In 1980, when Tony and Patty Namkumee opened Siam Curry House on Wilton Drive, it was believed to be the first Thai restaurant in Broward County. Now called Siam Cuisine, it is the kind of neighborhood Thai restaurant everyone should want in their neighborhood.
In the past 33 years, we've seen Thai restaurants proliferate like the overflowing pots of basil growing behind Siam Cuisine. These days, there's the Thai restaurant as lounge, the Thai restaurant with uber-genuine recipes and decor, and all kinds of Thai/sushi mash-ups from one end of the region to the other.
The Namkumees have no doubt watched it all, but carried on business as usual in their quiet, wood-paneled dining room, where every employee is well schooled in hospitality. Over the past dozen years, Siam Cuisine has become my go-to spot for lunchtime, take-out pad Thai. For less than $10 at lunch, the restaurant serves some of the best I've had.
It wasn't until working on this review that I ventured inside the restaurant for dinner. I wasn't disappointed. We were greeted with the same warm reception I get at lunch. After we were seated, I realized the size of the menu. I'm used to the abbreviated, one-page lunch offerings.
We started with steamed pork and shrimp dumplings ($6.95), with spicy-sweet dipping sauce. Beef salad ($7.95) is loaded with tender strips of room-temperature meat, along with iceberg lettuce and a citrus-and-fish-sauce dressing.
There may be more authentic Thai food around, but I love the nuanced seasoning here. Dishes are elegantly presented and never sloppily oversauced. I sometimes wish there were more fresh garnishes with the entrees. My favorite pad Thai, for instance, would do better with a squirt of lime.
But then, you get a dish such as Two Buddies ($19.95): crispy duck and classic Siam chicken served with a choice of chili sauce, curry sauce, garlic-butter sauce or sweet-basil sauce. Our group chose chili sauce with the duck and curry for the chicken. Both poultry dishes are superb.
Soft-shell crabs ($18.95), two per order, are flash-fried and crispy, and served, once again, with a choice of sauce. We had garlic butter on our server's recommendation, which was thankfully more garlicky than buttery. Stir-fried pork with hot peppers ($13.95) comes with boneless strips of pork. The menu calls it medium spicy, but I found nothing spicy about the dish, although the pork was tender and flavorful from the high-heat cooking. Shrimp pad Thai ($17.95) was just as good as my lunchtime chicken version. Massaman vegetable curry ($13.95) — the curry is made with lemongrass, nuts and coconut milk — was just the dish we were looking for, with its generous sauce. We poured it over our brown rice.
Be sure to check the chalkboard for specials, such as the crispy salmon with red Thai chili sauce ($29.95), which we were delighted to have added to our order at the last minute. Like the pork, it wasn't spicy, but dishes can be ordered to your liking.
After three decades, Siam Cuisine not only knows what it's doing, but does almost everything right.
2010 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
Hours: Lunch weekdays, dinner daily
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Beer and wine
Sound level: Conversational
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Highchairs
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free lot or meters