Monday, September 12, 2011

@Siam, Soho: Be adventurous and choose the unexpected

Having tried a few Thai places in London, I haven’t been too impressed. With that, I have to confess that Thai cuisine has not been one that frequently crosses my mind when choosing where to eat.

That changed when The Skinny Bib did a review of a few Thai places in London. The ONE that caught my eye was @Siam. It did finally take a good few months after before I finally managed to make my way there.

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First thing we said to the waiter when he gave us the menu was to recommend to us the more unique/traditional/authentic Thai dishes. If that fails, I usually go with ‘What is your favourite?’

With that, we managed to order a few starters and mains.

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My Thai Ice Tea arrived first of course which on first sip tasted similar to HK style milk tea. There were hint of sweetness without being overly so followed by a mid-strength tannin taste. I like this drink.

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Sai Uoa £8.95

The first starter to arrive was the Sai Uoa which is a Grilled Northern Thai mixed herb traditional pork sausage. I don’t know if it usually is THAT spicy but these were SPICY! Am starting to wonder in my head if I should perhaps have not said to the waiter that we wanted hot dishes!

The sausages were juicy with the flavours well balanced. As much as this was burning my mouth, I couldn’t stop myself as the more I ate, the more I wanted to eat.

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Som Tum Pon La Mai Ruam £7.5

It was with relief when the next starter arrived. A wonderful array of colours coming from the tomatoes, grapes, apples, green beans and I couldn’t believe it, tiny shrimps known as ‘Har Mai’ drizzled with Som Tum sauce.

It was sour, it was salty, it was refreshing, and it cooled my burning tongue down. I have not had a salad like this before with a sour salty combo and it really works. I highly recommend.

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Pla Hoi Shell £10.5

The last of the starters were these seared scallops resting on a circled courgette crowned with sliced apples and caviar with spicy and sour seafood dressing to finish. This was the least impressionable of the trios. The combination doesn’t seem to add anything or harmonise with each other. Its side salad was a different story though which you could just about see on the top left part of the pic. With chopped up mint added to the salad, it brought the salad to a whole new level and was finished within minutes by the table.

With the starters, I would say that I am most delighted with the salads and can’t wait to try others when I come back next time.

I was feeling a tad full now and we haven’t even move on to the mains.

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Gang Phed Ped Yang £11.95

It would be appalling to go to a Thai restaurant and not to at least give one of their curries a try. We decided to skip convention and went with one with a most unusual and interesting combination indeed. So our Gang Phed Ped Yang arrived which is duck breast that has been chargrilled and then cooked in a red curry with pineapple and lychees.

Pineapple and lychees? I know, I was thinking the same thing and the unusual combo was just too hard to resist not trying. Duck is a heavily accented meat and it combines well with the curry, the texture itself was succulent. The curry itself was way too creamy. Gamey and creamy over dominated everything else which was quite unfortunate for the pineapple and lychees.

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Pra Nung Ma Naew £14.95

The Pra Nung Ma Naew arrived next which were two sea bass fillets with a tropical zesty sauce. Zesty lime, coriander and tiny chopped chillies adding a kick, this would have blown me away if not for the fish. Such a light and zingy sauce is perfect to bring out the freshness and sweetness of the sea bass, but its downfall is that anything less than fresh would also be more pronounced. The sea bass was unfortunately not fresh, chatting with the waiter, we were told that priced at £15, the cost would have been too high to use fresh fish and frozen fish was used instead.

Understandable but such a pity. It is still a good dish but has so much potential to blow your socks off.

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Weeping tiger £11.95

The last trio of mains was the Weeping Tiger. Beef grilled to medium well with Thai sauce to dip into on the side, good without leaving an impression.

With the starters and mains over, we browsed the dessert menu and couldn’t decide as the now really full glutton in me wanted to try all three! Our wonderful waiter came to the rescue and insisted that we got the water chestnut dumpling and no more.

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Water Chestnut Dumpling £5.75

Our dessert arrived which was totally not what we were expecting. Tiny cubes of water chestnut with a coat that is both joyfully chewy and elastic. We figured out the ingredient used to coat those ruby water chestnut but which has now slipped my mind. A few slivers of jackfruit as garnish and coconut ice cream on the side completes the dessert.

These ruby babies are good and such a delight to eat. I can see myself coming here just to have this when I crave dessert. The coconut ice cream had just the right balance of coconut in it and complements the water chestnuts well.

I am glad we listened to our waiter and got this and only this as we seriously could not have eaten any more.

Truly a delightful dinner and I think @Siam is one of those hidden gems that should be more visible on the radar. We looked around us and we see table after table ordering the usual Pad Thai, Green curries and stir fries. Such a pity as these diners do not know what they are missing out on.

Chopstix2Steaknives dined as a guest of @Siam.


A few days later, I convinced some mates from work to come with me to @Siam for lunch. Arriving at 12pm, we were the first table. Unsuccessful was I at convincing these mates of mine to steer away from the curries and fried rice selections that they made. Oh, they don’t know what they’re missing out on! Unperturbed, I couldn’t wait to try their amazing salads and got the Nam Tok Nue £9.95 which is grilled beef salad with mint and noisette ground rice.

Oh, these again was scaling the spiciness ladder and my mouth was burning, add in the sour and salty flavours and my taste buds were in overdrive. I love it!

We moved onto desserts after where I one of my workmates went with my suggestion of the water chestnuts which she absolutely loved while I decided to be adventurous and went with the Khao Tom Mud Sai Klouy.

This was steamed banana-filled sticky rice served with Thai tea ice cream. The banana filled sticky rice was too wet so all I could taste was sticky wet texture and with an underwhelming flavour. The Thai Tea ice cream was great and went down a treat. I think I’ll stick to the water chestnut next time but not before trying out their final dessert – banana fritters next time.

My food experience this time round did not go as well as the first time and it boiled down to the service. Now, usually when office attired people head out for lunch, we want and need it to be quick. The expectation is to usually be in and out within an hour if we’re lucky and having it stretched slightly longer to say an additional 10-15 minutes is fine. But at 1.5 hours later and we were still waiting for our desserts which were ordered at least 20 minutes before was too long a wait!

Imagine the dilemma of the office worker lunching with thoughts like these running through his/her mind, “I really want my dessert, why is it taking so long, Oh no, I’m going to be so late going back to the office, I am going to be in trouble!”.

So it was at 1.30pm, the place was now getting quite packed and we could only see that it was still the one waiter serving the entire place frantically rushing about. The food is good but I can see my work mates thinking in their head, we are not coming back (save for the one that really loved the water chestnut dumpling dessert).

@Siam, please have more staff during the lunch hour and perhaps not having your dining guests wait that long in between their meals. Lunch should be quick while dinner can be more relaxed.

Will I recommend: Yes, especially the salads and water chestnut dumpling dessert.
Will I come back: Yes
Have I had better: No

@Siam, 48 Frith Street London W1D 4SF

@Siam on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. The food looks interesting! Sounds like the service let you down in the second round -I remember what it was like, if we didn't get our food quickly, we started to worry about getting back to the office!


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