Everyone has a Christmas tradition. Well, everyone at least that somehow celebrates Christmas. It can be small or big, elaborate or subtle. Ours is pretty simple, and not very Christmassy, but its a tradition and we like it. Every year, as we travel to Asia, we have lunch at Issaya Siamese Club in Bangkok, with cocktails and a long tasting menu. Every year we also eat so much that we don’t really need more food the same day. Continue reading “Our Christmas Tradition”
Yeah! The list is out again – Asia’s 50 best restaurants is an annual snapshot of the opinions and experiences of almost 1,000 international restaurant industry experts. This is our bible when we plan which restaurants to visit on our trips to Asia. It has seldom let us down, except once in Singapore (Jaan), and it covers restaurants in cities that are not included in Guide Michelin. Next stop for us will be Hong Kong, so let the browsing begin. But fist, a quick look o who is the the top 10 this time. Continue reading “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants”
We have become, somewhat, creatures of habit: lunch Issaya Siamese Club is what really starts the annual vacation. It has become a tradition that we do not want to miss, even if the menu is already more than familiar to us. The old Thai-villa, turned into a restaurant is a wonderful experience with modern Thai cuisine and a relaxed atmosphere, colorful decor and extremely friendly service. Issaya also features Chef’s garden where guests can see aromatic Thai herbs grown year-round. I have written about it several times (here and here), and cannot help myself writing about it again. The beautiful dishes contribute to great food-photography. Continue reading “The Issaya Tradition”
From minus five to plus twenty-five degrees overnight. The week I have raging about for months is here, our annual trip to Asia has begun. And as always, the first leg, is to Bangkok, to recover from the jetlag. Continue reading “Wineweek 111: Good Morning Bangkok”
Today Stockholm has been covered in white. Snow has come early in record breaking amounts. The whole city is in traffic chaos. I feel lucky I made it home from work. And so I started counting again, the days that are left before we leave for Asia. It has become a yearly tradition for us to fly southeast for Christmas. Thirty five days. It isn’t that long. Continue reading “This Time Last Year”
As all good adventures, our tour in Asia must come to an end. We are spending our last full day in Bangkok, and tomorrow we will start heading back to Stockholm (technically on Tuesday as the flight takes of after midnight). There a crispy -20-something Celsius is waiting for us. Talk about a rough landing going down around 50C degrees in temperature. Continue reading “Wineweek 60: Home is Where the Wine is”
I am just such a big fan of Issya Siamese Club. There is no denying it fall into my top-10 favorite restaurant experiences in the world. The lush green garden and Thai villa, hidden in the middle of a buzzing city offers such a relaxing and delicious experience that words cannot describe it. I already reviewed it a year ago (link here), and I don’t have much more new to say. Food was great, staff friendly and the price for a set menu criminally low (1500 Bath for seven courses plus amuse bouche). Continue reading “Issaya Siamese Club Revisited”
Wow, it has been a great week! Today we are saying goodbye to seven days of fun in Singapore. Our journey in Asia continues as we move along to our last destination, Bangkok. When we arrived to Asia, we only had a few days in the Thai capital to recover from jet lag. Now we are returning to Bangkok for a proper look around. It will be a week of coffee, wine and street food.
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.
Greetings from sunny Koh Samui! Its nice and hot here, feels much warmer than in Bangkok (temprature is actually pretty much the same). I guess it is the humidity in the air that really makes the difference, and it makes me crave for some cold, dry and sparkling even more. It was to be expected, but the selection of wine here on the island is even worse than in the Capital, obviously. However, in such a sauna, beer tastes almost as good. So we have stocked up with some local and local-ish (read: Asian) beer to keep the thirst at bay. I actually prefer to have my beer from cans. Like Coka Cola, it just tastes better from aluminum, or what do you think? But back to Bangkok for a while, the island edition is coming up next week.
We were so overly excited to find a decent wine bar in Bangkok, that we published a review immediately. You can find Ms review on the @494 at the Grand Hyatt here. We were equally offput by a Romanian sparkling wine we bought at the store, that we posted a Wine warning. A Wine warning will be issued when a wine has the look of something drinkable, but majorly disappoints when tasted. Some wines you already know will not be good, like many bag inbox, so you just have yourself to blame if you put it in your mouth. But the devious wines that manage to trick their way into my glass, they are the ones that will get a Wine warning.
What else did we do in Bangkok this week? We went to some very interesting restaurants. We had not planned for much fine dining, but it was much easier to reserve a table in the Bangkok top spots than one could have thought. We picked three interesting restaurants from the Asias To 50 -list (2015): Nahm (#1), Gaggan (#3) and Issaya Siamese Club (#31). The restaurant ranking lists are a bit tricky, and we found ourselves disaggreeing heavily (with the list, not eachother) on which one should come first. We will write some separate reviews on all of them, but I think it is worth mentioning here how we placed our votes.
1. Issaya Siamese Club
1. Issaya Siamese Club/ Gaggan (50/50 vote)
1. Issaya Siamese Club
Issaya Siamese Club was a beautiful, unique and very customer oriented restaurant that was very strong in quality produce and talented cooking. The only minus could be that it was hard to find, but perhaps we can only blame ourselves trying to be very Scandinavian and walk there (google maps really let us down). Gaggan is a restaurant doing Indian fusion (or progressive Indian as they call it), a style of food that has failed me many times. With a chef who used to work at the famous El Bulli’s food lab they do a bit of hokus pocus but still with focus on flavors and that it should taste good. There is an Indian twist, but not too forceful to take the focus off the culinary experience. This is very hard to achieve, so thats why M and I disaggreed on the first spot for food in our ranking. Nahm was good, but nothing that stood out from a good hotel restaurant anywhere in the world. Service in general lacks behind Europe and the US, but perhaps it is also how we want to be served compared to what the local culture considers valuable.
As I mentioned before, the lack of wine would perhaps be compensated by some refreshing cocktails. In general, I must say I was a bit disappointed at many bars we looked at. Even the Speakeasy on the rooftop of our hotel, The Muse, that was supposed to be one of the best in town was very average. I guess they ranked it based on the view. Cocktail list consist mainly of Mojitos, Martinis and the occasional Sex on the beach. This is what I can get at the local pub, equally boring and poorly made. I guess I was hoping for some nice fruity Daiqiris and a lot of stuff with lemongrass and ginger. But the three restaurants mentioned above did not disappoint in this area either. Gaggan had several pages of drinks under the title Mixology (yes a lot of smoke and dry ice) and Issaya walked the extra mile in both fresh ingredients and look of the cocktails. So we cast aside the wine lists and had some coctails together with our food. I am not a huge fan of the concept, but especially with some spicy Thai cuisine, a fresh cocktail works better than many wines.
Thats it for Wineweek 10. Next week will bring some more beach to the picture with posts from Samui. You can also expect more on street food, reviews from London (to keep up the focus on wine) and Ms coffee reviews. Btw. Did you know that coffee has around 1500 different tastes as opposed to wine having only 200. That my friends is why coffee deserves its own reviews. It is such an interesting subject that we have taken it as permanent part of our blog.