Restaurant Review: Koh by Chef Ian Kittichai

Restaurant Review: Koh by Chef Ian Kittichai

Nowshad Rizwanullah
Thai poem
Thai poem
Koh, Intercontinental Marine Drive
Koh, Intercontinental Marine Drive

Ian Kittichai and MissMalini
Ian Kittichai and MissMalini
Screen-shot-2010-09-01-at-4.23.53-PM

If you’ve done the rounds of all of Mumbai’s swanky restaurants (twice) and are looking for a new super special romantic date spot I know just the place for you! (in fact Sachin Tendulkar, Deepika Padukone and Siddhartha Mallya appear to be in agreement considering they were spotted dining there soon after it opened, Deepika even tweeted about it while she was there!) Koh by Ian Kittichai is a fully revamped and refurbished Thai restaurant where Czar Bar used to be. (Thankfully they’ve kept their legendary LIIT’s on the menu.) We spent a fabulous evening in the company of Romil Ratra (GM of the Intercontinental) and Chef Ian Kittichai himself (who turned out to have quite an extraordinary story and an absolutely delightful demeanor.) I also think its super cute that his wife loves paneer so much that her recent Facebook status said “Sarah wishes she was a giant piece of paneer!”

Koh, Intercontinental Marine Drive
Koh, Intercontinental Marine Drive
Koh, Intercontinental Marine Drive
Koh, Intercontinental Marine Drive
Koh, Intercontinental Marine Drive
Koh, Intercontinental Marine Drive
Koh, Intercontinental Marine Drive
Koh, Intercontinental Marine Drive
Romil Ratra and Ian Kittichai
Romil Ratra and Ian Kittichai

I love that the place is decked out in royal shades of gold & purple and there’s a giant poem on the far side about people enjoying a meal together. (Its true Romil, friends who drink together, stay together!) You can even go a tad early and enjoy a cocktail at the bar where a live DJ spins out the perfect blend of lounge. And now, since we all know who the foodie in this relationship is,  its over to the boyfriend again for dope on the dishes!
MissMalini recommends: Edemane with dry red chili & sea salt and the to-die-for yummy-licious Chilean Seabass.

Koh, Food Guide by Nowshad Rizwanullah

Nowshad Rizwanullah
Nowshad Rizwanullah

When Chef Ian Kittichai replied “Som Tum” to my question about his favorite Thai dish, I had a feeling we were in for a treat. The spicy, tangy Thai salad made from shredded green papayas has long been my go-to Thai dish, and I was excited to see what flavors Kittichai would choose to highlight in his new menu at Koh.

Amuse Bouche
Amuse Bouche

Our meal opened with a complementary Amuse Bouche – a crispy shell filled with a variety of flavors and textures, including soft peas, crunchy peanuts, mild chilies, Thai basil (which has a slight licorice taste), subtle coconut and spicy ginger, among other ingredients.Every bite revealed a new flavor and was a good introduction to some of the predominant themes of our meal.

babt
Chocolate Baby Back Ribs, Yellowfin Tuna Ceviche and Edamame

We moved on to three appetizers, amongst which the Yellowfin Tuna Ceviche was our clear favorite. Served more like a carpaccio in paper-thin slices, the imported Japanese tuna was topped with a generous dressing of fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime, fresh mint and nam pla (fish sauce). While this didn’t necessarily allow for the full flavor of the tuna to shine through, for Thai salad lovers such as myself it was a lipsmacking experience (figuratively and quite literally – Thai salad dressings can have a tart edge to them, which I greatly enjoy). This was accompanied by a bowl of Edamame – steamed and kicked up a notch with crushed dry red chili and sea salt – a nice twist on a familiar treat. The ‘Chocolat’ Baby Back Ribs were perhaps the biggest disappointment of the night – having read all about them in other reviews, this was the dish I was most excited to try. While the chocolate sauce covering the ribs was an interesting innovation (slightly spiced, similar to a Mexican mole), the meat itself was bland, and somewhat chewy – not fall-off-the-bone tender as good ribs should be.

Chilean Sea Bass
Chilean Seabass

But if there was any disappointment there, it was quickly erased by our first main course – the outstanding Chilean Seabass. Prepared in a savory sweet “salted yellow bean glaze”, the buttery fish was cooked to melt-in-your mouth perfection. Equally well made was the still-crunchy baby bok choi it was paired with (note: this may have been any one of the other dozens of similar looking east Asian greens – but it was delicious!). It is no exaggeration that by the end we were scraping the bottom of the plate hoping to find stray pieces of overlooked fish – wishful thinking as I was not about to let any of it go uneaten.

Thai Green Curry
Thai Green Curry

We were also served a vegetarian Thai Green Curry, the base of which is made using hot basil and kaffir lime and hand ground just minutes before it is cooked. While we found it to be slightly too rich for our tastes, it had a pleasant contrast between tender eggplant and crunchy watercress that had us dipping in for seconds. All of this was eaten with Hot Stone Roasted Garlic Rice – a self-explanatory rice dish that is mixed live at the table in what is perhaps a little too much fanfare for an ultimately unremarkable dish. I did, however, enjoy the crunchy bits or toasted rice that came off the bottom of the hot stone bowl, which gave it more personality than the usual Thai fried rice offerings.

Jasmine
Jasmine Panacotta

We closed with a delightful Jasmine Panacotta – creamy but not too rich, firm but not gelatinous, perfumed but not overpowering. The Chocolate Flourless Cake was also well made, and is apparently quickly becoming a fan favorite for the waist-conscious (don’t ask me to explain this one).

Koh, Intercontinental Marine Drive
Koh, Intercontinental Marine Drive

Overall, we left the restaurant full and satisfied, but wondering if we had truly gotten the full experience. There were several other tantalizing dishes on the menu that we would have loved to try – many interesting seafood specialties in particular – but we chose to allow the manger (not chef) highlight some of his favorites.  Based on some of our preferred dishes of the night, however, we have very high hopes for the rest of the menu. Kittichai clearly knows how to manipulate and accentuate the best of signature Thai flavors, and this is too varied a menu to judge based on one sitting. But we’re not sweating it – if not for that Seabass alone, we’re definitely coming back to try the rest. At least the Som Tum.