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Siam Restaurant & Bar, Edinburgh, restaurant review

The food at Siam Restaurant & Bar is well worth coming back for, finds Gaby Soutar

Published: March 7, 2016
Food: 
8/10
Ambience: 
7/10

When it comes to perusing a photographic online menu, it can feel a bit like internet dating.

I felt starving and lonely as I ogled the selection of dishes at Siam (which opened last August in the former premises of Edinburgh’s Ruan Siam).

They all looked like stunners, from the “vegegetable tempura” (sic) to a glossy lamb chop with green curry sauce.

Way out of my league – though lighting, filters and poses can cover up a multitude of sins.

I got dolled up to go and meet them in person, down in a New Town cellar on the corner of Howe Street and South East Circus Place.

As I’d never been to this place’s original incarnation, I can’t report on any changes since the new owners took over. However, the interior is rather charmingly retro, with low-ceilinged whitewashed walls, tea-lights, fancy sculptural cutlery and pink carnations on tables.

"The Thai calamari had a sandy crisp batter and soft strips of meat inside"

There are no photographs on the in-house menu (that’d be tacky) but, no matter, as we’d already fallen for the Thai calamari (£8.75), fish cakes (£7.25) and sun-dried pork (£7.25), none of which, it turned out, resembled their online profile. They were all way more elegant in real life.

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Skewered through the middle of a pancake stack of four, our coaster-sized fish cakes were compressed, slim and spicy patties, all encircled by a syrupy and finely chopped fairy ring of cucumber and red onion. While, the calamari option, which was decorated by clumps of young green peppercorns, resembled lugworm castings, with a sandy crisp batter and soft strips of meat inside.

Our favourite was probably the filthily unhealthy pork dish, which consisted of around a dozen squiggles of dark red meat, still glittering from the deep fat fryer, with a garlicky sesame hit and a nuclear chilli sauce on the side. Not one of our five a day then.

For mains, the sweet and sour seabass (£18.25) was presented whole, curled into a U-shape, like one of those retro cellophane Fortune Teller Fish that you’d put in the palm of your hand. This one said I was in love, and it could’ve been right. Its flesh was cut into pleasingly chewy strips, with a sweet red and gluey sauce plastered all over, and bits of pineapple, onion and pepper piled into its body cavity.

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The other two mains were just as good. Our weeping tiger (£16.25) was absolutely nothing to do with Pooh lashing out after getting sick of his friend’s constant bouncing (though we wouldn’t blame that poor bear). Instead, it consisted of slices of a thick slab of medium rare sirloin on a bed of red chard and other leafy bits, with a lime and coriander tang, and a dip of almost feral tasting chive, red onion, chilli seed and fish sauce on the side.

Our only curry dish – the roast duck version (£14.95) – was served in a bowl, with soft chunks of poultry, grapes, pineapple and whole cherry tomatoes, all lolling about in a medium hot red chilli, ginger and coconut soup.

Good, so the only downer to the meal was our side portions of rice - a coconut (£3.20), jasmine (£2.80) and sticky (£3.70). They were OK, but we’ve had coconuttier, jasminier and stickier. There was also a surplus – two between three would be fine.

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Since we hadn’t stuffed ourselves with carbs, we asked the waitress for the pudding menu. Shortly afterwards, the owner came over and said something like: “I’m sorry, we don’t have any desserts tonight because my wife is working in the kitchen. She usually makes them, but she’s too busy cooking tonight.”

Anyway, even though they seemed to be a member of staff down, my meeting with his wife’s food at Siam went well.

No pudding, but l can always save the sweet stuff until our second date, and I think there will probably be one.

HOW MUCH?

Dinner for three, excluding drinks, £82.40

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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