When pregnancy cravings hit, you need something fantastic to stem the stomach-curling desire. Chef Ian Kittichai’s Koh at the InterContinental Marine Drive, seemed like a promising addition to my rather exclusive list, from the moment I heard Deepika Padukone tweeting about how great the food is and my own cousin mentioning the presence of the rather elusive massamun curry on the menu.
On a Thursday evening the Manhattan-style Asian bistro is filled with a lively crowd of familiar and international faces. Where Czar once pulsated with desi tracks, its replacement, Koh’s muted restro-lounge atmosphere is at once sophisticated and global. Propped with comfortable cushions on a table for two that’s too closely set to make it an intimate dining experience, I’m floored by the facing glass wall mural created by Thai artist Patcharapon ‘Alex’ Tangruen. The mural defines the space and cuisine – traditional roots, contemporary accents. You suspect you won’t taste the conventional here, even if the chef has drawn from the flavours of his youth: his own mother’s kitchen.
Evocative fresh fruit signature cocktails with antioxidants (Gojiberry bellinis) set the tone for the flavourful and delicately-spiced food. Steamed edamame dusted with sea salt and Thai spices for the table, followed by appetizers that make you not want to save room for the mains. ‘Chocolat’ baby back ribs (coated with dusky chocolate), an unrivalled palate-opener, juxtaposed in quick succession with stems of stout lemon grass covered with flame-grilled chicken accented with coconut and cilantro make for a delicious first offering. In fine contrast is the hand-pounded rock corn minced with spices, and the tofu…. So, I confess, I hate tofu. Even Morimoto’s tofu couldn’t convert me, but I feel unable to turn down the mild-mannered and unassuming Chef Kittichai’s suggestion of a jasmine tea-smoked tofu. Surprisingly, it lacks tofu’s usual rude texture and it is smooth as butter. The aubergine dish, though tasty enough, has a tough skin texture, leaving it difficult to manipulate while eating. After soaking in the stunning Koh golden corn gumbo – hand-pressed corn swirling in coconut broth laced with Thai basil oil; we’re all set to move to entrees.
Composed of a wide variety of freshly-imported greens and vegetables (I add crisp water chestnuts), the ‘Paneang Curry’ is perfect for my taste buds, while what the general Indian palate may scream for is the hot stone curry-spiced rice – which is akin to a Thai biryani. My husband, Sahil, takes the chef’s apt suggestion and goes with the Chilean sea bass coated with a yellow-bean glaze: a fresh offering that lives up to its promise. You are surprised how easily the hours get eaten up while you are being gastronomically appeased. In entirety, the meal leaves nothing wanting, especially when topped off with the luscious valhorna chocolate dessert accompanied by Thai coffee ice cream. Oh and did I mention the coconut cheesecake? Absolutely lovely. My only regret is being physically unable to sample all the tempting flavours on the menu – but that’s for another evening, another craving.
– Chef Kittichai’s favourite ingredient that shares its home with India and Thailand is cumin.
– All the ingredients at Koh are imported: meats thrice weekly from different parts of the world, vegetables thrice weekly from Bangkok and Chiang Mai and condiments weekly from Bangkok.
– Come October, Koh plans to add a Jain version to the already extensive menu and its varied vegetarian offerings.
– When travelling you can sample Ian Kittichai’s cooking at Kittichai in Manhattan, Restaurant Murmuri in Barcelona and the gastro bar Hyde and Seek in Bangkok.