NICE THAI

Pad prig khing is much more straightforward. It's a combination of superb strips of chile-marinated pork and crunchy fresh green beans, doused in a mint-accented sauce. This is where the mildly adventurous Midwestern carnivore in your group should take refuge. Siamese Kitchen also offers a duck alternative. Half a duck is crisply roasted. Then, the breast meat is removed from the bone and fanned across the plate, next to a leg and wing. Everything sits on a pile of spinach, over a puddle of honey sauce that delightfully perks up the meaty duck. The kitchen doesn't put too much effort into dessert, but the one it does offer is right on target. It's a refreshing, homemade coconut ice cream that helps soften the Thai food sting. A word about spiciness. Thai fare can be notoriously hot. To test the kitchen, we ordered dishes throughout the heat range, from mild to incendiary. In each case, the cooks paid attention. Siamese Kitchen is the kind of ethnic restaurant that gives big-city living a dose of cosmopolitan charm. It's a winner.

Siam, 5008 West Northern, Glendale, 931-2102. Hours: Lunch and Dinner, Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 10 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.

Location Info

Map

Siamese Kitchen

4352 W. Olive Ave.
Glendale, AZ 85302

Category: Restaurant > Thai

Region: Glendale

Also a winner is Siam, a 14-year-old west-side institution popular with locals. But newcomers have to gird themselves and look past its location, a dismal and moribund strip-mall location. Once they do, there are rewards inside. Like Siamese Kitchen, it's pure ethnic joint: posters, embroidered weavings, red vinyl booths, assorted greenery and photos of various Thai royal couples. Thai music is softly piped over the music system. With one exception, appetizers are pretty lackluster--just the usual fried won tons, egg rolls and pork toast. Not even Thailand's well-known sweet noodle dish, mee krob, could overcome the blahs. But the homemade fish cakes get the meal off to a good start. They're made from minced fish blended with chile paste, green beans and scallions, deep-fried and served with a wicked dipping sauce of rice vinegar, peanuts, cucumber and chile. Beginners may find the taste and texture package pretty weird, but I think it's mesmerizing. So is almost everything else here. The tom yum koong sports the full panoply of soup flavors. Scented with lemon grass, lime juice, mint, basil, chile, cilantro and ginger, it features six shrimp and fresh mushrooms. The Siam specials are aptly named. The hot and spicy combination brings together chicken, beef and pork, saut‚ed with green beans and bamboo shoots, in a snout-clearing green curry sauce. The smooth chicken panang platter combines rich coconut milk with fresh basil and more heat-provoking chiles. There aren't too many dishes in this town that provide such a heady flavor mix for $6.25. Most of the other platters offer the same kind of quality. Thai barbecue chicken brings half a hacked-up bird, marinated in garlic sauce and charbroiled. The bird is wonderfully meaty and moist, and comes with a vinegary sweet-and-sour sauce for dunking. Beef with mint leaves starts with good quality meat, freshened with lots of greenery and onions. It's not a taste American carnivores are used to, but it doesn't take long to get acclimated. And although almond chicken seems a lot closer to Hong Kong than Bangkok, it's still a top choice. That's because the chicken doesn't taste like it was just poured from a 25-pound bag. The veggies, slivered almonds and delicate sauce also do their part. Sweet-and-sour shrimp is also a familiar Asian restaurant standby, but Siam puts its own mark on the platter. It surrounds a generous portion of shrimp with squash, peppers and tomatoes, without drowning everything in an icky-sweet sauce. In comparison, the noodle dishes seem a bit tame. Pad Thai didn't have all the zesty sprightliness it could have. Neither did the pork with thin cellophane noodles. Desserts here are more energetic than Siamese Kitchen's. Along with a soothing, homemade coconut ice cream topped with chopped peanuts, there's various canned Asian fruit. But if you still have a few ounces of adventure left over, try the warm Thai custard. It's made from taro root, and resembles a cross between bread pudding and custard. The taste will certainly give you something to discuss in the car on your way home. Both Siamese Kitchen and Siam turn standard geography inside out. In this town, if you want to eat East, you're best off heading west.

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