March 2, 2016

Return to Thailand day 3: the long walk to the Club

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Another day in Bangkok means another day of eating.  We start the day with lunch at Issaya Siamese Club, the celebrated flagship restaurant of Chef "Ian" Kittichai which had just clinched the No. 19 spot on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna.  I had the pleasure of visiting the Hong Kong outpost a couple of months ago, so I was pretty exciting about going to "the original".

We were debating about whether to take a taxi or public transport.  Just 3 days ago, the Great One had gotten lost in a taxi trying to get there... and in fact never made it to an event there.  With that in mind, I looked at the almighty Google Maps and figured that we should opt for public transport, since the restaurant looked like it was just 300m away from the Khlong Toei MRT station.

What I should have done, though, was to take a closer look at Google Maps - especially the satellite version.  After walking to within less than 100m of the restaurant, I realized that there was an impenetrable wall standing between us which made it impossible for us to reach the restaurant...  The only solution was to backtrack, then do a huge loop around the alleys.  That took us about 20 minutes, and I'm pretty sure both the Great One and HaoKouFu were cursing me under their breaths...  Along the way, we did see signs at various turns which point to the direction of the restaurant... so I guess taking a taxi would have made sense...

We were hot and thirsty when we finally sat down, so we ordered a round of fresh pomelo juice.  That really hit the spot.

After a quick discussion, the four of us chose not to take the set menus on offer.  Instead we would pick and choose à la carte, and each of us ended up choosing something... although a few items we wanted were not available.

Yum hua plee : Banana blossom and heart of palm salad, crispy shallots and roasted peanuts in a chili jam dressing - I really liked this dish when I visited the Hong Kong outpost, so I ordered it again.  While this looked similar to what I had in Hong Kong, the size had shrunk by half... I like the mélange of textures and flavors from the heart of palm, banana blossom, desiccated coconut, and deep-fried shallots, but thanks to the heavy flavor profile, I seemed to be the only one...

Koi nua: 240 days grain-fed Australian Black Angus beef tartare with northern Thai dried spices, sawtooth coriander, poached egg yolk and chili - another pretty presentation, using ox bone to serve the beef tartare.  They're also using the wild pepper leaves (ชะพลู) which is often used in miang kam (เมี่ยงคำ).

This was a little acidic and spicy.  The texture was real smooth, and some of us would have preferred it to be a little chewier with chunks.

Kradook moo aob sauce : Spice rubbed pork baby back ribs glazed with Issaya house-blended chili paste - I ordered this again since I loved it in Hong Kong.  But today this didn't work out so well.  The pork ribs were much bigger today, but the pieces had a lot of cartilage.  For some reason we weren't given knives, and when we first asked for them, we were told that we didn't need knives because the pork was so tender it would just fall off the bone...

Well, that didn't work.  The pork didn't fall off the bone, and we did need knives to cut the cartilage.  We finally got some knives when we asked for them a second time.

Poa pia Issaya : steamed soft summer roll with spiced chicken, goon chiang pork sausage, bean sprouts, garlic chives and Issaya chili sauce - these tasted alright, but not particularly outstanding.

Nua sun seaklong : beef short ribs twice cooked until succulent and tender with a wok-seared, sweet chili-lime dipping sauce - this was fantastic.  As described, the beef was very tender.  It was served with two very different types of dipping sauce, providing a nice contrast.

Geang kamin : Royal King's Project vegetables in coconut milk and homemade yellow curry - we needed some veg, and this veg curry seemed to be a good way to get both our curry and veg fix in one way.  Very rich and creamy.

Wok sautéed short grain rice with "hed por" : Asian multigrains, Chiang Mai mushrooms and garlic sprinkled with mushroom-scented oil - this was very, very tasty.  Lots of oil to make things taste good, and of course mushroom and garlic don't hurt, either!  This was great with the veggie curry.

Since Chef Ian's wife Sarah knows the Great One, some desserts magically appeared on our table...

Kanom tung taek : cold coconut crepe soufflé with a variety of Thai condiments - this was done tableside, with banana leaves placed on the table.  Then the five condiments - coconut sauce, shredded coconut with white sesame, passion fruit foam, mulberry foam, and crispy rice crumble - were spread on top of the leaves.

Then a chocolate "rice bowl" containing the crepes was dropped onto the table and "broken"...

In the end we each picked up a chunk of the crêpes...

and had it with the collection of fruity foams.

Then came the rest of the desserts, again note the very pretty presentation...

The presentation case on the left carried three items:

Tao thong "ladybug" : soft cheesecake dome filled with mulberry gelee, chocolate feuillantine dacquoise and glazed with ruby white chocolate miroir

Maekhong baba : a baba soaked in a Thai rum syrup served with coconut whipped cream, fresh fruits and pandan sauce

Honey financier with mulberry sauce

There were a few other petits fours, but I was only interested in the salted egg macarons, which were smoked in a jar and turned out to be pretty tasty.

HaoKouFu took a jibe at me by suggesting that I would like the cotton candy, because they were a little floral...

This was a very relaxing lunch, in a nice and comfortable setting.  The food was definitely very pretty, or "Instagramable" in today's parlance.  While the food tasted reasonably good, I was hoping for a few more "wow"s...  Oh well, maybe next time.

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