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Oct 3, 2008 05:52 PM

Awesome Thai - Ruby Siam Thai Restaurant - Rochelle Park, NJ

In a tiny little strip next to the Rochelle Park Shop-Rite was a great little Thai restaurant called Siam Ruby Cafe. It was an unusual place, basically looking like the tiny luncheonette it was in a past life. But the food was great and so were the prices.

Well, I am VERY happy to let everyone know that Siamy Ruby has reopened as Ruby Siam - New owner, new menu, still great prices. In fact, as good as the old Siam Ruby was, I think that this new incarnation may be even better.

The place still looks like a micro diner inside, but everything else is different. The menu, while still not nearly as extensive as a place like Wondee's, does seem to have a bit more variety and sense of adventure than the old menu. I tried an awesome appetizer called Bua Thai Beef. It was tiny strips of beef fried in chili flakes (or something like that) served with chili sauce. It wasn't a lot for $5.95, but it was absolutely delicious.

I also tried some chicken Tom Yum soup. This may have been the best version of the soup I ever had. (But I'm no Thai food expert.) The owner asked me how hot I wanted it. I said make it hot, but don't kill me. He said, on a scale of 1 to 10, about a 7? I said that sounds good. (I told the owner I would have said 9, but that I figured the Thai tongue was a bit stronger than my American tongue. He laughed and agreed.)

Boy, 7 was the bullseye. Spicy and hot (for weak Americans), but not enough to induce tears or set your tongue on fire. The soup had a great red color and loads of flavor. And at $3.95 for a pint, very reasonable.

I also got some chicken Pad Thai. It was great, but seemed to be a pinch more "sour" than other versions of the dish I've had (maybe some extra tamarind or lime?). It was still great, and at $8, a bargain. (Beef and pork are available for $8 too, shrimp is $2 more.) The pad thai also had some thin red pepper strips in it, which I haven't seen before.

The owner was incredibly friendly and gracious, even offering me a soda while I waited for the food (I politely declined) and giving me a slight discount for paying in cash. We chatted a bit about Thai food and other things.

Total for two orders of chicken pad thai, tom yum soup, and the bua thai beef, about $25.

The only strange thing about this place is that they seem to close from 3 PM - 5PM every day. I asked the owner about this, and he said if I wanted to get something during that time, to just knock on the door. (I would feel very funny doing that though.) Hopefully if business is good enough they'll expand their hours.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE give this place a chance. They are very conveniently located, the food is delicious, and the prices are great on most items. The owner is a great guy too. I was crestfallen when the old Siam Ruby closed, but I'm glad that a new incarnation is back and better than before! Please keep them in business! We can't afford to lose this place again!

Ruby Siam Cafe
184 W. Passaic Street
Rochelle Park, NJ

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  1. I completely agree. This little mom and pop Thai restaurant competes nicely with the more upscale Thai restaurants in the area. It’s located in the strip mall by Shop Rite in Rochelle Park. While the digs aren’t fancy, the food has been great all three times we’ve eaten there (once at the restaurant, takeout twice.)

    Our travels in Thailand have forever spoiled us, and it is always nice finding Thai restaurants that stay true to Thai flavors while adjusting to our palate (from extremely spicy to moderately so.)

    Our favorites to date include fish cakes (tod mun) flavored with red curry, green beans, and kaffir lime leaves. Together with the sweet nam pla sauce with cucumber and peanut, they are perfect. The green papaya salad was also nicely prepared. I’m not sure whether palm sugar was used in the dish, but there was a nice complex flavor that we all enjoyed.

    The pad thai was good, the pad sei wu (sp?) too soy-saucy for my taste. I very much enjoyed their red curry, and they happily made a dish not on the menu, pad prik king with shrimp, a (relatively) dry curry with green beans. They got it right.

    We tried the grilled pork, which I would pass on. It did, however, come with perfectly cooked sticky rice, which was a real treat.

    Watch out for the spice level – it’s at the Thai standard, so it may need to be tempered a bit depending on your preferences.

    This food is good! It’s inexpensive and the owner is friendly. Unfortunately, the restaurant seems quiet at night when I’ve been there.
    If you like Thai food, give them a chance.

