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Cat Johnson finds Ikan an up and down middling sort of Asian fusian restaurant

Published on February 7th 2008.


I'm still getting myself in a bit of a strop about mid price range restaurants. Following reasonable success at Gastros last month, I was keen to continue my crusade of attempting to find something a little bit special in a sea of average dining (how very altruistic of me hey?).

Nice lighting too, which is all very useful if you're out on a date and want to appear to your best advantage. Not a problem on this jaunt, as my companion for the evening was my mother, but I've mentally filed it for future reference.

Same rules apply as last time; I’m looking at the best value experience for three courses and a bottle of wine. This week’s lucky contestant was Ikan on Portland Street. Just next to the Ibis hotel, the stylish exterior seems at odds with its surroundings. There are plenty of iffy looking ‘all you can eat for £5.50’ Chinese buffets in the vicinity and Ikan looks infinitely more upmarket and is priced as such. This may be why the buffet across the road was nearly full and Ikan had only six covers in two hours.

When you get inside the design continues to impress. It’s slick and contemporary with chunky black lacquer tables and ostrich leather banquettes. It could look hellish, but manages to look opulent and sleek rather than tacky. Nice lighting too, which is all very useful if you're out on a date and want to appear to your best advantage. Not a problem on this jaunt, as my companion for the evening was my mother, but I've mentally filed it for future reference.

Menu is interesting enough too. It’s ‘Asian fusion’ and has just about enough variety to suit most palates. To start I had the Scallop Shumai crowned with Tobiko caviar (£5.00), they looked nice enough perched prettily on a banana leaf, but I was really disappointed with the texture. Scallops should be springy and moist; not chewy and gelatinous. The flavour was okay and the caviar bought a salty bite to proceedings as it popped on your tongue, but the texture spoiled it. Mum’s Grilled Chicken Satay (£5.50) was a game of two halves too. The chicken was juicy and flavoursome, but the accompanying satay was disappointingly bland, I prefer mine with a good kick of heat, something that was sadly lacking with this sauce.

I was expecting far greater things from my main course, the poetically named Crying Tiger (£14.50). A friend of mine has sampled this before and eulogised about the quality of the beef and the divine marinade it's bathed in. As it arrived on the table beautifully presented I had high hopes, but sadly it was more a case of crying shame than crying tiger.

The marinade was perfection, an exotic sauce melding sweet and sour flavours of tamarind and chilli powder, but the meat was less pleasing. It was a wee bit overdone and not quite the tender delight I was expecting. I was not entirely convinced that it was fillet steak, the cut that should be used for this classic. I'd like to think that I was just unlucky on this occasion, because cooked right it would be a triumph.

Conversely mum’s main of Mongolian King Prawn (£15.00) looked like a dog’s dinner presentation wise, but totally redeemed itself on taste: huge and flavoursome prawns, covered in a pleasingly creamy sauce that had all the bite and heat that was lacking in her satay. All food was washed down with a rather wonderful bottle of El Delirio reserve (£19.50), a crisp and citrus Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.

The evening ended on a high with our desserts. My Winter Chocolate (£4.95) was superb. I haven't had a chocolate pudding that good for a long time; if ever. I'd be quite willing to trade in my first born for a dessert of that quality. As it was this didn't prove necessary and Joseph (my son) remains in situ at Johnson Towers. Mum's Raspberry Blossom (£4.95) was equally fabulous in looks and taste, the torte being suitably sharp and zingy. Both our plates were cleared in what I'm certain was record time.

But even after these amazing desserts, I was still left feeling under whelmed. It wasn't a bad meal, some parts of it were very good, but with a bill of £86 I want it all to be a high standard. The menu is interesting enough to match its peers such as Chaophraya and Vermillion, but it just failed to make the grade with how it was prepared. Having eaten recently at Chaophraya I feel I can safely say that it has the edge, so I think Ikan has work to do if it wants to compete. It's such a great looking place, but it needs to make sure it isn't a case of style over substance or I fear its competitors may nudge it out of the market.

Rating: 14.5/20
Breakdown: 6.5/10 Food
4/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: Ikan Thai Oriental Restaurant and Bar
The Piazza
98 Portland Street
M1 4GX
0161 236 1313

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25 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

peterFebruary 7th 2008.

