What they are doing at the newly opened italics, says Eugene Oelofse, director of brand communications, is offering a casual and fun dining experience: Italian food — but with a Thai twistby Christopher Scott Dixon
Making an impression and establishing a new eatery in a city that boasts such a diversity of wining and dining outlets is a stern challenge. It is especially so with such stiff competition between existing businesses with Italian origin or theme. But, Italics–on the prestigious and stylish Soi Ruamrudee and only a 10-minute walk from the BTS Ploenchit skytrain station–has achieved this already.
You walk first through the car park, which is already an instant selling point for patrons who want to leave their cars in a safe environment when they dine. Notice also that Italics (http://italicsrestaurant.com/) is actually part of a small boutique complex, which comprises partnership high-end whiskey and cigar stores.
The name itself appeals on several levels: a play on Italy, and the fact that Italics is a typeface with a particular slant on the normal fonts, because indeed the restaurant strives to provide something different from the usual Italian fare.
‘What we’re doing here is offering a casual and fun dining experience,” said Eugene Oelofse, director of brand communications. “We have the Italian food, but with a Thai twist. I’d like to say we have the spaghetti and meatballs but in tom yum sauce and one of our strengths is that all the products are 100% sourced from Thailand.”
There is an outside dining area available, and once you move inside, the color scheme is essentially a classic: classy black, plus a fusion of grey and white. There is a chic but relaxed ambience to the whole place combined with funky artwork and photography on the walls, which is even featured on the main menu, making what is usually a bland document into almost a collector’s piece. I liked the amusing descriptions too, again veering from the norm, for example: “Something to eat while you wait” and “Liquid soup station.”
The first part of italics is the deli and takeaway area where you can sit on large sofas next to wooden tables. Adjoining it is a more roomy section where larger groups can be seated and is suitable for a range of functions. Attention to detail counts and we noted the separate leather wallet style drinks menus by each set of cutlery, a nice touch.
A frothy latte’ was downed while we waited for what turned out to be an excellent starter of creamy spinach and coriander soup.
Thai wine is sometimes neglected and I think unjustly as we sampled a very acceptable Monsoon Valley 2011 white and Monsoon Valley 2010 red both produced in the seaside resort of Hua Hin.
Still sipping on the wine, we enjoyed a delicious deli dish of comfit belly pork with spicy sausage dressed with wild rocket, continuing the meaty theme that was followed by “East Meets West,” a flavorful ensemble’ of sausages, cured and smoked, sweet potato salad, and edamame.
My wife smiled at the appearance of a buffalo chicken Caesar salad, which arrived next, and once tasted it confirmed her expression.
When we visited it was a Wednesday evening, usually a quiet time for many similar establishments, but Italics was very busy with a mix of Thai, expats, and tourist diners — a telling indication of how rapidly the restaurant has earned a reputation for its quality and service.
To emphasize the focus on customer care and despite the pressure of dashing from table to table, the staff remained attentive and genial.
Next up we tried an interesting marriage of seared watermelon and cured belly pork and grape balsamic, which proved to be a zingy fusion of ingredients.
A tangy slow braised beef penne with sambucca peppercorn sauce was finished off quickly and just as we craved some more fluid intake, the staff anticipated our needs and provided us with a gorgeously refreshing twin set of mocktails.
“Asian Fruit Punch” was a combination of pineapple and orange juice, lime, and grenadine syrup — a feisty little number. The other half of the pairing was a moreish “Pink Rambutan” with rambutans, pineapple juice, lime, and the same syrup.
The inventiveness continued with my favorite pizza: Hawaiian, not however, the usual ham or bacon, but smoked duck meat — a splendid new take on a standard.
Could we find room for the main course? No need to answer that. Coffee braised beef short rib, crispy duck fat gnocchi, and assorted greens vanished quickly from our plates.
We received our just desserts with an aromatic and scrumptious Kahlua Butter Pudding.
Our verdict: italics — ingenious, intriguing menu in an imaginative, setting.
In short I like it!