    2 Replies
    1. re: fanofchow

      I'm so glad someone else has discovered this great place. Since my original message, I've been back probably about six times. I've pretty much stuck to the things I've enjoyed: the tom yum soup, the pad thai, and the pad see ew, which may be my favorite dish of them all (although the portion is a little smaller than the pad thai). The pad see ew is basically flat noodles and broccoli in a sweet sauce with meat. (I usually get pork for this dish.) Simple, but delicious. One night, the owner (he told me his name is Louie, but I have no idea of the spelling) made me a spicy version of the pad thai. It was fantastic. I have tried the tom kha kai soup, which is pretty much the same as the tom yum with coconut milk. I enjoyed it, but prefer the tom yum better. Appetizers are a bit on the small side, but they are absolutely delicious. The Bua Thai beef is my favorite.

      Louie would probably win an award for nicest restaurant owner. He is incredibly gracious, friendly, and sincere. One night, he was running quite a bit behind, and I had to wait about 30 minutes for the food. He apologized profusely, and insisted on charging me only $10 for about $25 worth of food. I tried to tell him not to worry about it, but he insisted. I think it's only him and his wife running the place. We need to support him more so he can get some more help! The guy's really running himself ragged right now.

      So again, I beg you, I implore you, please give Louie your business. His food is great and his prices are terrific on most items. He deserves success.

      BTW, on a side note, the pizza place in the same strip, Rochelle Pizza, is quite good as well, and they're cool guys also. Please give them some business too!

      1. re: zhelder

        I live right around there and shop in that shoprite and I have never even noticed the Thai place. I might check it out.

    2. Siam Ruby has reopened under new ownership (again). The previous owner closed in June, and I was crestfallen, as the food was great and he was such an unbelievably nice guy.

      Fortunately, the food under the new owners is still very good, and prices are comparable to what they were under the previous owner. The menu is scaled back quite a bit from the previous owner's, but all of the main dishes are available (the new owners do not offer pork as a meat choice, however, unlike the previous owners).

      This is the third-and-a-half incarnation of this place. The first owner struggled, closed the place for a few months, reopened, and still couldn't make it, despite the good food and prices. The second owner lasted a little less than a year and despite the fact that he offered great food at great prices and a fairly varied menu, he couldn't make it either.

      Please do not let this place close again! It's so nice to have a Thai restaurant in a convenient location offering good food at good prices. The Hackensack places have the good food and prices, but the locations aren't really convenient, with the traffic and limited parking around Main Street. The Ridgewood places charge around double the prices for food of comparable quality, and again, the parking is a nightmare. This place is the best of everything. Please give them a chance.

      Siam Ruby
      184 W Passaic Street
      Rochelle Park, NJ

      3 Replies
        1. re: tommy

          I'm psyched to hear the news. I visit that ShopRite every week or so, the prices are much better than the local A&P. I usually do Ridgewood Thai.

          Tommy - any recent favorite dishes (besides the ones on your blog - Pad thai, chicken & basil, grilled beef, duck salad)?

        2. re: zhelder

          My husband and I plan to check this out in the next week or so. I will post my reviews after we check it out.

        3. This place just reopened and the original owners are back. They make the best pad thai and everything on their menu is $6.99 and under. The place is really convenient and near Garden State Plaza.

          Just wanted to let you all know that it is REOPENED!! Please do not let this place close again! IT REALLY IS A GOOD THAI RESTAURANT.

          Garden State Restaurant
          287 Central Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07307

          25 Replies
          1. re: DuckyCK

            which owners. the most recent? or the ones before that? or the ones before that?

            1. re: DuckyCK

              GREAT NEWS!!! I got a little optimistic a few weeks ago when I saw a sign in the window featuring different Thai dishes that I didn't recall seeing before. But, having had my heart broken on multiple previous occasions, I didn't want to get too excited.

              I will definitely get there some time this weekend. Thanks for the exciting update!

              1. re: zhelder

                It is closed on Sundays though.

                    1. re: DuckyCK

                      I hope these owners, like the last, are open to requests of making authentic Thai dishes upon request, rather the tha cookie cutter stuff that we see everywhere.

                      That'll be the true, and only, test for me and my friends.