I know what u mean, i think Ithaca will be full of just Helens' I agree if you want good value, great food and 'normal' people Ikan is the place for you. If you want to be around 'helens', expensive food, staff that are in dream world then Ithaca is for you. thats why manchester is so great we have so much choice so we dont all have to be in the helen restaurants. ps cant wait to go to ikan again, not been for a few months but all this talk is making me feel like i should go again and the reports of the new sexy manager too is a added bonus!. someone last week was saying the food has also got 100 times better too.

DanielleFebruary 7th 2008.

I know what you mean about 'iffy looking' eat-as-much-as-you-can but Buffet City across the road from Ikan is well worth a visit. Lots of choice and all very fresh. You know why it was full!I similarly found my one visit to Ikan a mixed experience - didn't like the decor (80s bachelor pad?) but nearly died of ecstasy eating the steamed dumplings. I salivate excitedly at the mere thought of them. Had a mixed evening at YangSing last night. Took AGES to be served, all squid was off the menu, they forgot my son's starter and seemed generally pissed off at having customers, or was it us... Food tasty enough.

PaulFebruary 7th 2008.

I agree with dweester. I used to love the Baby Ikan on Sackville Street - it was one of the best kept secrets in Manchester. Once i'd been once i went loads of times. I remember the owner telling us one night they were openning a new fine dining restaurant on Portland Street, and that the current one would be scaled down. We were disappointed but obviously thought it would be just a better version of the current one! The result was a disaster - an over priced let down of a new restaurant, and the criminal run down of the old. They used to model themselves on great service, exceptional food, and reasonable prices. I hope they wake up soon and reverse their approach - they could easily be the best again!

NelFebruary 7th 2008.

We went there on Sat (14 March). The decor was impressive; however, service was very poor. We arrived at 8.45pm (party of 4) we waited an hour for our drinks despite asking for them 3 times. They eventually served 2 of us with our main meal at 10.50pm. After waiting another 15 mins for the other 2 main meals to arrive we got up to leave as we were so incensed by the dire service. The Manageress started off being apologetic and, trying to convince us to sit back down again as the remaining meals were now ready. When she realised we weren’t having any of it her mood quickly changed and she started snapping and accused us of wasting food! We didn’t get any discount for the inconvenience and still got charged for the 2 main meals, we paid up in a bid to leave sharpish and never to return!

JohnthebriefFebruary 7th 2008.

I've eaten at Ikan on Portland Street once, and would happily go back again provided someone else is paying. As others have said I do miss Ikan Baby, which is virtually next door to where I live. What on Earth did we do to deserve the dreadful St Petersburg? Awful food, comedy service, and the whole thing fairly obviously a criminal front. Ordinarily a place this bad would die in a matter of months, sadly however I think this one's not really there to make money from food....

KeithFebruary 7th 2008.

John the Brief's review of St Petersburg would suggest it is very authentic. It sounds just like the places I used to eat in when working in St Petersburg in the early '90's. If they bring a bottle when you order a vodka it is spot on

Blankety BlankFebruary 7th 2008.

bit too glowing that one Rita, that Crying Tiger is nothing like it was a year or so ago, it's as tough as old boots. John the Brief, bit harsh that on St. Petersburg? !!

dweesterFebruary 7th 2008.

I agree! Bring back Ikan Baby, I used to go a few times a month and got take away from there too. It did start to go down hill towards the end though, as the service became really bad. The food was always great though, especially the sweet basil and chilli dishes :) The mixed starter also hit the spot. It was affordable too, and I liked the fish in the bath. I wonder what became of that? St Petersburg which replaced it was a huge disappointment. My starter for £9 consisted of a grand total of three prawns!

lisaFebruary 7th 2008.

I know what you mean about Ithaca, i was in that place a week ago, a bit expensive, but was in Ikan on saturdau evening i had a great meal, the service was the best. the staff so friendly. i know what u meant about the manager is good looking, worth a extra £1 to see him

joncyFebruary 7th 2008.

Be thankful the squid was off the menu, worst I've ever had!

manchester boyFebruary 7th 2008.

I know what you mean about the new manager, i will go back just to be served by him. Its a great team now. The men have Catherine who is the best host ever and the Gay men and women have the new manager. The food is also great value. i went to Ithaca a week ago and Ikan is so much better value than Ithaca and the service is great plus they have a good bar.

SergeiFebruary 7th 2008.

