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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
7.6
9.0
$40
Pan-Asian, Thai
Casual restaurant

Hours
Tue–Thu 11:30am–2:30pm
Tue–Thu 4:30pm–9:00pm
Fri 11:30am–2:30pm
Fri 4:30pm–10:00pm
Sat noon–2:30pm
Sat 4:30pm–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly, outdoor dining, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor, BYO
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

www.siamsociety.com

Alberta Arts District
2703 NE Alberta St.
Portland, OR
(503) 922-3675
Siam Society
More-and-less Thai dishes served in a fun, eye-catching industrial space

Let’s get this out of the way: Siam Society is not authentic Thai, nor is it annoying, trendy fusion that falls flat by trying to fly too high. Rather, it takes a cuisine that is already influenced by many of the worlds’ cultures, and adds its own flavor, all the while careful to keep things in balance. This may mean, in many cases, that heat has been compromised for effect. You can ask for chili sauce on the side.

Siam Society is located in an old power company substation, a square blockhouse that was once a warren of little rooms filled with electrical equipment. Its industrial past is still very much present in the architecture of large steel beams and a high ceiling studded with skylights. Old windows with beautiful iron shutters are still in place. With the accompanying industrial artwork and dramatic lighting from a setting sun, it’s quite beautiful.

Prettily presented portions here are daunting, perfect for sharing family style. For starters, calamari are exemplary, lightly battered and cooked to a correct crispness, and infused with the subtle flavors of lemongrass and hot peppers. Pork spring rolls are a hit, crackling crisp, and with cinnamon, hazelnuts, and vanilla beans giving them a pleasant depth. If they’re on the menu, robust homemade sausages are a must, especially when paired with cabbage, peanuts, and ginger.

Lard na has an impressive deep, smoky flavor from the pork, while fat wheat noodles provide a toothsome base against bright, crisp Chinese broccoli and mushrooms. Pad Thai might be the most insipid and misreproduced thing in America outside of Dan Brown novels, and here it’s a little better than a food-court version. Phad kee mao, on the other hand, is less banal, and more sophisticated, with crispy fried basil exploding in every few bites, although the heat is too restrained.

Homemade curries tend to vary somewhat from batch to batch. Meats, like Chinese-style pork chops, are cooked properly tender and juicy with a wonderful sear. Sauces tend to be paired correctly, but there’s neither the excellence of a reverently followed tradition nor any mind-blowing innovation. Same goes for the wine list, which kowtows to modern trends and buzz varietals (we’d take advantage of the generous $10 corkage fee); the cocktail list is just a string of more-interesting-than-usual -tinis. Siam Society is certainly an experience, though, start to finish; when you spend an evening here, you feel like you did something. That’s still worth something.

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