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Siam Cuisine pledge: Thai that's bright and fresh — even the sausage

Photo: Veronica Luna, License: N/A

Veronica Luna

Siam Cuisine's green papaya salad, rice, and chicken wings.

"We use only the freshest, highest-quality authentic ingredients."

Sound familiar? It should, as it's the litany of just about any contemporary chef with aspirations these days; the statement is only missing a reference to local sourcing — pick your radius. But in this case, it's part of "our promise," a preamble to the menu at Siam Cuisine, and though ingredients such as fermented Thai sausage (more on that later) don't necessarily speak of freshness, the claim seems generally true; Siam Cuisine turns out some of the lightest, freshest-tasting Thai around, all in a setting that is also refreshingly free of traditional trappings.

Lacking the crowd necessary to order Siam's regional menus for two, we decided to put together a Thai tour of our own, starting with a northern specialty, the Som Tam, a salad of green papaya ordered medium-plus on the heat scale. I've had this several times before, but it's never been quite as good; there was crunch from the papaya, the carrot, and the chopped peanut, bracing acidity coupled with a brown-sugary sweetness from the "spicy homemade dressing," and a nice, latent afterburn. Some unexpected iceberg added additional crunch and there was a touch of fish sauce or dried shrimp. The tomatoes seemed superfluous, but the rest was spectacular.

Also northern was an appetizer of chicken wings marinated in garlic, coriander root, and peppercorns — not as spectacular as the salad, but way better than most wings around, served with a non-cloying sweet and sour sauce, and great with one of the Thai beers. No regional provenance was listed for the Khanom Byan Yown, a dish deceptively listed as "lightly fried crisp eggs stuffed with ground chicken, bean sprouts." In fact, it's a spectacularly crisp and eggy crepe folded over a mountain of the sprouts and shreds of chicken, extremely simple and utterly satisfying.

At this point our charming waitresses began to chide us about the number of dishes we had ordered. Undaunted, we soldiered on straight into a heaping platter of fried rice with that fermented sausage, a hint of egg and a whisper of onion and scallion. Don't let the sausage scare you; it's merely very flavorful, and the rice itself is likely the most delicate fried rendition you will have ever had. Pad Thra Kai, a stir-fry of pork (our selection) from Bangkok, employed more lemongrass than most of us are used to in any one dish — and it worked. A little chile-vinegar sauce from the condiment tray (ask for it) might be added, but otherwise this was another revelation.

We got more amused comments from the waitresses as they brought the last entrée, the southern Gaeng Massaman. On ordering, when one of them revealed that this curry "soup" contained fresh pineapple in addition to a host of Middle-Eastern spices, we considered omitting it — and that's what I would do next time; the large chunks of pineapple are jarring. But the rest of it, our selected chicken further flavored with tamarind, coconut milk, and peanut (clove was the dominant spice), was terrific. We finished it all unashamedly — and went on to share a sticky rice and gorgeously ripe mango dessert. Take that, servers of little faith; when the food's good, it's hard to stop.

Siam Cuisine

6032 FM 3009 (Schertz)
(210) 651-6015

Best Bets Green papaya salad, crisp "fried eggs" crepe with chicken and bean sprouts.

Hours Lunch 11am-3pm; Dinner 5-9pm Mon-Fri; noon-9pm Sat; noon-8pm Sun

Prices $-$$$

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