Dining Highlights at Iconsiam

Iconsiam gives city slickers plenty of reasons to cross the Chao Phraya River. Besides its retail extravaganza of well-known brands and architectural wonders and art, Iconsiam's dining options across seven zones are impressive, too. I ate my way through them to give you some highlights.

The Hub Cafe and Eatery.

Dining in the Garden at The Veranda

On the ground floor, The Veranda features 16 noted restaurants (to be 20 in near future) in a beautiful garden setting with a river view. With a very high ceiling and the world's largest pillar-less glass facade, the zone is so airy and bright.

Following its two-year-old first branch on Rama IX, The Hub Cafe and Eatery opens its new outlet to serve a full menu of Thai, fusion and western dishes in a stylish/retro atmosphere. I started with soothing sips from Early Grey Rose Milk Tea (B120), which contained sweet-scented tea underneath a thick prelude of foam, but the price is pretty steep for its size. Fried rice noodle with seafood and fried egg (B280) was a sizeable dish well done. A poke of fork into the fried egg caused yolk lava to run over the tender-yet-bouncy sen yai. The squid rings weren't rubbery while two sizeable shrimps were cooked just right, remaining somewhat crunchy. Spaghetti spinach pesto chicken (B280) was another hearty dish. The home-made spinach pasta was cooked al dente and the chicken was moist on the inside with crispy skin on top but the dish could use a bit more seasoning. Nutella white malt (B180) is being festive with chocolate leaves on top until Jan only. Despite having whipped cream and hazelnut sauce, this rich drink wasn't overly sweet and was smooth in texture.

The Hub Cafe and Eatery (www.fb.com/thehubcafeandeatery, 092-789-7181) opens 10am-10pm every day. Near TWG. A good choice for casual dining with a lot of choices to choose from.

True coffee connoisseurs with sizeable wallets should stop by Red Diamond Cafe on the same floor. Its location next to an escalator makes it easy to find this speciality cafe. Red Diamond's founder Woody is an instructor certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America and Europe. He founded Specialty Coffee Institute of Thailand in Lat Prao 71, after years of importing coffee machines and sourcing beans from around the world, and opened the first Red Diamond Cafe on the corner where Sangkhom Songkhro and Pradit Manutham meet. If you have no idea where the said two roads are, now you can easily find Red Diamond's new branch at Iconsiam.

This is no ordinary cafe as you start by choosing which way you want your coffee be prepared -- undercounter Mavam Espresso machine, Alpha Dominche's Steampunk machine or Poursteady -- and then choose the type of bean sourced from different continents. The sheer number of choices may look overwhelming but don't worry as the young baristas can advise you. I had Black diamond blend prepared as Double Dirty (B210). This medium-strength gave off pleasant note of chocolate and caramel while the ring of chocolate sauce inside the cup made it more enjoyable. Panama Geisha Kotowa -- Wine Process is the second most expensive bean and I had it done hand drip (B500). It gave off both fruity and floral hint with no bitter aftertaste. The price to enjoy an exotic cup of joe here isn't cheap, obviously, but you can always go for something simple like Ice caffee latte (B140). Red Diamond opens everyday from 10am-10pm but until midnight on Fri and Sat.


Icon Dining Rooms on Fifth Floor

The fifth floor of Iconsiam is another foodies' playground, housing household restaurants for family dining and small cafes for a quick refreshment. But only a handful of restaurants have private balconies where diners can enjoy the Chao Phraya River view and breeze, and the new branch of Kub Kao Kub Pla ("dishes to be eaten with rice" in Thai but also a play on its founder's nickname) is one of them. Atchara "Pla" Burarak successfully ran iBerry dessert cafes before branching out into the savoury side with this noted homemade-style Thai restaurant. Deep-fried sea bass topped with crispy lemongrass and tamarind sauce (B650) is a stable in many Thai joints and Kub Kao Kub Pla does it justice. The fish was crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. Whole dried chilli may look intimating for those with geographical tongues but the sweet and sour tamarind sauce should offer some buffer. For extra crunch and aroma, have the delicious fish with lemongrass. Granita yuzu cream cheese (B159) was a refreshing treat, which gave you that crunchy and icy texture in every bite and hid pieces of butter cake underneath. Matcha bubble milk tea with cream cheese (B129) combines two trends in one cup -- cheese tea and boba tea -- and is very filling for a drink. This multi-layers delight contains from the bottom up -- matcha pudding, tapioca balls, matcha with milk, cream cheese and sprinkle of genmai (roasted popped brown rice). No two sips are quite the same as it has several things to enjoy but I dug the smoky and crunchy touch from genmai. Kub Kao Kub Pla opens 10am-10pm daily and make reservations on 02-118-7505 or 063-535-2832.

The Hub Cafe and Eatery.

Alangkarn on Sixth Floor

The Alangkarn (spectacular in Thai) zone on the six floor lives up to its name with an indoor waterfall, which beautifully drops 17m from the ceiling, and a stylish setting inspired by rice field complete with pavilions that house notable names such as Sushi Den, The Bibimbab, Thipsamai and farmfactory. Further away from the waterfall, you can find even more cafes and restaurants. However, what caught my eyes was the first outlet of Saro lotus tea. Those who have been to Dean & Deluca and a few leading hotels may be aware of their unique tea, which is also exported to many countries from Japan to Australia. Try their blend by cup (B100) without having to check-in. They have more than 12 varieties, all of which are sourced from their organic farm, so you can have some soothing sips that are also good for your health. While most Thais associate lotus with offerings to Buddhist monks, I find their non-caffeine Classic blend relaxing and doesn't taste like chewing a lotus petal. It had the right amount of fragrance that lingered in your mouth, too. Of course, you can buy their nicely-packaged tea to brew at home.


