Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; dinner: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa. Prices: Most dinner items $3.50 to $4.50.
The Siam Inn is a lovable little restaurant, with excellent Thai food, a pretty dining room whose lights are softened by parasols, modest prices and a solicitous owner who is nearly always on hand -- and who will reliably honor a request for no monosodium glutamate, or MSG.
If you're used to Thai food, you won't find many surprises here.
The regular menu includes the usual entree-size appetizers -- spring rolls, moo sate, peppery hot marinated meats, stuffed chicken wings -- and an assortment of hot and mild entrees: meats, noodle dishes, a curry. Within this standard repertoire, however, there's a certain care in preparation that distinguishes the Siam Inn.
Spring rolls, arguably the best around, are a good example, their wrappers at once crisp-surfaced yet a bit chewy, and remarkably free of excess oil.
Moo sate is tops, too, the lean, skewered pork chunks beautifully marinated and grilled, the dipping sauce a delightful blend of peanut, sugar, coconut and curry flavors.
Chicken wings stuffed with crabmeat is a Thai appetizer that can make for pretty dull eating, but at Siam Inn there's a liveliness to the flavoring and a profusion of chunky crabmeat that makes the dish downright interesting.
If the fiery side of Thai cooking appeals to you, try nham sod, a combination of coarse-ground pork with whole peanuts and lemon juice, flavored with fresh ginger and lots of red pepper. (Have a glass of Thai beer close at hand.)
Don't overlook the excellent soups. For something mild, there's the meaty-tasting bean thread and minced pork; on the red-hot side, chicken or shrimp with lemon grass, tart and peppery.
Or, best of all, gai tom kha, a wonderful combination of chicken, coconut and lemon flavors.
Among the entrees, pad hang is one of the loveliest noodle dishes around, subtle and velvety. The noodles have the texture of the tenderest won ton, the bits of egg are faultlessly fluffy, the chicken and shrimp in the mixture are tender and flavorful, and, for flavor and texture contrast, there are crunchy bits of what tastes like a salty pickled cabbage.
Country curry is equally outstanding, with a multilayered blend of flavors that include lemon grass, coconut milk, Thai herbs and sweet basil. Terrific.
Another good bet is shrimp with garlic and pepper -- actually a mild dish, less garlickly than most, in which the flavors of the sauce actually penetrate and enhance the shrimp.
More garlicky are beef, pork or chicken with basil leaves, mildly hot and beautifully flavored.
Also pleasant is gai nan chao -- stir-fried chicken cubes with green pepper, chunky bamboo shoots and plenty of fresh ginger.
Perhaps the best single yardstick for judging an Asian restaurant is the care taken with stir-fried vegetables. By this criterion, Siam Inn is a high scorer indeed.
The restaurant's combination vegetables are flawless: crunchy, lively, and in a properly delicate sauce enlivened with garlic and ginger.
At Siam Inn, the stir-fried vegetable plate is a winner of a dish, in a winner of a restaurant.