The Ikan on Portland Street is a good place with fantastic up market layout. Yes the food is not cheep but if you like to use the cheep food it is a plenty options in the town. Regarding the St Petersburg is a brand new place and unusual for Manchester and North West, but not new for the UK. First restaurant was open in Liverpool in 1996 and still successfully trading ever since and second venue was recently open in the Manchester on the place of former café Baby Ikan, which was completely ruined with the kitchen condition so far away from Health & Safety standard .What was really question, why the authorities did not close this café long time ago? If Detester can not see the difference between the salad prawns and Giant prawns…What I can say? Also if Paul has a nerve to insult hard working people with more then 12 years experience in legitimate restaurant business in UK with word “criminals”, I think they should address to the court to protect themselves from such serious accusations in future and against Paul personally.

AnonymousFebruary 7th 2008.

Btw, the owner is in fact not from Thai, but Singapore as far as I know. But I know this does not matter... sorry.

miaowFebruary 7th 2008.

miaow!steady on with the att-itude Helen Melon!

sexy rosieFebruary 7th 2008.

this place sounds great, cant wait to go, never been in but all this talk is making me think of what to eat. I will try and go next week. hope Helen is not around. I have not been in Ithaca either yet but what helen said has put me off ithaca. but this iken place does sound nice - i will let u know what i think after i have been in

AnonymousFebruary 7th 2008.

I went there with my girlfriend and some friends recently on a saturday night - the food was ok but the service was rubbish to say the least they forgot our drinks twice sent the starters to the wrong table. And to make things worse added a 10% service charge on top of our £90 bill which when we declined to pay they said the service was due to them being busy? (If busy is 5 tables none of which with more than 4 people is busy then they were!)Its a real shame as we used to go to Baby Ikan 4-5 times a month and the food there was even better and the service was amazing!BRING BACK BABY IKAN!!!!!!!!!!

RitaFebruary 7th 2008.

Went to Ikan last weekend with my girls and i ve has a fab time! Although the food is not the cheapest its worth its price. Delicious dim sum and even better main. I ve had crying tiger and it was cooked to perfection, i didnt have such a good steak in months. It wasnt my first time at Ikan, but i can see a big difference. This place has got such a great vibe, funky music is an extra plus, and the staff is looking pretty hot:) sure me and my girls will be coming back to Ikan.

love my foodFebruary 7th 2008.

I think IKAN is fantastic, the food is great, the service is 2nd to none more like a Rosette restaurant. The New Restaurant manager is the hottest thing in that place - well worth a trip just to see him, he is hotter then the sexy Dim Sum!!! the food as well is very nice, loads nicer the that Royal Thai place plus they dont have a sexy manager.

epsFebruary 7th 2008.

Ikan is a stunning venue with great food and in Catherine, one of the great hosts in the city.With the plethora of 'eat as much as you look like' buffets all over town (personally i dont go to them)its good to know that restaurants of such quality, have their place.Yes, its pricey, but we all like to do something special every now and then.

AnonymousFebruary 7th 2008.

I have been in quite a few times in the last 12 months and the thing that takes me back is the food which is always excellent. I have noticed an improvement recently with younger (dare I say easier to understand) staff on both the service and bar. Catherine is a great host and they had a new lad called Rafael who seemed to be helping get things moving and even a welcoming face on the door.I for one will be going back soon !

LesleyFebruary 7th 2008.

Re Yang Sing. We had similar experience in terms of poor service, which included a long wait and arrogant attitude.Food definitely not special either.Go to East; lovely staff and food.Try Vermillion for a full on Thai experience.

NatalieFebruary 7th 2008.

I booked a table at Ikan for valentines day and was very disapointed. We were asked to sit in the seating area and were still sat there an hour later even thou there were tables empty. The staff didnt communicate with each other and it was just very unorganised. There were at least six other couples sat waiting as well three of whom ended up walking out. After complaining several times we were finally shown to our table and we were still sat there 45 minutes later, we and many others had finally had enough and walked out after having waited for over 2 hours for our food. I would also like to say I wont be returning in a hurry either!

Helen SpencerFebruary 7th 2008.

how can yo compare cr*p like ikan to ithaca? are you people off your trolleys, read the reviews youo mongs. understand if you compared wings or san carlo but ikan, hahahahahaha! please stop writing your own reviews. dumbos!

Lee16505February 22nd 2010.

Ikan has closed it's doors............

AnonymousJuly 15th 2011.

i never got to try ikan! =(

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