Italics restaurant, Chiang Mai: review
The brand new Italics restaurant on Nimmanhaemin soi 9 is SO FANCY!
Last Friday, Andy and I were invited to eat dinner at Italics by head chef Phubase.
I looked at Italic's website and I was so excited. The restaurant inside the new five-star hotel Akyra Manor Chiang Mai looked incredibly elegant, and the description was full of phrases like "innovative concept", "culinary wunderkind" and "next-level Italian cuisine that deconstructs & re-imagines classic dishes".
|Screenshot from Italics website|
Next-level, innovative, deconstructed Italian food? How could I refuse!
We put on our fancy-clothes and rocked up outside the restaurant on our motorbike, which I suspect isn't the way most customers arrive. Our dirty little Honda Click was hilariously out of place among the expensive shiny black beast cars in the underground car park!
We were guided inside the restaurant by a guard, which made me feel pretty special. I was blown away by the sumptuous interior! It seemed like a thousand candles were floating in the air. It reminded me instantly of a modern-chic version of the magical Great Hall in Hogwarts Castle, from Harry Potter. In Italics, it wasn't magic (sadly) - the effect was cleverly created with a black reflective ceiling and lots of shiny floor-to-ceiling windows. The seating was a mix of heavy black leather chairs and black rattan sofa-benches upholstered with a beautiful white and deep berry-red forest pattern.
We chose a table close to the final prep area, so I could watch chefs and waiters putting the finishing touches on all the dishes being sent from the kitchen. I loved peeking over my shoulder to see the team so carefully adding cream to the top of a beautifully presented dessert, and watching Phubase intently oversee the placement of food on plates. The waiter introduced himself and bought me wine, and Andy had strawberry iced tea. The wine!! It wasn't Mont Clair! It was posh Chianti, and it was so smooth, and rich, and delicious. I drank lots throughout the evening, haha! The waiter, Bomb, was professional and attentive the whole time we were there. I really liked him.
We began with a complimentary bread basket served with pesto, then straw baked mussels and cheese board. The mussels were delicious, served with a fresh, slightly spicy salsa. I love that Phubase served them in the tinfoil tray he baked them in, complete with straw and everything. But oh my word, the cheese board. It had strong Stilton cheese on it. Even though the cheese board was technically Andy's starter, I stole quite a lot of that. Sorry Andy.
Mains were equally delicious. I had steak, Andy had vegetarian pizza. Whenever I went to a restaurant with my mum, she used to tell me that steak is almost always cooked more thoroughly than how you ask for it. "Ask for medium-rare," she said, "and you'll get medium." Remembering this advice, and not really minding whether I got medium-rare or medium, I ordered medium-rare. Tadaaah, ten points for Phubase! It was the perfect medium-rare. My steak was served with local mushrooms, rocket leaves, potato and cheese (!) croquette and delicious red wine sauce in a tiny, impossibly heavy, black iron pan.
Andy's wood-fired pizza was thin-crust and topped with a colourful array of Chiang Mai Royal Project vegetables. His pizza was served with a huge condiment shelf with little pots of herbs, spices and - most importantly - Tabasco sauce. Andy confirmed that his pizza was super tasty and would definitely order it again, mostly because of the ultra-flavourful vegetables.
After dinner, it was getting late and we were the only ones left in the restaurant.
Phubase sat with us at my invitation, and we spent a good half hour chatting about his career, his food, vegetarianism, things to do in Chiang Mai and where we liked to go out at night. He's a great man to talk with. Phubase explained that it's very important to him to support local businesses, which is one of the main reasons why he buys vegetables from the Royal Project and sources almost all cheese from a Chiang Rai dairy. After a while, Phubase recommended that I try Italic's signature cocktail, so I did!
I love creamy cocktails, and this one was exceptional. Part of its beauty was in its simplicity - only three ingredients: premium vodka, buffalo milk and a drop of cinnamon syrup. Excitingly, it was served over dry ice, so had mist floating off it. It was SO pretty and reminded me of Christmas! When on a night out in Chiang Mai, I would go to Italics restaurant just to enjoy cocktails in a gorgeous setting if I wasn't feeling hungry!
I asked Phubase which was the best dessert. There was a little deliberation between the tiramasu and banana cheesecake, but the winner was ... banana cheesecake! (Thank goodness, because I was secretly hoping it would be, haha). Yep, he was right. It was so creamy, and thick, slightly sweet and super cheesy, with banana slices and very chocolatey chocolate shaved on top. Perfection. I was kinda tipsy by this point after all the Chianti wine and a cocktail, and in a complete pudding-heaven. It was great.
Andy tried a bit of cheesecake and wished he'd ordered his own. Tough luck, matey.
As Marissa pointed out on my Instagram photo above, the Nimmanhaemin area is getting fancier by the minute, and Italics is probably the fanciest of them all.