I knew Siam Thai would really have to deliver to upstage Sukhothai, our favourite so far. We opted to compare on a dish-by-dish basis.
Service and ambience are comparable in both establishments. You’ll feel warm, the lights will be appropriately dim, and the servers will be polite and pleasant. Prices are equivalent within a few dollars.
Our first meter-stick: crab and cream cheese wontons, or Keaw Krob Pouh Ath, as it is called on the Sukhothai menu. I’m not sure if this dish is particularly Thai (cream cheese?), but I am sure that it is damn tasty. There is no mention of cream cheese in any of my Thai cooking references, but I do find several recipes on the internet, usually from North American sources. Maybe the Thai equivalent of the sweet-and-sour chicken ball? Anyhow….my goal is not to comment on its authenticity as much as it is to tell you where to buy it in Winnipeg. At Sukhothai, you get eight round little parcels with a noticeable cream cheese flavour and an appealingly crispy shell. We could eat ten orders, gastric distention notwithstanding. You have a choice of sauces, both of which taste complex and are sufficiently tangy to offset the richness of the filling. At Siam Thai, a similar dish offers six pieces shaped like crowns. We found the pieces overcooked, a texture more like a crown than a wonton. The filling was much fishier and the cream cheese lacked prominence. The sauce tasted bottled, sorry.
Again, we’re unsure whether imitation crab and cream cheese should be used as any measure of a Thai cook. So we moved on to Shrimp Pad Thai, practically an eponym of Thai cuisine in Canada. Both restaurants offered tasty versions, but again we preferred Sukhothai’s version because of a better balance between the sweet, sour, and salty elements. The wedge of lime that they serve with the noodles allows you to increase the pucker, so to speak. Siam Thai’s dish was more cloying, without the counterbalancing salty, limey, or spicy sensations. A little low on the tamarind and high on the palm sugar, perhaps? Another dish sampled at Siam Thai, the Peanut Sauce (Sa-Tay) stir fry with beef and broccoli, was leaning hazardously towards the sweet – almost a better sauce for a sundae than a stir-fry. I couldn’t help feeling that it had been St. Vital-ized.
Finally: parade of the red curries, with floats of galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaves. At Sukhothai, we love the chicken version, while at Siam Thai we sampled the duck. Both were nice, really. Some of the duck slices were almost pure fat, and at Siam Thai the dish had practically no heat, nor were we given the option to up the amperage.
I dunno. Marion Warhaft raved about Siam Thai, and it features on several message boards about Thai food in Winnipeg. Maybe the chef was having an off night. But last night, too much sweet was a bad thing, even for a girl whose name rhymes with Lollipop. Sukhothai is the winner, in 3/3 rounds.