Tom Yum Koong's chefs build on traditional Thai recipes to load their menu with exciting and eclectic ingredients ranging from tangerines and mango to wild boar and squid. Sugar and spice join forces to season the thick sauce simmering in the black-pepper-mango curry ($10.95), a flavorful bowl of vegetables and cashews mixed with a choice of meat. A medley of seameats such as mussels and squid sizzle in the Phuket fried rice ($10.95), and the fantasy tilapia ($13.95) takes time off from reading J.R.R. Tolkien to glide out of the kitchen atop a bed of veggies simmering in chili sauce. Basil leaves join peppers, onion, and pork in a skittering dance across the skillet in the pan-fried wild-boar basil ($9.95). Fresh-fish cravings recede at the sushi bar to prevent persistent urges to trawl through exhibits at the local aquarium.
The chefs at Bamboo Thai Restaurant developed a menu that gives diners complete control over their gustatory experience, from the level of spiciness to the type of noodles accompanying their dish. Five distinct curries—red, green, yellow, panang, and massaman—pair with the guest's selection of one of nine proteins and one of 10 rice or noodle options, including udon, buckwheat, and vermicelli, resulting in more dinner options than a socialite's rolodex. The noodle selection process crops up again when ordering one of the six meal-in-a-bowl soups, and five pad thai options dare taste buds to pick from vegetables, chicken, shrimp, or a combination of all three, with rice or crispy egg noodles. To complement spicy bites, a lengthy list of Thai, Japanese, and American beers stands next to warm and draft sakes.
Inside a spacious setting adorned with Thai-style woodcarvings, stately pillars, and hanging plants, Erawan of Siam's chef and owner prepares authentic Thai cuisine using techniques perfected across her more than 20-year career. She folds traditional herbs and spices into every dish, starting with appetizers such as the red-curry-infused todmun, a golden-fried shrimp cake served alongside a ground peanut and cucumber dipping sauce. From there, tongues traverse main dishes that, like the best Harlequin romances, span three levels of spiciness, progressing from sweet and mild stir-fried roasted duck with pineapple and scallions to grilled salmon laced with extra spicy choo-chee curry.
It’s not uncommon for the dishes at Baan Thai to arrive with elegant garnishes such as roses carved into carrots or, even better, a bite-size dumpling tied to the plate. Even without the accessories, though, Baan Thai’s elaborate menu garners attention with a wide range of dishes, from sweet pineapple fried rice to spicy Thai curries poured over chicken, duck, or tofu. After guests munch on sushi, pad thai, or the plates themselves, servers appear bearing desserts of sticky rice with mango or crispy fried bananas.
Visitors to Tom Can Cook quickly confirm that Tom, whoever he is, isn’t just feigning confidence. He's a master of Asian cuisines, fusing Thai, Korean, Szechuan, and Vietnamese influences for a menu with dozens of different sauces and proteins. Spicy kimchi fried rice hosts morsels of chicken or beef, and the similarly Korean okdol bibimbap mixes meat with veggies and an egg in a stone pot or sturdy top hat. Cooks sauté roasted duck in curry sauce before adding in snow peas, pineapple, and basil sauce to make it siam duck choo chee, and boneless pork loin enjoys a dressing of spicy basil sauce and bamboo shoots in the wild boar basil dish.
Inside the dining room, patrons nourish their bellies at white tablecloths while casting glances at Asian screens, decorative floral gewgaws, and oblong hanging lamps stationed throughout.
Clad in a red cap and a white uniform, Siam First’s Chef Derm traces the surface of ginger root, lemongrass, and a chili pepper, expounding upon their health benefits on TV Diner. Ginger root is good for heartburn, and chili pepper helps digestion, he remarks, before showing his Thai twist on a New England favorite—Maine lobster.
Beneath Siam First’s gabled roof, Chef Derm and his team crank out Thai specialties that mingle local ingredients such as Maine lobster with spices and herbs imported directly from the land of smiles. Below small, hanging lights and glowing wall sconces, tables populate with duck and snapper in thai basil, mango curry, and garlic-ginger sauces. While noshing on dumplings or crab rangoon, guests can peek into Siam's giant aquarium, rife with fish, green plants, and Jacques Cousteau’s long-lost car keys.