                      1. re: tommy

                        After several disastrous Thai meals and even after pleading for the kitchen to prepare it as if it is the family meal,I always leave somehow feeling that I just paid good money for a bland interpretation of what the Owner/operator/Chef feels I can handle as a NJ suburban resident.
                        I just bite the bullet and drive to Queens and get my fix at ShriPraPhai in Woodside where if you ask them to prepare it as if it's their meal they will and have over the years.
                        My there such a Thai restaurant in NJ that can offer me a similar experience. I'm tired of the same worn Tom Yum,Pad Thai and kitchen who's idea of authentic is throwing 2 more bird peppers and a extra splash of fish sauce in the wok.
                        Is Ruby the one?

                        1. re: Duppie

                          Try Thai Lao in Maywood. Family-run and the owners seem very accommodating and open to requests.

                          1. re: Duppie

                            Brookside Thai in Bloomfield is good, with a nice atmosphere as a bonus. I don't know if you'll get family-style food, but if you ask for pad thai, you'll get what you would get as street food in Bangkok. Which means slightly less greasy, tamarind instead of ketchup, no pool of sauce, etc.

                            Brookside Thai Restaurant
                            380 Broad St, Bloomfield, NJ 07003

                            1. re: fanofchow

                              Although I've never had the pleasure of visiting Thailand,I have had many a great Thai meal in Manila,Hong Kong,Da Nang,LA and even Copenhagen but can't seem to score a decent dish in NJ.Thanks for the recommendations fan and tommy.the tolls to Queens is getting up there.

                              1. re: fanofchow

                                None of the Thai restaurants that I've eaten at in Bergen County use ketchup in Pad Thai. I don't where you get your Pad Thai, but I can assure you that the ones in Bergen County (Bangkok Garden, Siam Ruby, and Wondee's) use tamarind because you can taste it. I haven't had the pleasure to try Thai-Lao in Maywood yet, but I will let you all know about my Pad Thai experience there.

                                Siam Ruby Cafe
                                184 W Passaic St, Rochelle Park, NJ 07662

                                Wondee Cafe
                                296 Main St, Hackensack, NJ 07601

                    2. re: zhelder

                      WELCOME BACK, SIAM RUBY!!!

                      Well, as I promised myself, I made it there today. And there's good news and bad news. (But, for right now anyway, more good than bad.)

                      As Ducky said, the original owner is back, the one who was there before Louie and the Real Thai Cuisine people. She's a very nice woman, and a good talker. We chatted quite a bit, and I told her how happy I was that her place was back in business. She told me that she is opening for three months on a TRIAL basis, therefore her menu and hours are extremely limited. (Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., closed Sundays). The place is also CASH ONLY right now. She told me if she experiences success, she will expand her hours and menu. She is stuck in a long-term lease on the place (the Real Thai Cuisine people and perhaps Louie were friends of hers that must've worked out some kind of deal to run the place during their times there), and has lost a lot of money trying to make the restaurant succeed. She also told me that if she can't make the place succeed this time, it's going to be gone for good.

                      Although there are only about 15 items available on the menu right now, the food is pretty much like I remembered it (real good), the prices are great (most items are $6.99) and the portions are MASSIVE (for now, anyway).

                      The pad thai was great, and so were the massaman and spring rolls. Although it wasn't on the menu, I asked for pad see ew, and although it was good, it came out more like drunken noodles than pad see ew (more spicy/peppery than sweet). Good, but not what I expected. I also asked if any soup was available, and she had some tom yum available. I don't know how she made this soup, but it was loaded with meat and it was delicious.

                      There were quite a few Grand Reopening hiccups that I hope the owner will work out. Right now, the owner seems to be by herself and it's been tough on her. She forgot my pad see ew, but happily went to the back to make it afterwards. She also goofed on another customer's order while I was there, making her an order of pad thai when she ordered fried rice. (Guess who got a free extra order of pad thai?) The containers she's using to hold the food are a bit flimsy, which presents a challenge for massive portions of food. As a result, the soup leaked some and broke through a bag. She got a little frustrated by this and said she wasn't going to offer the soup any more because it caused too many problems. (I hope she reconsiders. The soup was awesome. She just needs to get some stronger containers.) And the cash register seems to be somewhat defective. (My order kept ringing up $888 dollars.)

                      BUT WHO CARES? The location is convenient with parking, the food is great, it's dirt cheap, the portions are huge, and the owner is extremely gracious. This is our last chance to keep this place around, gang. Please give them a shot. You won't be disappointed.

