One of the hottest places to eat in Bangkok also doubles up as a place where you can soak in the finest Thai culinary culture
Issaya Siamese Club is a restaurant inside a Thai home, that is over 90-years-old already. The cuisine is Thai (cooked up with both local and international ingredients) and it belongs to the first celebrity chef from Thailand, Ian Chalermkittichai, who has been cooking for more than twenty years now. His restaurants pepper London, New York City and Mumbai, all starry-eyed but Issaya Siamese Club is different because it reigns in the atmosphere of Thailand, with a lot of vibrancy (in particular, during the evening, when the whole complex is lit up with floodlights of golden yellow), which is top-notch because it replaces “the overdone tourist atmosphere”, with the traditional. The restaurant’s first floor is both blue and pink, boasting enormous windows that let the sun in; the second floor has a private dining room; there is an outdoor terrace garden, that has antique tables and beanbags (good for chilled drinks), and the garden is also where the plants and herbs directly come from, after being grown organically.
Ian started off small at first, helping out his mother with her food stall, and now he owns a restaurant in his own country that spells out as “rain” in ancient Thai. His mother was a simple vegetable grocer, primarily, but she would also stock meat and fish, and Ian’s job back-in-the-day was to sell her curries-on-the-street. After school, which would end around 3:00pm or 4:00pm, Ian would follow his mother to sell street curries on a cart, for long hours, in the same neighbourhood, where he resided; over the weekend, Ian’s job was to select items from vendors and markers, for his mother’s grocery cart. Ian’s experience of Mumbai really has been very different to his globetrotting experience because so many of the Indian population are natural vegetarians, but one cannot change their ways – if Ian had to, he would choose from his restaurant in Mumbai, a Thai-style salad, and a jasmine-flower-flan, which instantly recreates Thailand in your memory.
When Ian was very young, he would also spend a lot of time studying the biographies of chefs, cookbooks, how various chefs opened their restaurants, who would dine in them, and now he utilises all of his life experiences to snap out one great dish after another; Ian is also a long-time “Iron Chef” from “Iron Chef Thailand”, and he dreams of one day nationally popularising cooking with local produce, from farms in Thailand. The Asian dishes at Issaya Siamese Club are tasty, seasonal produce from the market are carefully curated, and picks come very fresh from the farm, which make it very hard to select favourites: massaman lamb curry, banana leaf/blossom salad (fresh and deep-fried) that has ingredients like roasted peanuts, a kind of a mucky tamarind and chilli paste, and crispy shallots, and a chopped salad, with vegetables from the market, jasmine rice and tamarind, Kao yum Bangkok.