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.
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.
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.
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.
Dinner for three, excluding drinks, £82.40