) to cool us down. The list was several pages long with thai influenced drinks. Reading the list made me even more thirsty. I went for the Pandan Cooler with good old ginger and some pandan leaf. It looked great and tasted even greater. They even took the time to make a little origami fish for me to swim around in the glass. How cute is that! For the love of God I cannot remember what M had, but it looked as well as tasted great. I could have went through the whole list, but it was perhaps too early in the day for that. For food, we chose the set menu with 8 dishes to share. It wasn’t the traditional one dish at a time menu, but rather a real Asian meal with food arriving when it was ready, some dishes at the same time, but clearly in three steps: appetisers, main and dessert. In addition we were served a lovely three piece “greeting from the kitchen” (amuse bouche) and some (take-away) marshmallows for an extra dessert. A casual 10 course lunch, nothing out of the ordinary (LOL).
So what kind of food did we have? The amuse bouche was a lovely trio: tuna tartar with Thai spices and chili, a lightly fried and battered shrimp with tamarind and aubergine and chicken with rice omelette. For starters we had banana blossom and palm heart salad with crispy shallots and roasted peanuts, slowly cooked ribs and grilled beef with fresh herbs and vegetables in charred birds eye chili vinegarette. After the starters, we got a small raspberry sorbet to freshen us up and to cleanse the pallate. For mains we were served some lovely lamb shank with massaman curry, volcano chicken (they set the chicken on fire) and tiger prawns with house pepper mix and holy basil. As a side we were served a lovely smoky multigrain rice in hot pot. The dishes made a wonderful combination. Ok at this point I was stuffed with dessert still to come. Luckily goodies go into a separate stomach, and the jasmine pannacotta in pandan leaf was also quite light. I was able to stuff it all in.
The service was really what made the final difference when considering how to rank the restaurants we visited in Bangkok. Perhaps we got some extra attention because the restaurant was not very full that day, but regardless of that we felt very welcome from the minute we walked in. The head waiter took some extra time to chat with us about the food also taking an interest in where we were from and what our preferences were. There was nothing pretentious or overwhelming about the wide smile we encountered every time a dish arrived at our table. If something could be improved in the service it is little things, for example clearing the empty plates briskly after we were done. This felt like the only thing in the way of Issaya getting a Michelin star (can’t comment on the consistency of food though, perhaps I have to visit again). All in all, I very much enjoyed our lunch at Issaya. It was the first ‘real’ restaurant we visited in Bangkok so it has set the expectations for the coming restaurants rather high.