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Dec 9, 2009 09:54 AM

Som Siam East - Old Saybrook

Thanks to a clue posted elsewhere by noreservations, I dropped by the fairly new Som Siam East in Old Saybrook for lunch today. Located just off Route 1 east of Rt. 154 (before you get to the I-95 on ramp), the restaurant is tucked away behind a mini golf course--keep your eyes open for the entrance sign.

SSEast is pleasantly decorated and has many more comfortable booths and tables than its namesake in Guilford, but according to our waitress, it shares the same menu. I was in the mood for yellow curry, but since it was only on the dinner menu, I decided to try some dishes I had never tasted before. The Tom-Yum Goong soup rates an A. Shrimp, mushrooms and several veggies in a rich zesty sauce. The broth alone was worth the price. Even though it carries no warning peppers on the menu, the waitress warned it could be hot and offered to have the cook tone it down if I wished. I didn't. For the entree, I chose Ka Nom Jean, your choice of meat with a nice assortment of veggies in "Linda's curry sauce" atop linguini-like Thai noodles. It was a little spicy, but not hot. I gave it a B. It was tasty, but although I like pasta, I think I prefer rice instead of noodles for texture. The Thai iced tea was better than I remember it in other restaurants, but the salad that came with the entree was only a C+, though it supplemented the ordinary lettuce with onion, carrot and a couple of zucchini slices.

There was a small but varied wine list, mostly Australian and California vintages, but a few French or Spanish labels. Outside was an amusing oriental pedicab decorated with Christmas lights and packages. I must talk the wife into coming here soon to try out some of the interesting offerings on the dinner menu. Based on one lunch, Som Siam East has my recommendation. I'm certainly glad they opened here so I won't have to go to Guilford or Middletown to Thai one on. (Sorry!)

Som Siam East Thai Restaurant
45 Mill Rock Rd E, Old Saybrook, CT 06475

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  1. I saw that tip from noreservations, too, and my mom and I are planning to check out SSE this weekend before we go to see a show @ the Kate. Glad to see your review here, Don. And your last line made me grin, not groan. ;) I wonder if we get to be regulars if we can take the pedicab out for a spin?!

    For me, if the soup is excellent, it's usually a sign of other good things to come. What are some of your favorites from the original Som Siam (since the menus are identical)? Can't wait to check this place out.

    1. Glad you enjoyed 'SSE' Mr. Don and that you can "Thai one on" closer to home! Ha-ha. I thought that with the larger space it would allow more freedom to offer even more selections or "formats" for both meals(perhaps they'll do so in the way of additions at dinner,etc.). I recall a Saybrook specific Hartford Courant write up over the summer(unfortunately no longer accessible unless you pay for the archive article) describing these intentions at the time. Will be sure to have a proper meal there sooner than later so thanks for reviewing your lunch experience.

      Ms. Katty: I'm pretty opinionated when it comes to many cuisines and to what I see with quality ingredients and thoughtful preparations but again with Thai...I've enjoyed what I've been able to have thus far(couple of places) but I am admittedly a novice so keep that in mind(case in point, never got the larb here for a reference point..probably not too sharp on my part). I agree that there are certain "benchmark" selections and indicators of what a restaurant is capable of(as with a soup like you mentioned) and I often use this for comparative purposes as well. A great example is Lao Szechuan. Even though I can't help but order the "odder" ingredient offerings there, anytime a more common "indicator" dish is
      sent out it's enjoyed on the same level of satisfaction plate for plate. Special places like that though just do it ALL so well.

      Enjoy your show, keep the pedicab off the mini-golf course, and we'll look forward to your feedback. :) Dishes I've had from Som Siam Guilford:
      Apps: The mussels(both the steamed and the spicy sauteed), curry puffs, and spring rolls.
      Soups: Recall specifically having a "Tom Yum" soup but it was a different variation than DS's at Old Saybrook. Wish I had the one he described(this had no shrimp but his I WILL try) although there was a choice of noodles and it came with veggies, cilantro, peanuts, lime, etc.
      Mains: Red Curry, Duck Panang, a spicy Pla-Rad Prik(say what?!?), and a Shrimp dish along the way that I don't see on the menu that you posted on the other thread(perhaps a special on a first visit?).

      1. Menu here:

        Our lunch at SSE today was pretty good--not mindblowing, not bad--there were highs and lows. Here's the total scoop, going backwards from dessert, which was EXCELLENT and something neither of us ever had previously: sticky rice with taro, corn and black beans!

        I know, that sounds crazy, but it was delicious. I have had sweet red beans before, but never sweet black beans. Just terrific! The creamy sticky rice was a perfect mix of slightly salty with sweetness (think of how good salty + sweet = in a chocolate chip cookie). REALLY good and it came with the luncheon special. It's not on the regular dessert menu--sticky rice with mango is, though. I am sure that is just as tasty, though I am all rah-rah-rah about the dessert we had today. I hope they have it when anyone reading along hits this place for lunch. I understand the dessert is usually either this special sticky rice or tapioca.

