In this month that celebrates the cuisine of Italy on Columbus Day and the German flavors of Oktoberfest, we settled the debate by going to Siam Paradise for some Thai food.
This beautiful restaurant is an explosion of color at every turn. There are flowers everywhere, gold accents, chandeliers and colorful umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, creatively set tables and several dining spaces, each as inviting as the next. There is so much to look at, including the big menu which our lovely server, Tanya, dressed in elegant Siam fashion, was happy to help us navigate.
We chose three appetizers. Our first called Mermaids was marinated shrimp stuffed with ground chicken, coriander root, wrapped in a crispy egg roll with spicy plum sauce. If you like a light starter, try this. Our second was Gyow Tod. These are super thin, delicately fried wonton skins, stuffed with ground chicken and corn, served with spicy plum sauce. They are crispier than potato chips and so good. Our third was Toong Thong or golden purses, filled with marinated crabmeat and shrimp, water chestnut, glass noodles, corn, carrot and cilantro with a spicy honey plum sauce. This is the deepest and densest of the three. We enjoyed them all but agreed our favorite was the Gyow Tod.
I also had to have a bowl of Tom Ka Kung. It’s one of my favorites, and this was a dandy. This soup is chicken or shrimp with galangal, a cousin to the ginger and turmeric, lemon grass, mushrooms, bell pepper, coconut milk and lime juice. The complex flavors are intoxicating, so sip it slowly and sink into its many layers.
Now for the entrées – a hard decision, as there are close 100 including many vegetarian selections.
Our first diner chose a dish from the popular noodle offerings, the Spaghetti Basil, a stir-fry of spaghetti, chicken, carrot, bell pepper, string beans, mushrooms, onion, basil, chili paste and basil sauce. It’s a mouthful of ingredients that made an impact. It’s a fun dish with each forkful delivering a different profile. It requires some skillful eating as the sauce doesn’t really cling to the spaghetti, but the taste is worth the careful effort.
Diner two chose perhaps the most popular Thai dish, Pad Thai. She chose chicken with stir-fried glass rice noodle and bean curd, egg, scallions and bean sprouts, topped with ground roasted peanuts. Some Pad Thai are peanut-forward; this one has a light touch but was really tasty. It’s a big portion too with lots of leftovers.
I tried something new for me, the Pineapple Pad Thai Jumbo Shrimp with basil, bell pepper, tomatoes, carrot, pineapple and coconut milk in red curry sauce. I enjoyed the sweet and heat of the dish, but next time I’m going to ask them to leave out the basil, which I didn’t like. The red curry is the medium heat, but it was tempered by the coconut and was not too hot at all. It comes with white rice on the side.
They have several desserts including Fried Ice Cream. We chose Sweet Mango with Sticky Rice, topped with black and white sesame seeds and coconut milk, and let me recommend you do the same. Each of us imagined the dish differently, and each of us was pleasantly surprised. It’s kind of a deconstructed rice pudding, with sliced mangoes swimming in a rich coconut milk base. Those sesame seeds gave it a nutty taste, and we just loved it.
Siam Paradise’s chef has a gentle hand when showcasing the intricate Thai flavors, so don’t be afraid it will be too hot.
There are several seating areas that would be great for small parties, and it’s handicapped accessible. There is parking in front of the restaurant, and after 5 pm, you may park in any vacant lot including visitor and permit lots. BYOB.
Cost – low to moderate
What we liked- The remarkable colors, table settings and atmosphere, the friendly and speedy service, the big menu and authentic flavors.
Siam Paradise is located at 2 Bridge Ave., in the Galleria in Red Bank. 732-741-2999. They’re open Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday 11 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am to 9:30 pm, Closed Monday. SiamParadiseUSA.com.