Siam Orchids, Branford
Took the scenic route out of New Haven today, and spotted Siam Orchids at 899 W. Main (Rt. 1) in Branford, and the Prius just automatically pulled into their parking lot by itself. The roomy dining area is uncluttered with no exotic decorations, and at noon on Saturday only one other table was occupied. I had a short chat with the daughter of the owner as she seated me, and although I hadn't seen the place befoe she said they had been there for several years and had earned a very good rating from the NY Times.
My current craze, the Tom Yum Goong soup came with little mushroom and grape tomato slices floating on top as well as the required shrimp contents. It's spiciness far exceeded the one pepper rating on the menu and I occasionally had to sip some hot Thai tea to cool it off. The yellow curry was also rated at one pepper, but seemed milder than that. (The menu offers you the option to order it up to 4 peppers worth!) It came with what I suspect was unauthentic sweet potato and pineapple chunks, but was good enough that I polished the whole thing off without asking for a doggie bag. The prices are quite reasonable, especially for lunch, so I suspect that Thai's One downtown has a bit of competition.
It didn't take long to stop at 'Siam Orchids' after the couple of positive posts so I purposely set out early to have a meal before a visit with our nearby(but painfully un-Chowish) friends a few weeks back. Between going here for the first time with plans to return, the 'Lobster Shack' in warmer months, and the Camacho's soon to be opened restaurants...they're going to think I enjoy their company more than I truly do. If they only knew that they were merely a stop on a more important journey. I guess I'll tell them someday ;) .
After ordering a glass of the former 'Ca del Solo' winery's 'Big House White' I was kindly asked to show my identification. My what a fantastic start! It's been too long since that happened but I was more than happy about the confusion as I thanked the server and privately toasted the lighting designer :) . I knew Randall Grahm sold the 'Big House' and 'Cardinal Zin' labels a few years ago but as with his 'Bonny Doon Winery' bottlings recalled most of those wines favorably(though I hadn't tasted either since the sale). Always affordable and drinkable blends labeled with humor(yes, THAT "big house" since they're up the road from Soledad State Correctional Facility), it was nice to see 'Siam Orchids' offer both the red and white blends as an alternative to say the other wines owned by the same monstrous buying group...surely nothing groundbreaking but at least a passable by the glass option here. This version(Malvasia Bianca, Muscat Canelli, Viognier, and Roussanne) of the always changing varietals and blends was enjoyable enough with the food to follow but the glasses itself were somewhat slight in size. Think Riedel's Vinum Port glass...only narrower?...yikes.
I had to start with that 'Tom Yum Goong' soup but expecting more spiciness a few spoonfuls in I muttered "What was Mr. Don talking about?". Yep, spoke too soon: 'Hang On Sloopy'...THERE it is. It took a little while but the one-pepper symbol of spiciness joined the "Big House"-Party and delivered the promised amount of heat. I could see my less tolerant co-pilot finding it a bit spicier than myself if she comes out next time but my experience that day found it was the kind that complemented the soup without overwhelming the entire bowl, a good beginning.
In keeping with measuring-stick dishes I then moved to the 'Som Tam' Papaya Salad. When first trying this standard a while back I was braced for more of a raw, "green", or unripe bite of flavor but was surprised to be treated to a nicely balanced dish with the expected chile, garlic, beans, ground peanuts...though this one was with more lime juice than I'm accustomed to(as with Kate Winslet I'm used to seeing this salad hardly dressed). No harm done either way as I just tilted the plate. This so-called "tough guy of Thai" thought the one-pepper symbol was for show though as it was nowhere near the same indicated spiciness of the 'Tom Yum Goong' soup, still it was a good option for this middle course.
The finale was the 'Wild Boar' Basil which was prepared in a special curry(what looked to be a variation of their 'Red Curry') with peppers, perfectly sized thin green beans, and Thai basil. The wild boar was indeed tender, marinated as billed, and quite a change of pace for this Hound who's always game. I wouldn't hesitate to order this again if I was here more often...or if the several 'Duck Specialties' weren't calling my name for next time.
Bang a 'Goong':
Don't put my Sloopy down:
Thanks to the Prius for choosing 'Siam Orchids' and to Mr. DonShirer for the post and the nudge I needed to go here! Our own Chowmobile passes through the area quite often as a friend lives just around the bend so there's no longer good reason to continue to drive by. We'll have to try some "indicator" dishes to compare to other spots but the 'Wild Boar Basil' and the handful of different 'Duck' Specials will keep things interesting here.
Siam Orchids & Som Siam..New York Times "It Takes Two":