Boise’s repertoire of Thai cuisine got larger last month when Siam Orchid Thai and Sushi Bar debuted on Fairview Avenue near Maple Grove Road.
Siam Orchid (not to be confused with now-defunct Siam, a longtime Thai restaurant in East Boise) has transformed a corner spot in the Shiloh Centre strip mall into a mellow space to nosh on Thai food and standard sushi offerings.
Thai restaurants that serve sushi are so 2004, but these kinds of places still seem to pop up every now and then.
Considering Thai leads in the restaurant’s name, I primarily focused on that part of the menu, which boasts lots of recognizable appetizers, spicy noodles, soups named tom and coconut milk-infused curries.
The space has been a revolving door of restaurants over the years, from a Filipino eatery to a natural foods market and cafe, yet Siam Orchid seems to be a good fit.
Owner Eddie Kaewkham and his family, who hail from Bangkok, gave the diminutive dining room an attractive makeover, with subtle Asian accents, a gurgling water feature and a small sushi bar against the far wall. Expect to see a Buddha here and there on your little trip to Thailand along the Fairview strip.
The friendly servers aim to please, and educate diners about the food on the Thai portion of the menu, which bounces around the map of Siam.
Thai cuisine, in many ways, tends to be gluten-free without much effort, so the wheatless crowd will find plenty to eat here. Same goes for vegetarians.
Both groups surely will enjoy appetizers such as the incredibly crisp avocado fresh rolls ($7), two logs filled with a mixture of shredded lettuce, cilantro, bean sprouts, rice noodles and, yes, avocado — showing verdant behind translucent rice-paper wrappers. An aromatic peanut dipping sauce comes with fresh rolls.
Other good veggie picks include the Siam Orchid eggplant ($12), a row of crispy, panko-coated eggplant slices served over a bed of fresh spinach with syrupy sweet chili sauce pocked with big pieces of chopped bell pepper. The gluten-free crowd will have to skip this one, though, because of the wheat in the breading.
Of course, most dishes (noodles, soups and curries) can be made vegetarian upon request.
Pescetarians will not starve at Siam Orchid either. The pad prikking ($11) is a delicious mostly veggie stir-fry (ordered medium spicy) with cut green beans, fried tofu cubes, kaffir leaves and bell pepper in a prikking curry sauce bolstered by fermented fish sauce and fiery chili paste.
It’s important to note that Thais have a different interpretation of what’s spicy compared to the typical American palate, so medium (3 out of 5 on the spice scale) is probably hot enough for most people. Careful what you ask for lest you may not be able to handle the heat.
The pineapple fried rice ($13), a specialty of Bangkok, was not so special, mostly because the wok-fried rice — dotted with chunks of pineapple, shrimp, raisins, sweet peas, egg curds and carrot — came to us excessively greasy, causing the rice to lump together.
Carnivores can pretty much take liberties with the menu, considering many of the dishes have a choice of pork, beef, chicken or seafood, with the exception of set items.
Noteworthy starters include the Thai dumplings ($7), six steamed wonton purses pinched tightly around a minced mixture of chicken, shrimp, scallion, water chestnuts and wood mushrooms, served with vinegary soy sauce.
But you might want to skip the po-pia egg rolls ($7). These crispy, fried logs — filled with ground pork, clear noodles and minced veggies — don’t offer much flavor beyond the aromatic plum dipping sauce that comes on the side.
The chicken satay skewers ($7), served with peanut sauce and tangy cucumber-red onion salad, were lackluster as well. Not only was the chicken overcooked on the sticks, but it didn’t have that pronounced marinade flavor that’s associated with this popular Thai appetizer.
Siam Orchid seems to excel in the curry department. The green curry beef ($11) was easily the best dish I tried. A bowl of coconut milk-infused green curry came brimming with tender pieces of beef, green beans, bell pepper, fresh basil leaves and bamboo shoots. A side of steamed jasmine rice was there to soak up the deliciously creamy curry.
Also expect to find lots of rice noodle dishes such as pad thai ($8/lunch), a stir-fried tangle of noodle ribbons — mingled with scrambled egg, chicken, bean sprouts and scallion — coated in a sweet and spicy sauce, served with lime wedges and pulverized peanuts.
Siam Orchid mostly gets its Thai food right — save a few seasoning issues that I’m sure will get fixed with a little fine-tuning. I’ll have to try the sushi offerings some other time.
Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org.