                      1. re: zhelder

                        Nice report. Looking forward to trying it.

                        1. re: zhelder

                          I'm happy to hear they're back.
                          Will definitely stop by. The original place was great.

                          I don't know if y'all remember the last owners of the Ruby-Siam -- Siam-Ruby location. The food was just ok. They now run a Thai restaurant in Midland Park. I stumbled on it by chance, and the guy looked familiar. The food was disappointing. They had just opened (this was perhaps 6 months ago), so hopefully they've improved. Their doors are still open.

                          As far as my facetious ketchup comment, it was meant as a protest to over-sauced super-sweet pad thai . Is there ketchup? Maybe not, but the noodles disappoint.

                          1. re: fanofchow

                            Which place in Midland park? If it's Midland Thai they were opened by folks who owned a Thai place in Belleville (Bua Thai). Maybe the Siam Ruby folks have a hand in it somehow?

                            1. re: tommy

                              I actually thought this myself, but apparently they are not related, as I asked the manager at Midland Thai about this a couple of months back. He has mannerisms and a voice similar to Louie, and there are some similarities in their menus (for example, they both offered the beef fried in chili flakes as an appetizer), so I assumed they were related. (I really thought the guy could've been Louie's younger brother.) He claimed they are not, although he seemed to have some knowledge of Siam Ruby. (Who knows, maybe it's a ruse?)

                              I've gone to Midland Thai a few times already, and while they are good, all three (well, I guess four now) incarnations of Siam Ruby (the original owner, Louie, and Real Thai Cuisine) were better, cheaper, and offered larger portions.

                              Siam Ruby Cafe
                              184 W Passaic St, Rochelle Park, NJ 07662

                              1. re: zhelder

                                So odd. I also asked the Louie-like guy about Rochelle Park, and he instantly became secretive. When he admitted to working in Rochelle Part, he said it was many years ago. Obviously he wants to keep his past in the past, and that's fine. But a tall Thai man wearing a toupee is not likely to have a double.

                                1. re: fanofchow

                                  "Midland Thai Louie" looks a lot younger than "Siam Ruby Louie", like 15 years or so. If they're the same guy, the guy has discovered the fountain of youth.

                                  Besides, the food is different enough for me to think they're not the same guy. (But there's gotta be some connection.)

                                2. re: zhelder

                                  There was a mostly favorable review of Midland Thai in The Record today:


                                  And I'll be darned, the manager's name is Louis! Well, this is one coincidence too many. Same voice, same mannerisms, similar menu items, the 1-10 spiciness scale, and the great willingness to make things right (throwing in a free item when the wait is long, etc.) when there's problems. This has GOT to be the same guy!

                                  But honestly, he looks a lot younger now than he did three years ago! And why such firm denials that he had no association to Siam Ruby? Heck, he ran a kick-butt place for a year or so. (In fact, even though Midland Thai is very good, Siam Ruby, in all its incarnations, but especially Louie's, was better. ) Too bad not enough people found out about it.

                                  I'm also puzzled as to why, if this is the same guy, why he acted as if he'd never seen me before the first time I went to Midland Thai, as I was in Siam Ruby on a nearly weekly basis when he ran it and had some very long and interesting conversations with him while waiting for my delicious food. I'm a pretty unique looking guy too.

                                  This is really a mystery. Oh well. At least the food is good, and Louie's back!!!

                                  Siam Ruby Cafe
                                  184 W Passaic St, Rochelle Park, NJ 07662

                            2. re: zhelder

                              This place is super. I hope she can make a go of it.

                              1. re: tommy

                                Tommy, you da man for reviving this thread. I thought Siam Ruby was closed for good, but because of your post, I decided to see whether Tammy (the owner) was back in business.

                                Well, she is... and we need to keep her in business! She was closed for several weeks due to a long-term illness. She reopened the other day, but business has been very slow.

                                So, once again, I'm asking all my fellow Chowhounds to please check this place out, as she may be closing up for good soon if more people don't start coming. Go in with $7.50 and enjoy some of the best Thai food you'll ever have. This place is a true little gem, so please give it a chance.

