Cuisine: Thai and sushi
Beverages: Beer and wine
Prices: Appetizers under $7, lunches $7.95-$9.95, dinners $11.95-$18.95
Recommended dishes: Chicken basil ($7.95-$11.95), spicy fried rice ($7.95-$9.95), pork noodle soup ($7.95)
Verdict: Fresh ingredients and good family recipes make Siam Thai the ideal place to enjoy a traditional Thai lunch or dinner.
NAPLES — There are some restaurants I never get tired of, places where even if I stop by for lunch or dinner several times a month — sometimes even several times a week — the menu never gets old, and neither does the food or the atmosphere. Siam Thai, conveniently located a stone’s throw from the Naples Daily News offices in downtown Naples, is one of those places.
Nestled between a sandwich joint and a gym, Siam Thai doesn’t look like much from the outside. A recent refurbishing effort has created a more pleasant environment in the dining room, with burgundy walls, wooden shelves and Thai souvenirs. Siam Thai still won’t wow you with its ambiance, but this is a restaurant you go to for the food and hospitality, not for the décor.
Whether I stop by for lunch or dinner, alone or with friends, Siam Thai never fails to deliver a pleasant experience both because the food is undeniably good and the help is so friendly it’s easy to feel part of the family. Appetizers are all under $7 and they feature Thai classics such as chicken and vegetable egg rolls ($5.95 for two) and chicken satay (also $5.95), a starter of marinated chicken grilled on a stick and served with a traditional peanut sauce. My favorite, however, is the dumpling appetizer ($5.95). Five steamed dumplings filled with ground pork, mushrooms and carrots are served hot with a sweet soy dipping sauce. The perfect chewiness of the dough and the tenderness of the filling make these pot stickers extremely satisfying, but they are light enough to share and enjoy without ruining anyone’s appetite.
Siam Thai serves most of the same dishes for lunch and dinner at slightly different prices, with the exception of big noodle soup bowls ($7.95-$9.95) that are served for lunch only and fancier seafood and duck stir-fries that are only available at dinner. The noodle soup bowl is a comforting, hearty dish that always hits the spot if I’m in the mood for something light yet satisfying. Available with chicken, beef, pork, seafood or roasted duck, the bowl is also filled with thin rice noodles, savory broth, sliced green onions, cilantro and crunchy bean sprouts. The roasted duck -with its fatty meat and the addition of broccoli- is particularly good and a little richer than the other versions. Served with condiments on the side, this soup is even better when customized to one’s taste with salty soy sauce, tangy fish sauce and spicy sriracha.
Stir-fries and curries populate both the lunch and dinner menus and are always very well executed and cooked according to traditional family recipes. As most Thai restaurants do, Siam Thai uses a scale from one to five to assess spiciness of its dishes. If you like mild, order a one or a two, if you enjoy food that is hot and spicy, go for a four or a five. I often order chicken basil ($7.95 for lunch, $11.95 for dinner), a tasty stir-fry that combines the distinct flavors of spicy Thai chiles and sweet Holy basil. The latter, a variety that grows in Southeast Asia and has dark, almost purple leaves, infuses the dish with a licorice-like tang that is very enticing to my taste buds.
Thai curries are another great option at Siam Thai. Rich with creamy coconut milk, spices, bamboo shoots, basil leaves and zucchini, the green (milder) and red (spicier) curries are available with a variety of proteins ranging from chicken to tofu and from shrimp to squid. Slightly different but definitely worth a try is the massaman curry ($7.95 for lunch, $12.95 for dinner) a dish so rich it’s fit for a king. Onions, potatoes, avocado, cashews and your choice of protein are cooked in a thick coconut milk and yellow curry sauce and served with abundant rice to mop up every last bit of the lavish cream.
Siam Thai has jumped on the sushi bandwagon and offers a large number of rolls and sashimi, both well presented and of good quality. However, whenever I browse through the menu, it’s the Thai food that catches my eye: the simple, traditional dishes made with fresh ingredients and family recipes always make me happy and leave me yearning for more.