Set on the edge of Bangkok (near the new community mall The Nine), 99 Rest Backyard & Café is a beautiful villa surrounded by a landscaped garden, complete with wood tables, large black framed windows and a soft touch provided by splashes of royal blue on the pillows, napkins and menus. The food, on paper, is equally exciting. Celebrity chef Ian Kittichai has added touches of whimsy to comforting Thai and Western dishes—think semolina crusted calamari (B230) or apple and guava crumble (B110). But on closer inspection, Kittichai’s basics, while enlivened by his creative touches, lack both genuine originality and solid execution. Sure, the angel hair with blue crab meat (B330) is not your average plate of pasta, thanks to the generous and flavorful crab meat and fried chili, but it still ends up feeling like a soggy, buttery lump of noodles after a couple bites. On the healthy side, the organic salad with poached egg (B220) is touted as straight from the farm, but tastes just like the salads you’d buy in a bag at a supermarket—clearly a letdown. In fact, produce often takes the backseat in 99 Rest’s dishes. The half-rack, fall-off-the bone tamarind baby back ribs (B210) sure are juicy but we wish we could still taste some smoky, meaty flavors through the sweet and sour tamarind sauce. Similarly, the Unidentified Fried Chicken (B190) is blessed with tasty sauces and a wonderfully crispy skin, but the meat itself is a desiccated disaster. To be fair, service is pretty impressive and some dishes are just impeccable. The pad tua-lan-tau (stir-fried sugarsnap peas with preserved mackerel, B110), for example, is perfectly cooked: crispy, fresh and a perfect match from the pungent taste of pla kem. Besides, the drink list is pretty smart (cocktails are B190, wines by the glass B190-B300) and the garden is really stunning at night, with the chorus of frogs, crickets and the rustle of the dense foliage in the evening breeze. In short, the kitchen could do better but 99 Rest is still worth the trek, as the (very hiso) crowds swooping in to nibble on foie gras and sip on Sauvignon Blanc will attest too. Corkage B500.
Note: Please note that Chef Ian Kittichai no longer works with 99 Rest Backyard Cafe. Updated on Dec 14, 2012.