Unlike with China, the Japanese do not have a long history of conflict with Thailand. There was one small skirmish in 1941 when Japan invaded, but that lasted less than a day. I think that’s why Chinese/Japanese restaurants never really pay off, too much confusion and conflict. Japanese/Thai restaurants, on the other hand, now there’s some promise there. So, with my poorly thought out theory in mind, I headed to Siam Thai in downtown Naples with three friends to explore their Japanese/Thai menu.
Our first mistake, considering our $15- per-person budget, was ordering a round of $4 beers. Our options for dinner were subsequently limited as many dishes run around $12 to $14. Our second mistake was not taking Siam Thai’s spiciness scale — from one to five — seriously enough.
I like spicy food, and feel as though I’ve got an average to above-average tolerance. So I ordered a bowl of Tom Yum soup and asked for level-three spiciness. The lemongrass, shrimp and mushroom soup was delicious, but also made my eyes water and cleared my sinuses. My friend Brian got a level-four Tom Yum and was definitely feeling the effects, and we both agreed that the soup was tasty but next time we would take the spiciness down a notch.
Three of us got orders of the very reasonably priced sushi in addition to our Thai soups, while our fourth judge got a dish of beef basil (level three) with rice. My eight pieces of tuna roll were simple but fresh and well-made. My friend who ordered the spicy tuna roll said it’s the best he’s had in Florida.
The spice in the Beef Basil was more diffuse than in the soup and worked well with the thin, juicy pieces of steak, snow peas and squash. The presentation was perfect. Sushi came in little model skiffs with the wasabi stamped into the shape of a leaf. The menu had the full gamut of dishes you’d expect to find in a Japanese or Thai restaurant.
Although the beers cramped our budget, having a Sapporo or Kirin to cleanse the palate occasionally turned out to be well worth it. The service was excellent and friendly. The owner and skilled sushi chef Tom Phan greeted us with a quiet smile as we came in. When the meal was over, everyone had nothing but superlatives for their dishes. Satisfied, we took in the softly lit surroundings, tapestries hanging from the wall, and the raised corner where you can sit on pillows Japanese-style.
Of course the night wouldn’t have been complete with out truly testing the boundaries of human consumption of spicy food. So Michael “samuraied-up” and took the $15 bet to eat a thumb-sized chunk of wasabi still left on his plate. We all waited with anticipation for a split second — half expecting steam to come out of his ears — then it hit him. Like he was possessed for a moment, his head jerked back suddenly and his eyes bugged out. Michael was tough though, and more than earned his $15.
So, we all skirted in under the $15 budget and the damage came out to $55 for the four of us. Just like the Thai and Japanese people, our encounter ended without much violence (except for the war going on in Michael’s wasabi-green stomach right now), and with content appetites.