Saturday, October 15, 2011

Siam Thai Restaurant: Safe, Reliable Westernized Thai With No Wow Factor

Siam Thai Restaurant, 512 Fort Street, Victoria, BC

Outside of Thailand, the best Thai restaurant I've ever been to was in San Francisco, so many years ago that I can neither tell you the name of that place nor the neighbourhood. I just remember a friend flagging us a taxi just outside of Golden Gate Park, driving through the night for about 15 minutes, getting out in a residential area, and walking into this place that ended up being one of those rare dining experiences -- thoroughly exquisite, from ambience to last bite of food. No Thai restaurant has since been able to match that experience. Siam Thai Restaurant at the lower end of Fort near Wharf Street doesn't even come close. But compared to other Thai places in town, it's not bad. One of my preferred Thai eateries remains the quaint My Thai Cafe.

At Siam we each ordered the same lunch combo, which included very good red curry (chicken) and a hearty mess of simple stir-fried vegetables. All of it was served piping hot, which I always appreciate; with stir-fry the quicker from pan to mouth, the better. In addition, we ordered a serving of spring rolls, which were indistinguishable from those had at other Thai restaurants. My problem with Thai places like this is the lack of any wow factor. It's safe, reliable, Westernized Thai cuisine served over and over and over again. Recalling that remarkable night in San Francisco some 20 years ago, there were all sorts of interesting elements at play, a vast array of condiments and sauces, several small courses of food and the slow eating process went on for a good 3 hours. But I digress....

I like that Siam has kept their trinket-ornament decor to a minimum, unlike the gaudy displays at some Thai restaurants. I also like Siam's big, spacious dining room and heritage red brick wall. The ceiling, however, looks like an unfinished work project. Wasn't sure what to make of the maze of box-shaped beams. Service was adequate, as was the price (under $10 for the set lunch).

On my way out I noticed all the Zagat stickers in the window, which boast all sorts of awards and travel guide recognition Siam has supposedly received over the years. This leaves me to conclude that either (a) these stickers don't represent actual visits by Zagat staff, (b) the stickers can be easily had by a restaurant becoming a paid member of Zagat, or (c) the Zagat staff, if they even came to Victoria, they didn't get out much beyond the tourist trap restaurant zone.

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