ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Of all the Asian cuisines that have managed to penetrate the New Orleans restaurant community, the cooking of Thailand is the most interesting and exciting. While most Chinese restaurants have gone over to buffets and cheap prices, and most Japanese restaurants offer the same menu of sushi as every other, and Vietnamese restaurant customers are obsessed with noodle soup, the Thai cooks–with the possible exception of the buffets–engage my palate with so many distinctive flavors that I never get to the end of them.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
The longest-operating Thai restaurant in the New Orleans area, Siamese keeps a low profile, largely because you have to know it’s there to find it. The restaurant is just another space in a spartan strip mall near the TJ Maxx store on Veterans near I-10. But that’s the only offputting aspect. These people cook an enormous menu of very good Thai food, with a bit more variety on the menu than most. A book of photographs of their food comes to the table, to make the point that they put as much effort into producing beautiful platters as they do in making it delicious.
Even if you’re an inveterate fan of Thai cooking, you will encounter more than a few dishes here you’ve never had before. On the other hand, all of the familiar Thai classics are here–but, perhaps, in somewhat different forms than you may be used to. The ingredients are very good, something especially noticeable in the fresh herbs, whole fish, and duck. This is one of the few Thai restaurants still serving mee krob–the first Thai dish to make it big in America.
Chef and owner Noppawan Powribud–Thai native–opened Siamese in 1993, after working in California Thai restaurants for nine years. She never strayed far from the food Siamese opened with, a collection of the standards of the cuisine. In recent years, Noppawan has applied even tougher standards to her cooking, eliminating not only MSG but also fish sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and other canned ingredients. All the herbs are fresh, all the curry spices are mixed in house, and the menu is vegan friendly.
The stark prospect given by the strip-mall exterior mellows into a pleasant, colorful, comfortable dining room inside. The family wears its ethnicity well, and gives the kind of deferential service for which Thai people are known. Very nice people, they are happy to spend as much time as you want to answer questions and make recommendations.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Chicken, beef or pork satay (kebabs)
»Mee krob (fried noodles with shrimp and chicken)
»Karee pup (fried chicken dumplings)
»Golden wings (stuffed with ground chicken and bean threads)
Kung ka borg (fried wonton-wrapped shrimp with garlic sauce)
War wonton soup
»Spicy and sour Thai soups (several varieties)
Kang som seafood curry
»Thai salads (several varieties, duck is best)
Silver noodle salad (glass noodles with shrimp, chicken, and mushrooms)
*Stir-fries of various vegetables
*Kang ka ree (a stew with potatoes and green onions)
»Chicken on fire (Thai barbecue chicken)
»*Thai curries (red, green, panang, musaman)
*Thai fried rice
»*Pad Thai (rice noodles with sprouts, egg, and peanuts)
»*Pad see you (flat noodles with broccoli)
*Pad kee mow (drunken noodles–flat, spicy)
»Steamed or fried whole fish, with a variety of sauces
Muk kung prik (seafood stew in oyster sauce)
House-made coconut ice cream
*-Denotes available with choice of chicken, shrimp, beef, pork, seafood, or duck
FOR BEST RESULTS
If you’re familiar with Thai cooking, make a meal of dishes you’ve never heard of before. It’s easy to do that here. The consistency across the menu makes this unrisky. If you’re accustomed to getting mountains of food in Thai restaurants, know that the portions are a bit more restrained here. (So are the prices.) Also, if you want a dish to be spicy, tell them. The longer a Thai restaurant has been open, the milder they cook the food. One more caution: Siamese is closed both lunch and dinner on Mondays and Tuesdays.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
I’d love to see this restaurant in a more auspicious location, but staying here has kept the prices low even by Thai standards.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment
- Consistency +2
- Value +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar
- Local Color
- Good for business meetings
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open most holidays
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted