by Dana Smith
When I first traveled to Bangkok a few years ago, an expatriate friend who was living in the city at the time invited me for dinner. He texted me the address for Issaya Siamese Club, and having already been a fan of the kingdom’s famed flavorful and spicy cuisine, I was looking forward to a more modern and upscale approach to the food. The menu is designed by one of Thailand’s most prestigious culinary masters, Chef Ian Kittichai.
When I visited the websites and checked reviews for Issaya Siamese Club online before dinner, I could see that the restaurant had garnered several awards and very high reviews.
This made me even more excited for dinner. By late afternoon, I decided to hire a cab instead of taking the train, which I usually did for every other destination I had in Bangkok. Issaya Siamese Club is set in a hidden location; away from the maddening crowds and rush hour chaos of Bangkok.
While in the cab, we got a little lost; the language barrier didn’t help much. We ended up in secluded streets and the cab slowed down its speed so that I could take a careful look at every establishment we passed.
After stopping several times to ask locals for help, we finally made it to Issaya Siamese Club by dusk. I paid the cab and left a tip, and wasn’t prepared for what greeted me.
I slowly walked into a beautiful garden where colorful bean bags and a few umbrellas were placed. It felt like I was stepping back in time, walking into a white colonial mansion framed by manicured bushes, bougainvillas, and lush greenery while the setting sun painted shades of pastel and pink in the sky above.
Since I was early for dinner, I decided to order a refreshing cocktail: a coriander mojito served in a copper goblet, which I sipped while sitting down in one of the bean bags in the garden.
After a few minutes, my friend and his companions arrived and we picked a table out in the terrace. He gave me a tour of the restaurant and it became clear to me why Issaya Siamese Club is his favorite place to take friends who are visiting Bangkok. The interiors of the house betrayed the elegant white façade: bright hues of blues, greens, and pinks colored the walls inside the restaurant, punctuated by tropical flowers in vases, exquisite furniture, and magnificent wooden chairs which had a design of lotus flowers carved out onto them.
Then he showed us the restaurant’s herb and vegetable garden right by the terrace which is where the cooks obtain their fresh ingredients from. Walk right past it and you can smell the aroma of pungent herbs that Thailand is known for.
I gave my friend the liberty of doing all the ordering, since he already knew what the specialties were. Issaya Siamese Club is known for their modern take on Thai cuisine, which I already knew was a treat for the senses. Each plate served to us was not only delicious but presented so beautifully and elegantly, making use of fresh leaves from the garden and elegant tableware – there is no surprise why I greeted each dish with “oooh” and “aaah!”.
We feasted on grilled beef that falls off the bone, turnips, and salmon dishes. For dessert, we had a stunning jasmine panacotta and a green tea crème brulee, all of which also felt too beautiful to eat.
We capped off the night with a few more house cocktails and made our way back to the heart of Bangkok city. Issaya Siamese Club will always stand out as one of the best restaurants in Asia, and one that I always recommend to anyone traveling to Bangkok.