Since Mart and I started SarasotaFoodies’ blog, we’ve gotten a number of requests from restaurant owners asking us to do a profile on their restaurant. But never had we had a customer call, email and follow up to make sure their favorite restaurant earned a visit. . . until we heard from Brad Buchmueller. This man LOVES Siam Orchid, and wanted to tell the world. So he started with us. . .
When Mart and I first met, he took me to Siam Orchid, telling me it was his favorite Thai place, because the food was always delicious, the place never crowded. (Something I just don’t understand!) Now that I’m one of the SarasotaFoodies, I’m reminded that in the quest to provide fresh posts to our readers, we sometimes neglect our favorite haunts. Siam Orchid should have been one of the first posts on our blog, as they are local Thai restaurant royalty.
Siam Orchid was the very first Thai restaurant to open in Sarasota. When it comes to our definition of A-Listers, this is certainly one of them. In fact, a number of owners of newer Thai restaurants started their career as at Siam Orchid, something the owners are very proud of.
Owned by Chef Supakit Vijitchawton, his wife Malai and her sister Nisakorn Loreski, Siam Orchid has been in the same location since opening in 1988. That, my friends, is some serious staying power! Chef Vijitchawton’s father was the lead chef at the Dusit Thani, an internationally acclaimed luxury hotel in Bangkok, so you could say he grew up in the Thai restaurant business.
Upon our arrival, Malai met us at the hostess stand, handed us a menu, and we suggested that we turn the menu selection over to her. “For appetizers, I suggest the numbers 5 and 6 on the menu. For the salad, I suggest the number 11, and certainly you’ll want to try the soup, number 17. For the entrée, I suggest a duck course and a seafood — numbers 50 and 43, and you must try a pad thai. . . number 8.” Whew!
“I want you to try a lot of flavors, so if you can’t eat them all, your server Juan will pack them up. He’s good. Been here 17 years.”
Our server, Juan, is a younger looking man. 17 years? How old was he when he started? 10? That being said, he sure knows the menu, which is so critical in the business.
Following Malai’s recommendations, we ordered our food and had just had a sip of our drinks, Mart had a Thai Chag beer and I had hot sake, when our two appetizers arrived.
The Chicken Satay (#5 on menu) and Fried Dumpling (#6) arrived hot and delicious. The Satay featured four chicken strips that had been marinated in coconut milk and curry, then skewered and broiled over a flame to seal in the moist flavoring. Each skewer was bathed in a delightful peanut sauce, with a dusting of crushed peanuts, one of the reasons Satay is always a favorite Thai dish of mine. It was all I could do to stop at one skewer, but knowing the amount of food coming our way, we both had our the second portion packed up to go.
Mart is such a huge dumpling fan, that he’s often eaten so many dumplings that he’s unable to finish his entrée. These crispy fried dumplings were stuffed with vegetables and chicken, and served with a special house-made sauce that really made the flavors sing. I know it took all his will power to stop at only two, the balance being packed up to go home with us.
Two appetizers this good, and we’re only just starting? We’re in trouble here…
Before we even arrived at Siam Orchid, he was already giving me the ‘head’s up’ that he’d be ordering the Yum Neau beef salad (#11) and that alternatives weren’t negotiable. What can I say? Truth be told, I always lean toward the Nam Sod (#13), but when Malai also recommended the salad Mart wanted, who was I to argue?
Sometimes it’s a good idea to keep your opinions to yourself, and this was certainly one of those times. The Yum Neau was an absolute winner, with tasty fork-tender grilled tenderloin that had been marinated in Thai herbs and spices, served with cucumbers, thinly sliced onion, tomatoes and scallions. It is worth noting that before there was any talk of “farm-to-fork”, and “organic” foodie talk, Malai was already harvesting fresh herbs, vegetables, and aromatics from her own pesticide-free garden, bringing them into the restaurant to be used the same day. We had ordered the Yum Neau with medium heat, so it had some real “zing” to it. (Those who prefer a less spicy profile can order it toned down a notch.) But, me? I was glad to have tried something new, and would put this salad up against my favorite Nam Sod any day!
We were happily noshing away on our salad when we were introduced to the The Yum Neau soup. . . and (I know this sounds a little sappy) but the world stopped revolving for one moment as I fell absolutely in love with one of the bestest-of-the-best soups I’ve ever had in my life. Siam Orchid’s Yum Neau soup should be on every foodies “bucket list”! Showing up as #8 on the menu, this aromatic soup hails from the southern region of Thailand, and features slices of chicken breast in a coconut milk broth with Thai herbs and seasonings. There’s some red bell pepper, onions, fresh stalks of lemongrass, chunks of fresh ginger and kaffir lime leaves in the broth, and believe me. . . if I’m ever feeling the need to feel thoroughly spoiled, I’m sending Mart over to Siam Orchid for this soup. Believe me, the Yum Neau soup alone is worth the trip, I don’t care where you’re coming from.
Up next was the Pad Talay Gartium Prig Tai. Number 17 on the menu, this heaping dish of stir-fried shrimp, scallops and squid seasoned with fresh garlic and black pepper came with a side of rice, and was easily another front runner for best taste of the night. Fresh and delicate flavors enhanced the large scallops – as tender and juicy as any I can remember – alongside shrimp and squid legs. It was almost too beautiful to eat! (And almost impossible not to eat it all!)
Also arriving at the table was a heaping plate of Pad Thai; rice noodles stir-fried with shrimp, ground peanuts, eggs, bean sprouts and green onions in a traditional Pad Thai sauce. This was classic Thai food, done up Siam Orchid style. The shrimp were huge (I know – that’s an oxymoron!) and the crunchy bean sprouts and peanuts plentiful. Pad Thai at Siam Orchid is certainly a “not-to-be-missed” dish!
Our final plate of this foodie feast was a gorgeous and savory Ped Tod Grob (#50) a full half duck marinated in Thai herbs, then deep fried until the skin was golden and crackling-crispy, resulting in meat that was soooo juicy and flavorful and served with Thai sauce and vegetables. Again, I can’t remember having a better tasting duck than this!
So we end our evening reminded of an important foodie fact. Any restaurant that succeeds at winning award after award for Best Thai Food, year after year, should be top of our lists when recommending restaurants to our readers, friends and family. The service was spot on, the taste was exceptional, and atmosphere warm and friendly. And did I mention the soup?
To our new friends at Siam Orchid…ขอขอบคุณที่คุณเป็นอย่างมากและเราจะได้พบกับคุณอีกในไม่ช้า