Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fun Playing With Lunar New Year Food at Siam Cafe, Cleveland Asiatown

The premise of Fun Playing With Food is to share, well, fun that I have playing with my food. When food is not fun, it generally does not get reported here. Bob and I last dined at Cleveland's Siam Cafe just over a year ago, with four friends. The meal disappointed, and none of us had been back. Other friends reported similar experiences, and we pretty much wrote them off. 

Recently, one of the couples we'd dined with last year related having two fabulous meals at Siam, and they really wanted us to meet them there. We set a date, but something came up and Bob and I wound up eating alone, but a week later, the four of us convened for a feast of dishes mostly from the special Lunar New Year Menu (though  I believe that all of the dishes other than the fried custard are available on the regular menu also). The food and service were so wonderful that I feel the need to share. Siam Cafe has redeemed itself, and regained it's place as a favorite place to play with Asian food in the Cleveland area.

Fish Maw and Crab Soup
We have enjoyed fish maw soup many times at Wonton Gourmet. Siam's version adds tender crab meat, and was most delicious, especially with the second incarnation of the Polar Vortex howling around the restaurant.

Assorted Meats and Stuffed Tofu with Soup in Pot: Stuffed Tofu, Shiitake Mushroom, Chinese Sausage with Chicken Broth in Pot
We chose a little poorly here - because the texture and mild flavor of this hot pot was so similar to the soup. And the shrimp mousse stuffed into the tofu squares had the smell and taste of sodium tripolyphosphate. But the lap cheong sausage compensated for all of the dish's sins, so we did enjoy it. These two dishes were more than enough for the two of us.

A week later, four of us convened around the Chinese New Year menu specials, and each dish was spectacular.

Minced Chicken in Lettuce Wrap
This dish was on the Chinese New Year Menu; I didn't see it on the regular menu. The combination of wok-hey chicken bits with lap cheong was positively irresistible!

A slightly blurry photo of the whole dish

Beef Rib with Black Pepper Sauce
This dish made for a very satisfying appetizer. The caramelized vegetables perfectly complimented the tender beef. 

Ningko (rice cakes) with two kinds of pork and vegetables
These rice cakes screamed "home made" - incredibly creamy and tender, with more of that fabulous lap cheong, bits of smoked pork, and lots of wok hey. The oval shape resembles coins, which explains why this delicacy is served at New Year.

Fried Custard with Shrimp, Cashews and Vegetables
Another Lunar New Year menu exclusive, this dish was the perfect contrast to the spicy fish dish you'll see below. Fried custard is a marvelous treat, and the food service shrimp held their own without being offensive. I wish that they used pea pods that didn't have strings, but that's a very small complaint when food tastes this good. Again, the oval shape reminiscent of coins, together with the greens (the color of money is universal) bring this to the New Year's menu.

Braised Pork Belly with Taro

This photo was taken after the first few slices were removed from the plate. A thick layer of skin and gelatinous goodness topped the meaty belly, and worked well against the creamy taro root. The menu calls this dish "pork side with taro" but it's belly, my friends - a beautiful thing.

Flounder in Spicy Broth - Chinese New Year Special
Sadly, my photo of this dish at the restaurant didn't come out well (new lens learning curve, oops). But you can see from this view of the leftovers how incendiary this dish was; take my word that the fish was fresh and tasty. A combination of Sichuan peppercorns and dried Sichuan red chilies made these leftovers a 9 Kleenex meal (served over noodles I picked up at Park to Shop last weekend, and it needed every one!).

I am so glad that Siam Cafe is back on it's game. Delicious food, prepared with skill and care, will bring me back to play at Siam even after Lunar New Year is over.

Gong Xi Fa Cai (Happy Lunar New Year!)

1 comment:

  1. Nancy I am really happy to hear this as I was one of the ones that just stopped going. I can't wait to return..hopefully in time to taste the fried custard and ningko dishes. Actually, I could recreate your entire menu and be thrilled.