Photos | Shane Rice
Siam Thai Cuisine
915 Hillcrest Road
Mobile, AL 36695
Yes, yes, once again Katie and I headed west for more Asian cuisine. The percentage of good Asian restaurants on the left side of Interstate 65 is staggering compared to that of Midtown and LoDa. I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface, as far as reviews go.
We’ve blurred the line of demarcation as to where West Mobile begins. Years ago it was anything past the malls, and I still consider that as pushing the border. But I think most of us are now considering Azalea/McGregor the new cutoff. When I mention West Mobile, most I talk to immediately think Schillinger. Schillinger! It’s now nothing to motor on over to Hillcrest, which is the location of today’s target, Siam Thai Cuisine.
Just over 2 years old, Siam is on Hillcrest between Airport and Grelot, an area I know well from my teaching days at West Mobile Music. Back then, this location in a strip of shops was a decent Chinese buffet. Nowadays the décor is a little classier and the service seems slightly more upscale, with Champagne cocktails and a Monday — Thursday happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m.
From the way the other guests were greeted, we could tell some were regulars. I took that as a good sign on this sweetheart of a lunch date. We had skipped breakfast and replaced it with a 5-mile walk, so we were starving. It was nice to see the service was attentive.
I can’t go to a place like this and skip out on basil rolls ($3.95). These are the rice paper and peanut sauce noodle wraps often called summer rolls. Cucumber, carrots and of course basil were accompanied by shrimp for a roll that wasn’t too heavy on the herbs, but great in the peanut sauce. We had one each. My PR is six at one sitting.
We knew it was our duty to try the Thai pot stickers ($5.95). Our eldest kids are pot sticker snobs, so we had to make sure these were up to their standards should we ever return with them. The five we received were tender and pan seared (our request), and the homemade sauce was mild but sweet, almost fruity. I think they will like them.
The menu here is plenty big without being scary. There is a sushi section, rolled in the dining area, and plenty of noodle, stir fry, rice and curry dishes from the dinner menu. Luckily there are lunch portions as well. It’s a combo meal, essentially. With it you get a choice of tom yum, tom kha or miso for your soup course, and spring rolls, fried wontons or salad for your second course.
We both ordered tom kha. I love the little bit of coconut milk to complement the heat of the chilis, but we received tom yum. At first disappointed, there was a second when we almost informed our waiter of his mistake, but we changed our minds and kept our mouths shut when we found the broth to be so good.
I had the spring rolls, which were everything you’d want in this dish. The outside was crispy, the inside delicious and free from the oily flavor I abhor that perhaps comes when one is fried at a lower temperature than intended. I of course tried the sweet chili sauce, but I’m more inclined to dip my spring rolls in my soup. And I did.
Katie had the salad, which was the typical iceberg and mayonnaise-based dressing, and in her words it was “standard in a good way. Fresh, crunchy and well done predictable.” For her entrée, it was as I predicted. Red curry ($7.95) was made with her choice of chicken. Bamboo shoots, carrots, bell pepper and Thai basil had the spiciness associated with the red chilis, but wasn’t overly hot from the right amount of sweet coconut milk. With a pyramid of rice on the side, my bride barely touched that area of the plate, nearly taking her curry straight on.
For myself, stir fried cashew ($7.95) was a must. There was a dish that was my go-to at a place called Thai This in Southern California. Two decades ago I would occasionally take in its glory. The stir fried onion, carrots and bell peppers were at home next to the chicken and cashews in a light sauce. It gets no simpler than this. It’s a good measuring stick as to what this restaurant is about. Unlike Katie, I used every bit of my rice to sop up the sauce and give weight to the vegetables.
When we left the restaurant stuffed to the gills, Katie remarked that nothing about the experience disappointed. She was right. The ingredients were so fresh. The staff was on top of everything. The heat and flavors were just right. We had an extraordinary meal with double appetizers and unsweet teas for $32.67 before tip. I really couldn’t ask for more.
So it makes me wonder why we can’t have more of this east of the interstate. I know we have Aroy and Von’s, but travel down Cottage Hill and count the restaurants. There are so many great Asian places out there that Midtown and Downtown look silly by comparison. Here is your chance, restaurateurs, to open more Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Indian and more! Sure, we aren’t hurting for restaurants downtown, but you know I hate to travel.
Hit me up. I’ll give you the names of some commercial real estate agents! Until then I’ll fight the traffic.
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