                                Siam Ruby Cafe
                                184 West Passaic Street
                                Rochelle Park, NJ 07662
                                (201) 880-8227

                                1. re: zhelder

                                  Heck I went based on your post! Did she close for a while? I went about 2 weeks ago and then today again.

                                  It's a crazy business model. Open for a few hours a day. No marketing. No music in the place. Lots of food for little money. The stuff is fantastic though.

                                  1. re: tommy

                                    This restaurant has such a wild and crazy history. Tammy is the original owner. She stepped away from the place for several years, but came back to open again in October 2011. She stayed open until around late November/early December, then got ill and closed for several weeks. I thought she said she just reopened a couple of days ago, but maybe she's been in an out for brief periods.

                                    All I know is she's a lovely woman who makes some great food. She's a one woman operation.right now, and with the slow business she probably can't afford advertising. That's why I'm making it my mission to hype this place as much as possible. I can't lose it again!

                        2. Well, it looks like the next chapter (5, 6, 2X3G, I can't keep track any more) of this ill-fated restaurant has begun.

                          Siam Ruby is now DD Thai Restaurant. I got some food from them today, and thank goodness it was still good.

                          Prices are reasonable, but a bit more than before. The menu is limited compared to some other places, but since Tammy basically offered only 15 dishes or so since she reopened Siam Ruby, there's obviously more available than before.

                          I'm still puzzled as to why this place has struggled so much in so many different incarnations, but maybe this will be the incarnation that makes it.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: zhelder

                            So is the new ownership related in any way to the prior owners? Tammy was the one who was there most recently, correct? The 7 dollar lunch special was a ridiculous value. The food was excellent. I can sort of understand why, but not being open for dinner kept many of my dollars out of her register.

                            How is the communication with the new people?

                            1. re: tommy

                              Yes, Tommy, Tammy was the woman there most recently. She was the original Siam Ruby owner and the one who ran the place most recently. Chances are she knows the new operators, as she has a long-term lease on the property which probably hasn't ended yet.

                              I got food for dinner, but looking at the menu (which is a touch confusing in places) this place does $7 lunch specials (which I'm sure are not as large as Tammy's mountains of food). I got my usual pad thai and pad see ew for dinner (with some spring rolls and tom yum soup) and it was about $26 for everything. The portions were good, but not Wondee's massive.

                              The woman running the place was friendly and spoke English very well. She also honored my finicky requests (no scallions and medium spice in the pad thai) with no problem.

                              Next time I go I'll see if I can chat with her a bit more.

                              1. re: zhelder

                                Zhelder, are they open for dinner?

                                1. re: tommy

                                  They are in fact open for dinner Tommy - went in a few weeks back and it was kinda of empty which was disappointing as even through all its reincarnations, this is my favorite Thai place in the area (including wondee's, bangkok garden and green papaya (have yet to get to Thai Lao). But as dinner went on, the place filled up slightly. We called last night to place an order for pickup and found out they deliver! (at least to the surrounding towns). Had a wonderful spicy duck salad to start with Thai Basil chicken and drunken noodles with shrimp entrees which were great too. Lady on phone was a sweetheart, and so was the delivery guy. they gave us a complimentary piece of chocolate cake with "have a very happy new year" written on the container. very nice way to end a fantastic meal. Give them a try and lets keep this version of the place (now "DD Thai") going for a while! Prices are definitely right too.

                          2. Only 5 minutes from this place, Thai Lao Kitchen in Maywood really rocks! GREAT Thai food, and alternatively some really exotic Lao food, which is served at room temperature. Wonderful place!

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: lemarais

                              I have to agree - there's a lot of places for Thai (Wondee's, Bangkok Garden, Ruby Siam) around here, but I haven't seen another Lao place in Bergen County. Thai Lao tends to serve lighter food with less oil and cream, which I really like. Come to think of it, I'm really craving some of their larb gai right now...the Lao dishes are especially good!

                              1. re: solarstar

                                Really, cream? I can't recall any Asian dishes served with cream---(or any dairy for that matter)

                                But yes, Thai Lao is one of the best in the area--

                                1. re: lemarais

                                  I thought that, but there's certainly coconut cream. Not animal fat, but fat, and creamy.

                                  1. re: tommy

                                    Not sure why I wrote cream, but yes, I meant coconut milk.