        I chose pad kra pow with chicken from the "Crazy Wok Stir Fry" (?!!!) column. Chicken was unfortunately not as tender as it could be, but it was OK. I am a salt-lover (as is my mom, who tends to add salt to just about EVERYTHING) and we both agreed, my dish was too salty. Go figure. Nonetheless, it was otherwise flavorful, "two peppers" worth of spicy pegged this dish about right...enough to make my cheeks flush and leave a bit of "afterburn" on my lips. According to the menu description, my dish consisted of "mushrooms, onions and carrots stir-fried in a mixture of fresh chilis, garlic and basil." I missed the mushroms, but was pleasantly surprised to find bell peppers in my dish. Those are always a welcome addition!

        My mom ordered the red curry with beef, which was more to my liking and spicy enough in its own right. Sad to say, we both agreed the beef was tough (my chicken was more tender by comparison and that wasn't right, either), but the curry itself was quite good, and was served with thinly sliced bamboo shoots, carrots, bell peppers and peapods. There may have been extra vegetables thrown in for good measure that I missed.

        It struck me odd that every curry dish consisted of the same combination of vegetables--at least according to the menu descriptions: "bamboo shoots, carrots, pineapple, fresh zucchini and basil, lime leaves and your choice of meat." Usually the vegetables vary, do they not? And pineapple is not always included. Perhaps it's just an error on the menu. I didn't notice pineapple in my mom's curry and that was fine with us. In any case, the red curry itself was very good, but I would steer (HA!) you away from the beef, should you find yourself at SSE.

        Going back to the beginning of the meal, the house soup is offered (or a salad, which I skipped, thank you, Don Shirer!) as a starter. We both enjoyed this very simple, but pleasing little bowl of chicken broth with glass noodles, scallions, broccoli and chopped up pieces of baby corn that mirrored the flower-shape of our soup bowls. I wished I could have tried the tom kha gai, but it would have been more food than I wanted or needed in one sitting. So I'll save that for a future visit.

        I have a cool shot of the decked-out pedicab. The restaurant itself is nicely decorated. I would try another curry dish next time and perhaps the larb or some other different offerings. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't ever order beef here again, though. It was tough as stew meat. But overall, we had a very nice lunch...especially with the very interesting dessert to round it out.

        Photos as follows:
        - the pedicab!
        - chicken soup with vegetables and glass noodles
        - red curry beef
        - pad kra pow chicken

        Som Siam East Thai Restaurant
        45 Mill Rock Rd E, Old Saybrook, CT 06475

        1 Reply
        1. re: kattyeyes

          Ah, in addition to the rest of the pictures, I forgot to mention one important thing. There appeared to be just ONE waiter in the restaurant. And as those who have been before already know, there are two separate seating areas. There were a handful of other parties there, yet this one friendly waiter managed to take care of everyone without issue.

          Remaining photos:
          - sticky rice with taro, black beans and corn (yummmm!)
          - HO HO HO from SSE! *<:) You'll see this "greeter" at the door when you go.

        2.     Went back on a Saturday night, and it looks like word has gotten out. The place was nearly full with more arriving after us. I wonder if the waitstaff was up to the occasion, because after placing our orders, we had to wait 20 minutes before receiving our appetizers and drinks during which time two other waiters had stopped by and asked if we had ordered. One entree arrived soon after, but we had to wait 20 more minutes for the second one to arrive.
              The food, though was pretty good. The evening menu was much more varied than the lunch carte, and contained many pictured specials. The Tom-Kha-Gai soup was very good (in the same class as the Tom-Yum-Goong I had before) though not as spicy, and the Meang Thai appetizer, which had 8 servings of salad veggies and chicken wrapped like sushi, had an interesting taste, especially with the accompanying clear minty syrup. My wife, who usually stays away from spicy food, was very content with her Mango Curry.
          My Drunken Noodles with beef (which I had to wait for) was ok, and deserved its two-pepper rating, but I thought the noodles were overcooked--maybe that's what drunken means! The servings are generous; we have enough doggy bag items in our fridge for two lunches apiece.
              Despite the small awkwardness in service I want to return soon and try some of their grilled specialties.

          1. Stopped in Mystic for gas at the Exit 90 Shell and to my amusement found it next to an asian-fusion restaurant "Thai One On".

            So, no need to apologize for the pun.

            Went last week (about 6 times so far) and the Xmas pedicab was taken down, just in time to put it back up. I am from the SF Bay Area where Thai Restaurants tend to leave Christmas decorations up all year long.

            In conclusion, I have to agree with you, Som Siam East is a treasure in a strange location. I sincerely hope that the community embraces it.