Siam Society logoI offered the group a chance to submit their reviews of S.S., but everyone had the common sense to decline, so you’re stuck with me yammering away again.

Restaurant Roulette’s evening at Siam Society could be summed up as a very long evening of waiting and sharing. I would have to strain my memory banks severely to come up with another dining experience quite this long, almost three hours. The waiting began the minute we entered the attractive but practically dismembering (and strangely flimsy looking,) front doors, the tiny waiting area holding our anxious party of seven (the front area was like Grand Central Station, and most of us had fears of either being trampled or knocking over the gigantic and expensive looking ceramic urn precariously perched on the tiny and also expensive looking glass table next to the entry way.) Despite having a reservation, an available table was not ready for at least 15-20 minutes after our party arrived, which was not surprising, as not only was this place packed to the gills, but everything moved V E R Y S L O W L Y.

Which is not to say I didn’t like Siam Society. I am a sucker for unusual and eye catching decor (that’s why I’ve always loved Oba!,) and surely a more aesthetically unique and artistic dining space in Portland doesn’t exist. I’ve read in the past that many folks find Siam Society too cold and austere, but how sterile can a place be that’s full of so many noisy and packed in life forms? I loved the atmosphere, and the melding of an unusual building with the pseudo-Asian and ultra modern art. I did get a little tired, however, of all “the beautiful people” giving me their dismissive eye as the evening wore on, as I forgot to wear my Tommy Choo footwear and have my daily botox injection before arriving. How gauche!

Prettiness aside, Siam Society does have its issues, the center of the room is acoustically annoying, and the place is just too popular for its own good, even a year after opening. I personally have the type of voice which tends to modulate between an annoying mumble and an alarming screech, so most of the time when I was talking to people they heard what I was saying, but the din was deafening (similar to Andina,) and everyone in our group complained about not being able to hear most of the table unless the person speaking was talking directly at them. Also, our waiter was very good, but it took forever just to get cocktails, then appetizers, then entrees, then dessert, the restaurant just seemed too busy. During the dessert course, as is often common, everyone was given a spoon for sharing, but stangely, one person was given at least six spoons (they were nice spoons though.)

The cocktails were very interesting, uncommon variations on all those current buzz drinks, Mojotos, Martinis, Magaritas, Cosmos and Mai Tais made with out-of-the-ordinary ingredients (hibicus, pomegranite, blueberries, chilis, teas, soy.) This was the first RR evening out where there was full scale drink sampling, and having tasted four or five drinks, I would say the Hibiscus Mojito I had was the most refreshing to my palate (although it tasted a lot like a raspberry mojito,) the rest of the drinks getting mixed reviews, and several being said to taste like a mojito, no matter what they were supposed to be.

As for the food, it was good, although the menu definitely varied strongly from the usualThai equation of noodle dishes, rice dishes and curries, having items like grilled duck, Cascade Natural Char Grilled Steak with sweet potato fries and asparagus, and French Cut Pork Chops. The rather bizarre (for being served at a Thai restaurant at least,) sweet potato fries were very good, lightly crunchy and not greasy, and the nice cut of steak was experty grilled, although rather strongly marinated. The French Cut Pork Chop was extremely tender, although rather earthly to the point of being boarlike, although the bed of peppers and basil it was served on made a nice accompaniment. On a more traditional Siamese note, the Panang Curry was judged to be the best item at the table, rich and flavorful, followed by the Pad Kee Mao (drunken noodles,) and the Sexy Beef (slices of flank steak with coconut, garlic and curry sauce.) Everyone was kind and generous and shared their food and sampled almost everything, and almost everyone took home large portions of food, due mainly to earlier consumption of cabbage wraps and chicken satay and calamari.

Desserts were ordered in moderation and the menu included items like flavorless chocolate cake and homemade ice cream with stinky rice. (That was actually flourless chocolate cake and sticky race, but it was dark where we were sitting, so a few of us had trouble making out the menu.) Items not ordered but available were chocolate chili ice cream and coconut flan. I was disappointed to hear the restaurant had run out of the most standard dessert fare of Thai restaurants, coconut ice cream, but quite enjoyed the silky textured and delicately flavored homemade cardamon ice cream I did eat.

I do think Siam Society is a good restaurant, the decor is fantastic and the food just unusual enough, but well thought-out, the prices somewhat moderate and the drink selection intriguing. At least for now, however, I think it’s probably having a hard time keeping up with the hoarding masses that are beating down its door. No quality restaurant should have people wait 20 minutes for its reservation and take nearly 3 hours to turn tables. It needs work, perhaps cutting down on a few of the tables and reservations and increasing the wait and kitchen staff. But it is good, and innovative, and I would recommend it to anyone in the group who missed out.

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