Toast-worthy view at Tasana Nakhon Terrace

If you want to live it up a bit (or have IG moments), then head to Tasana Nakhon Terrace on the sixth floor, which opens from 10am to 1am. This is where good drinks and a great view of the river meet and currently features HOBS and Fallabella. Besides proper family dining, you can plop yourself on a rattan lounge chair or sofa and let the breeze blow through your hair while enjoying the view. Not a shabby thing to do at all after work or a long week.


Siam Takashimaya's Rose Dining

A food tour won't be complete without a few highlights at Siam Takashimaya. For photogenic drinks in a chic and minimalist setting, Elle Cafe shouldn't disappoint. This Parisian-style, Japan-born cafe serves refreshments to perk up your dull afternoon at the entrance of Siam Takashimaya's Rose Dining zone on the fourth floor. The drink list is a variety of coffees, teas, frappes and sparkling, the last of which piqued my interest with the likes of Sparkling tom yum (B140) and Sparkling melon hazelnut (B140). These fizzy drinks are created by Franceso Moretti, former mixologist at Hotel Indigo Bangkok's Char and the now-defunct Vogue Lounge. Sparkling tom yum won me over with its effervescent infusion of herbs that created just enough of a hint of the hot and sour soup without going overboard (get it?!). Strawberry bubbles float in the sweet and sour drink, which has mango purée and lime, waiting to pop in your mouth. Sparkling melon hazelnut was very refreshing, light and sweet-scented.

For something heartier, they have a good selection of pastries with "cruffin" being the highlight. Despite its name, the buns tasted like a hybrid of croissant and brioche (brioché feuilleté). They come in several flavours and Caramel honey comb cruffin (B125) was a tad bitter amid the delicious butteriness and sweetness. The cafe recently introduced savoury dishes e.g. Truffle fries, Duck confit quesadilla and Bacon & cheese croquettes, to name three, but unfortunately they weren't available at the time of my visit. Elle Cafe Thailand opens daily from 10am-10pm. Visit fb.com/ellecafethailand or call 02-288-0725.

Thon Burians no longer have to brave Phra Nakhon's traffic for an omakase experience with Otaru Masazushi. Japanophiles' ears should be perked up at the mention of the famous establishment with eight decades of legacy and four branches in Japan -- two in Hokkaido and two in Tokyo. This is their first outside Japan and they specialise in ezo-mae sushi, which focuses on fresh-from-the-sea taste, thus, seafood is imported six times a week from Hokkaido. Luckily, award-winning sushi chef Takayuki Nakamura, who has won competitions in Otaru and was placed fifth at Eat-Japan Sushi Awards 2008 in London, was there to make edible pieces of art before my eyes.

The Mini omakase course (B4,500++) comes with three appetisers and seven pieces of nigiri. Of all the starters, I was most impressed by Ika somen, squid served like noodle. It was skilfully cut into the right and even thickness and soaked up all the flavour from the rich and flavourful sauce that had yolk and uni mixed in it. Anko (monkfish) liver was delectably creamy while hairy crab (kegani) had this delicate and sweet flesh. Everything has been lifted up down to Hokkaido-style chawanmushi, which contained chestnut, prawn, hotate and shiitake. I was off to a very good start, obvi. The sushi selection was also impressive and here are a few highlights. Nishin or herring was beautifully and skilfully cut to create multiple layers in one bite-size piece. Botan ebi was sweet and tender with no fishy smell. Created with shrimp head, the Botan ebi miso had a slight bitterness but was delicious nonetheless. The Ikura simply exploded with flavour in my mouth as it should be and Uni served up this melt-in-your-mouth creaminess. The omakase experience was capped off with a soothing miso soup and monaka matcha (wafer with green tea and kuromitsu syrup).

Masa opens for lunch from 10am-3pm (L.O. 2.30pm) and dinner from 5-10pm (L.O. 9.30pm). Lunchtime is all about sets (from B2,000 for seven pieces) while dinner options include Chef's special omakase (B7,000), Mini omakase (B4,500) and à la carte pieces (B150 - B2,500). Visit bit.ly/2QoZIRy or call 02-005- 3800.

For something less traditional, check out neighbouring Kamui Hokkaido Dining especially if you have teppanyaki teeth. It also made a foreign debut with its first branch outside Japan at Iconsiam. Kamui leans towards contemporary in terms of ambience as well as cuisine.

I started off with O-toro!! uni!! truffle!! special roll (B1,600; these exclamation marks are part of the dish's name) with a bang. The delicacy trio may sound overwhelming on paper but on my palate it worked wonder especially with mustard ponzu to deliciously contrast with all the richness. Uni with amadai Matsusaka yaki (B850) translates into fish topped with sea urchin served on cauliflower cream sauce in layman terms. The amadai had this flaky and delicate flesh that went well with the mildly sweet sauce. The intact scales were actually a plus for adding crispiness. Furano wagyu sirloin teppanyaki (B2,500) simply melts in the mouth. The slices of black cattle beef from Furano were done just right, pink on the inside and seared right on the outside. Each slice was juicy and bursting with flavour. Served on the same plate were different elements that you can pair with the meat for more umami moments from peppery and citrusy yuzukosho, tickling wasabi sauce to subtly tangy egg yolk mustard ponzu. The prices here may not be valid as the restaurant plans to tweak its menu.

A meal here is an indulgence definitely but with a price to match. If you want something with more bang for your baht, check out their set menus (from B380). Or go all out with either fish or meat tasting menus (B3,500). Visit www.fb.com/kamuihokkaidoth or call 02-288-0800. Kamui opens daily from 10am-10pm.

Last but not least, SookSiam on the ground floor caters to those who like quick nibbles and the usual Thai favourites in a vibrant market setting. You can find flavours from different corners of Thailand there. 

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