Atmosphere: Ordinary Hours: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. every day.Price Range: Entrees, $3.50 to $11.50, with most in the $3.75-to-$5.50 range. Credit Cards: MasterCard and Visa. Reservations: Advisable on Friday and Saturday nights. Special Facilities: Accessible to patrons in wheelchairs, limited parking space in front of restaurant.
The Siam Inn is tucked away in a tiny strip of small convenience stores off Georgia Avenue. It is such a non-descript area and the restaurant's facade is so abbreviated that it's easy to miss the place entirely. But don't. As our family learned when we went there for dinner one Monday evening, the Siam Inn may look sleepy and deserted -- it may even be empty, as it was the night we were there -- but someone in the kitchen knows how to produce superb food. The paucity of diners meant only that not all the dishes on the extensive menu were available that night.
The cuisine, our waitress explained, is Thai seasonings and food combinations prepared with a Chinese influence. The effect was wonderful: Not so different that our children were put off by radical change, but unusual enough that my husband and I felt our palates had had an adventure.
The menu is an intimidating seven pages long. Many dishes have their Thai names subtitled in English transliteration, and English descriptions are even more helpful, Shiu mai, for instance, is an appetizer of steamed, minced pork and shrimp dumpling; gai gok kai is an entree that combines chicken, egg noodle, quail egg and mushroom sauce. Some of the more familiar dishes, such as sweet and sour pork, spring rolls -- need less explanation.
We asked our waitress for help in choosing dishes but she demurred. When we told her our son was a vegetarian, she went out to ask the chef whether his omelet stuffed with pork and vegetables (kai yad siad, $4) could be made without the pork. But the answer was no, and he was left with only one choice, a combination vegetable plate, $3.50.
The rest of us indulged in more fulsome dishes. We started off by trying tom yam goong, a shrimp and lemon grass soup, $1.95; kang woon sen, a bean thread, mushroom and minced pork soup, $1.60; and kang tao hoo kao, a bean curd, minced pork and spring onion melange, $1.60.
Lemon grass has a sharp, spicy taste and the tom yam goong played on that seasoning lovingly. The soup was mellow with a subtly biting afterglow. Both the beam thread (like a translucent noodle) and bean curl soups were superb: gentle but rich, with well-spiced minced pork. We were off to a very promising start.
For appetizers we ordered spring rolls, $3, and chicken a la Bangkok, $3.50. The spring rolls were a thinner, dryer, meatier version of egg rolls. We didn't find them exciting. The Bangkok chicken, on the other hand, was wonderful. There were four servings to a portion and each serving was a chicken leg stuffed with crabmeat, pork and vegetables, then deep fried.
The main courses kept pace with what was by now a very high standard. Our favorite dish was pork with ginger root and mushroom, $3.75. The ginger flavor was sublte but pervasive and the pork, thinly sliced and gently sauteed, was mouth-metlingly tender.
The fried shrimp with bamboo shoot, $5.50, also was well prepared with juicy shrimp and a mild, light brown sauce. Our son's vegetable combination was a beauty: the oval serving dish was heaped high with tomato quarters, cabbage chunks, broccoli flowerets, peppers and other vegetables. All had been cooked through but still maintained their color and shape. Those of us who don't shun meat used some of the ginger sauce from the pork on the vegetable dish, and that made a good dish better.
The desserts -- all priced at 75 cents -- sounded exotic; toddy palm, lychees, longan, rambutan and ka nhom Thai. There was a note on the menu asking us to ask our waitress about dessert specialties. We did, but unfortunately, Siam Inn was out of desserts that night.
The tab for our dinner for four, which included one Thai beer and four portions of rice (40 cents each) came to $29.15, including tax.