Thai Cuisine - Outside The City

Posted: February 02, 1992

The new Siam Cuisine in Newtown offers a relatively rare opportunity for suburban diners to experience the enormous appeal of Thai cuisine.

Siam Cuisine, a branch of the restaurant of the same name at 925 Arch St. in Philadelphia, is among the very few suburban restaurants specializing in Thai dishes. Silk of Siam in Bryn Mawr and Touch of Siam in East Lansdowne are my two other favorites in this select group.

Several other restaurants offer French-Thai cuisine, a slightly different although equally delightful culinary approach.

A special of the day, mee grob ($6.95) - a picture-pretty appetizer that appealed to the senses of sight, smell, taste and touch - was angel hair pasta tossed with crunchy bean sprouts and scallions, squiggles of honey-glazed chicken, hints of bean curd and tiny threads of fried egg yolk that looked like Spanish moss, all draped with strips of red bell pepper and bedded on greens. Traditional chicken-coconut soup ($3.50) was flavorful but unusually thin coconut milk with strips of chicken breast, fresh mushrooms, red bell pepper and a spritz of the finely chopped coriander that is ubiquitous in Asian food.

Siam Chef's Salad ($5.50), a delightful dish that seemed more American than Thai, was a generous portion of iceberg lettuce, cucumber rounds with pretty fluted edges, thin slices of tomato and red onion, wedges of bean curd, hard- cooked egg and little chunks of chicken in an intriguing peanut dressing that seemed more like tahini than peanut sauce, blessed with a delayed fieriness that may catch you by surprise.

Equally memorable main dishes included flambeed hen ($11.95), a whole baked chicken that was flamed in the kitchen with brandy and served on a pewter platter in a lovely nam pla sauce, the delicate-sweet sauce of fermented anchovies, vinegar and sugar-water that is one of the joys of Thai cuisine. The dish came with rice and sauteed cucumber circles.More familiar was sauteed shrimp ($13.95) with green beans, baby corn and sweet Thai basil in a slightly spicy coconut cream sauce with hints of curry.

A tray of French-style desserts ($3.75) included creme brulee, chocolate- swirl cheesecake and excellent, triple-layer hazelnut-buttercream cake ($3.75). Thai "herb cake" was triple layers of white cake, its cream topping tinged green from pandanus leaves that have an unfamiliar, slightly bitter flavor.

Thai iced coffee, normally a compelling treat made with condensed milk, is instead made here with half-and-half, an ordinary presentation I skipped.

Service was attentive and friendly. The restaurant has no liquor license, but patrons may bring their own spirits. Beer goes best with this spicy food.

The hard-to-find restaurant is just off South Eagle Road in the newest part of the Village of Newtown Shopping Center.

Tables are set with bold, contemporary tablecloths with mauve, peach and green flowers, white paper placemats, white cotton napkins, an oil wick in translucent plastic holder, deep-red felt rose and baby's breath in a white bud vase and high-backed, aluminum chairs with slate-blue seats that complement the blue-gray carpeting.

SIAM CUISINE

Market Place South, Village of Newtown Shopping Center, 2124 S. Eagle Rd., Newtown, 579-9399.

Open: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tue.-Sat.; dinner 5-10 p.m. Sun. & Tue.-Thu., until 11 p.m. Fri. & Sat. Closed Mon.

Price range: Appetizers average $5, entrees $12.

Credit cards: Major cards.

Nonsmoking section: Yes.

Facilities for handicapped: Yes.

Atmosphere: Pretty.

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