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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Mon–Thu 11:30am–3:00pm
Mon–Thu 5:00pm–10:30pm
Fri 11:30am–3:00pm
Fri 5:00pm–11:30pm
Sat 11:30am–3:30pm
Sat 5:00pm–11:30pm
Sun noon–3:30pm
Sun 5:00pm–10:30pm

Features Delivery, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


Capitol Hill
406 8th St. SE
Washington, DC
(202) 544-7426
Old Siam
Don’t waste your time—it’s just more bland coconut-gravy Thai

Our hopes skyrocketed when we tasted the spring rolls at Old Siam. We’d already begun, against our best intentions, to write the place off as yet another middle-of-the-road, risk-free, and mostly flavor-free DC Thai restaurant. The atmosphere, after all, was Pier-One-perfect: colorful chinoiserie-fabric pillows, mellow wooden Buddha statues, and a few palms tastefully placed in corners. There was no striking smell from the kitchen; the menu options looked pleasant but unoriginal.

Not that fried spring rolls are a Thai dish, really, but it’s true that the spring rolls undermined those budding impressions. The duo had a remarkably light, crisped outer crust; the rolls were filled with vegetables shredded finer than we’ve even seen vegetables shredded, and rice vermicelli thinner than the thinnest vermicelli we’d seen. The accompanying sauce was tangy but too sweet.

Apart from a small selection of appetizers that’s done right, the fare at Old Siam is classic DC Thai. The restaurant features dishes that are neither extremely bad nor shockingly good: just run-of-the-mill Thai-American food that suffers from being under-spiced, overcooked, uncreative and, in a word, mediocre.

Most dishes are criminally under-spiced and end up tasting like very little. The green curry is allocated three stars on the rudimentary spice-scale (one star is mild, two is medium, and three is supposedly hot; most dishes have no stars, which we have some evidence to believe means “unbelievably bland”), but the curry still fails miserably in its attempts to stir to life the hot-sensing taste buds. The result is something like warm coconut soup, garnished with Thai basil.

The Panang curry (one star), meanwhile, has very little basil in the broth, nor, for that matter, much meat. The pieces of chicken that do emerge (or that you rescue from the swimming pool of broth) are tough and flavorless. Once you’ve fished out the meat, you’re left wondering whether you should spoon more broth onto the remaining steamed rice, or just quit while you’re ahead.

Smart gamblers learn from hindsight (and was there ever a game as high-stakes as the DC Thai scene?): we should have folded after the spring rolls.

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