It is not exactly drudgery to write about a new South Asian restaurant in a city that has only a handful, so I didn’t have to be dragged to Siam, located half a block from bustling Avenida Chapultepec in midtown Guadalajara.
Arriving around 4:30 p.m. on a Thursday, well past the dinner hour, I found the place mostly unoccupied but very welcoming, even to my small dog, who, I was told, would be permitted to sit with me in the main dining room, instead of only on the porch or in the patio, as I expected. (Siam is infant friendly too, with high chairs.) But I opted for the very pleasant patio anyway and found a shady area among the seven tables, all unoccupied, which meant I didn’t have to worry about the pup disturbing other diners when she decided to sing a chorus with a pooch on some neighbor’s roof.
But the doggie serenade faded away as an unusual iced tea – Te Thai – was delivered, followed quickly by my main dish selection, the most popular one at Siam, Pad Thai (135 pesos), based on a small quantity of thick rice noodles and chicken, done up with tamarind sauce, fish sauce, soybean sprouts, bell peppers, peanuts, chile, onion and tofu. (I did not detect any tofu but it could have been lurking in there.)
My Te Thai was a surprising treat. The color (a deep orange after mixing up the layer of sweet milk from the bottom) and the taste (a touch of undefinable spiciness) made this a cool delight on a warm afternoon.
For a fresh vegetable lover like me, the crowning glory of the Pad Thai was a heap of very fresh cilantro and chives on top, which, with a squirt from a lime wedge and occasional forays into the side dish of peanut sauce (not picante, according to the waiter), really set off the dish below. There were just a few slices of green chile in the mix, but since the dish was pleasantly spicy and I am not a fan of extreme heat, I fished them out.
Despite the waiter’s assurances, the peanut sauce, although very tasty, was almost too hot for my delicate palate. I dared not try its companion, a feisty looking red sauce. (I well remembered accidentally gobbling down a thin, three-inch piece of dried chile skin in the gravy of an Indian dish and gasping for ten minutes, water gushing from my eyes, wondering if you could have a heart attack from chile.)
Most main dishes at Siam, if not actually vegetarian themselves, can be ordered in tofu, pork or shrimp incarnations. (Okay, “tofu incarnation” is an oddity since the Latin root incarnare means to make flesh, and flesh is one thing tofu is not.)
A seafood option, Pla Manaw (155 pesos), is fried curvina. (It is usually written corvina and difficult to translate; it may be croaker, so you can see why they renamed it.) The fish is combined with ingredients similar to the dish I ordered, but served with steamed jasmine rice instead of noodles. The menu promises it will be an “explosion of flavors on the palate.” Sounds enticing and I like fish, but I would hesitate to order this unless I knew what curvina is, since so many commercial fish are farmed under disgusting conditions.
Siam’s appetizers include jasmine rice with coconut milk, fried or steamed dumplings filled with shiitake or pork, and Satay brochettes, which are versions of the Satay main dish.
The beer list, from a Thai lager called Singh to area artisan beers including Colimita, should please brew fans.
Siam does not seem to have an actual Thai owner or cook on board. I was told that the concept came from a Mexican woman, Jessica, who vacationed in Thailand and loved the food. She did well in bringing this cuisine to delight Guadalajara.
Siam Thai Kitchen, Montenegro 1975, Colonia Americana, Guadalajara. Tel:(33) 2465-2653. Open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 2-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 2-10:30 p.m. Sunday 2-5:30 p.m.