Our Rating  

Siam City Café
339 Fore Street
773-8389

 
Two and 1/2 plates  
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Siam City Cafe Reviewed: Winter, 2004

We had ventured down to Siam City a couple of times with intentions of trying it out but each time something turned us away. This time, we were determined to go, no matter what. The lunchtime hostess/server sat us at a nice window side table about as far as we could be away from the one and only other party in the restaurant. The space is quite nice, exposed brick walls, simple black tables with small blue lamps hanging from the high ceilings. We unfolded our pink cloth napkins and draped them across our laps as our waitress handed us luncheon menus and a wine list.

The menu is rather short listing two to three options under each heading including Appetizers, Soups, Salads, Entrees, Curries, Noodles, and Fried Rice with the last four having a choice of various meats or tofu. Spiciness is indicated by zero to three stars next to each item. Our waitress returned after only giving us a minute to peruse the menu. Instead of offering to take our order of either beverage or meal, she just kind of stood there staring at us which made me rather uncomfortable. I didn't know what to say and ended up sort of sputtering out an "uhhhh…I'm not quite ready yet, but I'll have a root beer ($1.50) I guess" while my husband simply ordered a Singha, a Thai beer ($3.95).

By the time she returned with our drinks, I was ready to order and to speak. Although I really wanted to try the tempting looking Thai vegetable rolls, deep-fried egg rolls with mixed vegetables in wonton skin served with cucmber sauce (4 for $4.00), we decided to order the Fresh spring rolls with mixed vegetables to start, rolled with rice paper, cucumber, basil leaves and lettuce and served with sweet and sour sauce ($3.50 for 2). These arrived in a very neat, clean presentation. Four halves arranged on a black plate with a small dish of thin Thai sweet & sour sauce for dipping. The spring rolls were very fresh, a thick rice wrapper filled mostly with tons of cold crisp lettuce, some fresh basil and a few carrot and cucumber shreds. The sauce was extremely mild, with vague hints of garlic, and did not absorb all that well into the spring rolls. Over all it was a refreshing dish but not very flavorful. A side of peanut dipping sauce would have made all the difference.

For my entrée it had been a toss up between the Pad cashew nut, choice of pork ($6.00), chicken ($6.00), beef ($6.00), shrimp ($7.50), tofu ($5.95) or seafood (shrimp, squid and scallop for $8.00) stir-fried with mixed fresh red pepper, scallions, snow peas, onion and cashew nuts, or the Pad preaw wann, same choices and prices, stir-fried with fresh red pepper, scallions, pineapple, baby corn, and cucumber in sweet and sour sauce. My husband and I were both extremely tempted by the traditional Pad Thai, choice of pork ($6.00), chicken ($6.00), shrimp ($7.50) or tofu ($5.95) and stir-fried rice noodles with pad Thai sauce, egg, bean sprouts, scallions and ground peanuts but I ended up going for the Pad preaw wann with chicken, an interesting sounding dish which I had never tried before. He ordered the Pad nam prik phow with tofu ($5.95), sauteed wide rice noodles with hot marinated Thai chili, onion, tomatoes, green and red peppers, a two-star dish.

As we waited for our food, we entertained ourselves by discussing the strange new-age guitar and pan pipe music that played throughout the restaurant. Not the type of music one would expect to hear in a Thai restaurant but pleasant to listen to anyway. When our meals arrived, they looked identical, and unappetizingly similar to a pre-made create-a-meal you might pick up in the frozen food section of the grocery store. Unfortunately, they didn't taste all that different either. Although every ingredient seemed very fresh, there was not all that much flavor, and it just wasn't anything above and beyond what I might throw together for myself at home. My dish comprised of a decent amount of flavorless boneless chicken bits, lots of red peppers and onions, a few cucumber slices, a couple of baby corns, and a few chunks of canned pineapple. This was all doused in a very bland sweet & sour sauce which was sort of like the thin dipping sauce we had earlier received with our spring rolls but infused with an equal part of oil. Although my husband's dish had a completely different description on the menu, it came in the same exact sauce, his having a pinch of spice added. The tofu was nothing more than plain white cubed tofu and the noodles, although adding an interesting consistency to the combo, were just very limp, tasteless brown noodles. He was very disappointed in the lack of spiciness. Even I could have handled his dish, and I can't even eat one red pepper flake without having to drink a gallon of water and eat a pint of sour cream. He was not the only one to be disapointed by this factor either. A party that had been seated next to us mid-meal, after requesting a star-explanation from the waitress and receiving a description of 3-star as firy hot, 2-star as medium hot, and 1-star as mildly hot, went ahead and got a 3-star dish only to find a similar lack of hotness. They ended up complaining only to receive a separate bowl of spice on the side to add at their discretion.

parking  
reservations
wheelchair accessible
vegetarian selections
vegan selections
beer
wine
liquor  
most credit cards accepted
Our meals were quite filling. I did eat nearly everything on my plate. The accompanying sticky white rice was very good and was definitely a savior to the rest of the dish. On the menu, they claim that all dishes are fresh made to order, and MSG-free, which was obvious, and they do seem to be rather healthy but then again I always assume that if it's boring it must be good for you. We didn't look at a dessert menu and I instead grabbed a deliciously taste-filled sour apple candy out of the jar at the hostess stand. I am certainly not in any rush to return to Siam City unless they jazz up their food a bit. There's really no need to go out and spend $22 on a meal that I could make at home for $5. But in case we ever did decide to return, the dinner menu is nearly identical to the luncheon menu with the prices hiked up a buck or two and a few more options offered under each section.  back to the top

 

Tracy B. Wheeler is a classical flutist and freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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