Issaya Siamese Club, #21 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants

It took until day four during my trip to Thailand to actually enjoy Thai food.  I was supposed to go to #5 ranked Nahm, but a wretched food poisoning attack sidelined me from going (and I never get sick like that).  Therefore, coming off of a #21 placement the night before, I was delighted to visit the stately older home (built in 1914) where Issaya Siamese Club resides.  Complete in bright colors and with both indoor and outdoor seating, the interior of the restaurant feels a bit like stepping into the past.  Given the modern and more stylized venues we had visited previously, the decor at Issaya was a definite departure.  Personally, I like a fine dining experience to come with all the bells and whistles of a contemporary restaurant, but I think part of Issaya’s charm is its antiquated charm.

As my dining partner and I scanned the menu, I was beyond impressed when the kitchen produced a full list that completely reviewed the allergies of my friend.  As we (I bet you can guess who it is) dine together quite often, I’ve never seen a single restaurant produce such a comprehensive list to check against allergens.  Should you be a sensitive diner, or have any concerns about dining at Issaya, rest assured they will take excellent care of you.

To start even though I was testing out how reliant my stomach was having not eaten in 24 hours the Coriander Mojito (THB350) was just what the doctor ordered (with cilantro an ingredient I will add to my mojitos going forward).  After perusing the menu, we decided on Tuna Tartare and a beef dish to start let’s blame my sickness the day before for not getting coverage of the menu and pricing for these appetizers, yes?6243764832_img_2452

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However good these appetizers were, they couldn’t compare to one of my favorite dishes of the trip.

If you only order one thing…

Think of the best ribs you’ve ever had.  Now, think again.  Kradook Moo Aob (that’s Spice Rub Pork Baby Back Ribs) was one of my favorite things I had during our entire culinary tour of Bangkok.  Sweet, spicy, fatty, tender, it’s everything I ever wanted and what I will judge all future ribs against.  Nope, I’m not kidding.

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As we were planning a meal at Gaggan in the evening, we decided to keep to a smaller selection of the menu for our main dishes.  My main, Geang Kraree Gai Krob (THB580, yellow curry, crispy chicken leg, and sweet potatoes) had a comprehensive level of flavor — subtle sweetness from both peanuts and coconut milk paired with perfectly crispy (if a bit bland) chicken with sweet potato as the right starch to accompany the dish.
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Across the table, my friend ordered Nua Sun Seaklong (THB1,350, beef short ribs cooked twice with sweet chili lime dipping sauce) which although the presentation was phenomenal and the serving size quite large, to me, was also quite bland.  In all honesty, neither of the proteins packed the same awesome punch of the ribs (to the point that I thought both were rather lacking in taste).

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For dessert, the exciting and signature banana leaf surprise (complete with dry ice) was created in front of us.  We were also given the Piggy Bank Vacherin (THB240).  As unexciting as the main dishes were, the sweets at the end added quite a bit of flare, with plenty of drama (and nothing too sweet).  If dining with a group, this would be a fun finish.

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Controversial statement (don’t worry, I’ve got a few coming from this trip): I don’t agree with the placement of Issaya on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list.  While I’m not completely versed in the nuances of the many Asian cities that make up the list, and, don’t get me wrong — Issaya put up some flavorful plates, but other than the ribs, there was nothing truly memorable.  I’ve had better experiences around the world (and in Asia — BLANCO Par Mandif still seems like a gross oversight).  Similarly, I was shocked to see Locavore had the largest climb in the list.  For a restaurant that serves premixed drinks, provides basic service and only one bathroom, I would love to query some of those involved to walk me through the thought process of these placements.  Of course, the obvious note here is that while I’m a food blogger, I certainly carry no voting power, nor am I involved in any professional capacity with the big names in the fine dining game.  In the end, we’re all allowed our own opinions.  What works for some, doesn’t necessarily always work for others.

So, would I go back to Issaya?  Yes, and here’s why (and no, not because it’s on the list).  The pork was out of this world, the value for money is fantastic, and the desserts were inventive.  While Issaya Siamese Club was not my favorite meal, I do believe there is something to be said for tradition.

Do you have a restaurant that you think should be on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list?  I’d love to hear it!

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Author. Expat. Saberer of champagne. You might also know me as Courtney Brandt.

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