Jnauary 2017 Update: Issaya Siamese Club has closed down.
Causeway Bay brings to mind images of bustling shops and over-crowded streets. A day spent roaming the malls can leave one feeling weary, overwhelmed and in need of a break. Enter Issaya Siamese Club, a new Thai eatery and sister to the acclaimed Bangkok locale of the same name, named one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, and helmed by famous chef Ian Kittichai, who faithfully visits his Hong Kong outpost every month. When we found out that Issaya had launched a vegetarian set menu featuring scores of vegan and gluten-free friendly dishes, we knew we had to try it.
The first thing one notices upon entering Issaya is the incredible attention to detail on the decor front, though perhaps that is to be expected one from the likes of Hong Kong interior design firm Charlie and Rose. The dark wood bar is the first thing that catches the eye and it is adorned with gorgeous multi-colored glass lamps. The room is spacious and luxurious with hand-painted wallpaper and funky patterned pillows. Everything is sourced from Thailand, including the handcrafted dishes and unique hollow stem cutlery, lending a feeling of authenticity and elegance.Even the menus are a cut above, covered in fabric from famed silk company Jim Thompson. It was a gorgeously sunny day when we visited, so we chose a table on their large balcony and enjoyed towering city views. In addition they also have rooms for private dining.
We started our meal with cool and creamy coconut milk Thai Iced Teas, technically not on the menu but made to accommodate our dairy-free needs. The first course followed, a selection of three appetizers including the Yum Hau Plee which is a crunchy and delicate salad of banana blossoms and hearts of palm. Topped with fried shallots and drizzled with chili jam, the flavors blended beautifully; the Makur Aob Sauce a mouth-wateringly delicious and oh-so savoury slow-roasted eggplant covered in a thick, smoky miso-chilli sauce; and the Larb Pak Soda, a lovely blend of colours and textures. Every bite of the salad was crisp and refreshing, with white cabbage and Japanese cucumbers along side Honshimeji mushrooms and shallots.
The roasted sticky rice dressing was light and not too sweet, and made especially fragrant by the purple basil leaves that Issaya flies in directly from Thailand. While the herbs are sourced from their hometown to ensure authenticit, Issaya does with local and organic farms to procure its veggie as often as possible, bringing us the best of both (produce) worlds.
Thailand is known for its soups and Issaya’s did not disappoint. The Dtom Klong Hed is a clear mushroom broth flavored with shallots and fried chili, pungent with lemongrass and slightly sour from the addition of tamarind.
The mains arrive and are served with Wok Sauteed Short Grain Rice with “Her Por”. This very nutty lightly fried “rice” is a mixture of multiple grains and legumes. It is uniquly served in a sleek black canister that keeps everything warm. Issaya focuses on their presenation the entire meal also serving the Pad-Fukthong Yee-Poon and Geang Leung Pak Root Vegetables in beautiful bowls placed on a wooden board.
Next came two takes on root veggies. The Pad-Fukthong Yee-Poon is a dish of savoury Japanese Kabocha pumpkin that was perfectly cooked and covered in a light oyster sauce. The curry dish, (and what would a Thai meal be without a curry!) was a glorious blend of spicy with a hint of sweetness: taro and potato slices were braised in a coconut milk and turmeric gravy, and topped with flowering Indian spinach buds, the likes of which we had never tried before but absolutely loved!
Finally, our sweet tooth was indulged. Issaya takes dessert seriously. Whilst all of their chefs are Thai, they make an exception for their pastry chefs. Here as well the options are free-from friendly with truly special dishes such as the Kanom Cake Mapraw Aob Tien Salim, which is young coconut cheese smoked in-house using traditional Thai candles and served with a tropical fruit foam. The dessert menu also makes use of the bountiful selection of Thai fruits with items including Jackfruit Semifreddo and Mulberry Sorbet many of which are inspired by traditional street food.
We tried the Kanom Dok Mali, a jasmine panna cotta, wrapped in a banana leaf that is dramatically opened at the table by the server, revealing the creamy panna cotta hidden inside. Served with fragrant jasmine rice ice cream and jasmine rice tuile as well as rice puffs and dragon fruit pieces, the dessert is a win of pleasurable textures. Finally we enjoyed the house specialty, Salty Egg, Mulberry, and Thai Tea Macaroons– the perfect ending to an indulgent and perfectly executed vegetarian feast!
25/F, Soundwill Plaza II – Midtown, 1 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay. +852 2154 3048. Sunday to Thursday 11:45AM – 3PM, 6PM – 12AM. Friday to Saturday 11:45AM – 3PM, 6PM – Late. For bookings, visit their website.
All images by Green Queen.