Itsara, a high-end Thai eatery on Stirling Highway, is an unassuming spot from the outside. The modern restaurant is packed with locals and it’s not hard to see why, once you’ve stepped inside. Never in Perth have I seen such a breathtaking eating space than the garden dining room at Itsara. You can imagine that you’re eating in a Thai jungle as you are completely surrounded by the lush greenery of the vertical and hanging gardens.
It’s comes as no surprise that their thriving indoor garden is down to Head Chef and co-owner Itsara Pracharoenwattana, who has a PhD in plant molecular biology. As well as nurturing this dining oasis, Chef Itsara also grows a great deal of his own vegetables and herbs.
We step into the busy restaurant and are shown to our table at the door of the contemporary main dining room, which has large windows spilling out to the garden dining room below. I can hardly take my eyes off the greenery long enough to look at the drinks menu. I choose a glass of Pierro LTC Semillon Sauvignon. The delicate drop from Margaret River has tangy stone fruit flavours and compliments Thai food well.
Most people share dishes at Itsara, though you don’t have to if you’re feeling greedy. The tempting modern Thai menu is completely gluten free, besides a couple of deserts. The kitchen makes all their own pastes and sauces from scratch, using fresh ingredients, meaning MSG and other nasty food additives aren’t used in their cooking.
Soon enough our “Pretty Duck” arrives, $18, which is indeed a pretty dish. Char-grilled marinated duck is served with fresh julienned green mango, shallot and cashew nuts. The sweet dish has crunch and is drizzled with a cracking house made dressing, made of pineapple and sweet chilli.
A beautifully presented “half moon” crisp Thai pancake, $18, is brimming with aromatic ingredients – king prawns, coconut, preserved turnip, bean sprouts and peanut, with a tangy cucumber relish on the side. On a neighbouring table I spy egg nets filled with spiced prawn and pork. The parcels look impressive and I get a little food envy.
Chef eyes up the Jungle Curry for main, but chickens-out, it has a spicy three chilli rating. Instead, he devours a Thai classic chicken green curry, $26.50. The chicken is char grilled giving it a wonderful earthy flavour. The fragrant curry is packed full of vegetables, Thai aubergine, bamboo shoots and fresh sweet basil leaves. The curry is also available with beef, king prawn and char grilled duck.
The Itsara Mingion $36.50, served medium rare, melts in the mouth. Thinly sliced char-grilled scotch fillet is smothered in a creamy curry with potato and cherry tomatoes. It’s a modern take on a massaman curry, served with a better quality cut of meat and less of the stodgy potatoes. I spoon the delicious sauce over my steamed jasmine rice, not wanting to waste a drop.
The service is spot on. Our food arrives promptly and we’re never without a drink. A generous side of stir-fry vegetables, $19, are lip smackingly delicious. Sugar snap peas, asparagus and brocollini are sautéed in soy and garlic.
On the dessert menu we are tempted by an impressive twelve layer Thai tea crepe cake, but opt for a lighter ginger and kaffir lime infused crème brûlée instead. The brûlée, $14, is perfectly cooked, the caramelised top easily broken with a tap from my spoon and the delicately flavoured crème is subtly scrumptious.
I’d recommend you dine at Itsara as a small group to try as many dishes as possible. We relished the explosion of sweet, fresh, spicy, creamy and fruity Thai flavours and would absolutely return for more in that magical dining room.
At a glance
25 Stirling Highway
Phone 6389 2441
■ Opening times
7 Days 6pm till late
value for money 3
■ style – Thai
■ wine – a varied, local &
international list, with BYO
Sun to Weds ($10 Corkage)
■ Head Chef – Itsara
■ Owners – Cress Doherty
■ feel – classy and exotic
■ wheelchair access – Yes
Entrée $15.50 to $22.50
Main $26.50 to $41.50
Dessert $13.50 to $16.50
■ all in all – Put simply, Itsara is
delicious. The food is a cut above
your regular suburban Thai. Request
a table in the garden dining room.