Friday, June 29, 2007

Siam Royal Thai Cuisine (Palo Alto)

We get takeout Thai almost as often as we eat in, so it feels appropriate to post a review here even if the title of the blog implies eat-in experiences. Siam Royal is one of several Thai restaurants on the University Ave. strip of Palo Alto (Krung Thai and Thaiphoon being the others that came up in a search--Krung Thai is the restaurant variously called "Pink Thai" for its decor and "Grand Opening" for the banner that remained up for months obscuring the restaurant's actual name). Siam Royal is next to Z Gallerie, and has been recently renovated, which shows in the clean, modern interior of the smallish space. The counter is, somewhat disorientingly, at the back, meaning you have to walk through the whole restaurant to pick up your order.

We ordered crispy calamari, mint rolls with chicken, yellow curry with chicken, mango chicken, pad thai with shrimp, and mango with sticky rice for dessert. The calamari were excellent, with a sweet, spicy sauce that rivals good seafood cocktail as a condiment for this dish. We've tried calamari in several places in Palo Alto, and this was definitely up there with Cheesecake Factory as one of the better ones in the area. The breading is heavier, but crisp and flavorful. The mint rolls, the other appetizer, were cold and wrapped in rice paper, Vietnamese style. Most appealingly to me, they contained no cilantro, an herb it's almost impossible to avoid in cold roll appetizers. Lots of mint, good chicken, and again, excellent light peanut sauce to accompany the roll.

The main dishes were nothing outstanding, but were all fine exemplars. There's not much you can to do ruin yellow curry, and they didn't. The mango chicken had little mango, but the chicken and veggies had great flavor. Similarly, the pad thai had not as much shrimp as I would've liked, but the shrimp were large (rather than the tiny scampi you sometimes find in noodle dishes) and the noodles were good and sticky, with a rich flavor that almost felt more like pad see ew than pad thai. Which I didn't mind, because I like the see ew noodles too.

My big problem with Thai food when I first started eating it a few years ago was that it seemed that no matter how I ordered the spice level, I'd always get something too spicy. While most of these dishes were mild (the calamari sauce was spicy and the mango chicken had chilis in it) and perfectly to my taste, I can certainly see that people who prefer Thai food for the spice would want to ask for spicier meals when ordering here. They advertise themselves as "authentic Thai," but I think it's more like classic Americanized Thai--but that's fine, because that's what we're used to.

Lastly, the mango with sticky rice was okay--again, not great, but then, it had been sitting around for three hours at that point, so that could've been part of it. It tasted good, but the rice and mango seemed to be a little dried out. This is one dessert I really like that is not on the menu in many Thai places, so it was nice to find it here.

All in all, a solid choice for Thai food. And they packaged the takeout really nicely, wrapping the drippy stuff in individual tied plastic bags and using foam clamshells rather than the Chinese takeout-style paper folding boxes. I was thanked by three different staff members on my way out through the restaurant, and all the diners seemed pretty happy. We'd go there again, sit down or takeout.

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