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Sarah McNeill

The Post: 24 April 2010, page 59

…..The Thai-born PhD molecular biologist has gained an international reputation for his published paper describing a gene that allows plants to grow in response to nitrogen fertiliser but right now Itsara is only interested in cooking……

…..His research is a daily trek around shops and markets to find the best and freshest ingredients, his papers are reams of newly devised recipes and his plants are the Thai one he grows in his Shenton Park garden……

…..Being biologist helped him understand that every ingredient was important and each one needs to be tested. He avoids too much seasoning and keeps as much food in its fresh, raw state if possible….

…. “The research that I have done made a lot of people happy, but this restaurant makes more people even happier” he said…

Gail Williams

Sunday Time Magazine: 21 March 2010, page 36

WITH its groovy red interior and orchid-shaped table napkins, Itsara presents as a cutting-edge eatery serving modern Thai food. Forget the trendy facade. Itsara is actually a homey, down-to-earth that serves expertly put-together Thai food. The friendly package comes complete with welcoming wait staff who stroll an exotic courtyard straight out of a Phuket resort, complete with fountains and goldfish and orchids and green-lit tropical plants…..

….There’s a lot to like about the food, too, – chef Itsara used to work at the University of WA as a molecular biologist – is fresh, vibrant and beautifully presented. There was lots of crunch and splashes of colour and gorgeous lettuce and orchid garnishes.

…..Judging from the selection we tried you could probably choose anything and be happy. Jasmine rice squares ($12.50) served with a thick dipping sauce heavy with prawn and peanut flavours were an interesting start. Different and nicely textured.

Pla long tang ($17.50) or “fleeing fish” could have been a train smash under other hands – fried fish with mango, lemongrass, kaffir lime, ginger, lime zest and cashew nuts with chilli dressing. Even the chef labelled the dressing “complex”.

In the oyster sauce stir-fry ($25.50), the marinated beef was tender and the still-crisp red pepper and spring onion sat separately in the sauce – not melding into one big sludge like many stir-fries do…..

…..We waited for the pav ($10.5) topped with blueberries and raspberries…. And we bit into the crisp exterior to find a mushy heart. It summed up Itsara perfectly – and I’m going back to try the duck.

Rob Broadfield

The West Magazine: 27 February 2010, page 18

…..”The nectarous duck curry was the star. The red curry sauce was hot, sour, fruity and salty. It was light and zesty and studded with pineapple, grapes, julienned chilli, kaffir lime leaves and soft, sweet duck. Nectarous means sweet (as in nectar) and it’s an apposite description of this classic-modern-avant-garde curry which benefits from the sweetness of the fruits but isn’t too sugary or cloying.”

“Gaeng Keaw Wan is green chicken curry….serves as an easy benchmark. Itsara’s version was a million miles away from the common green curry most often served in Perth. It was based on a house-made paste and the chicken was fleshy and moist one can only conclude that the chicken was properly steamed before being ripped in to large pieces for the curry. It contained fresh basil and the tiny little Thai eggplants with which it is authentically garnished in Thailand. The sauce was hot but manageable and it was the proper colour green, not the grey-brown-green that tells you it has come from a catering pack. It had a thin film of beautifully scented oil on top.”

…..Itsara is a welcome addition to the Perth food scene. It brings to Thai food new flavours and the innovation of fresh produce, modern techniques and fashionable flavour combinations.

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