The Indianapolis Star, Friday, January 2, 2009
New taste on the square
Thai restaurant spices up Fountain Square's dining optionsThe little building at 936 Virginia Ave. has hosted a variety of restaurants since Peter's, a fin-dining establishment, opened there in the mid-1980s. Not much was happening in Fountain Square then, but these days, the hopping neighborhood offers plenty of dining options. And since Siam Square opened this fall, those options include Thai cuisine.
Siam Square, on the edge of the Fountain Square neighborhood, has become a popular lunch spot for the Downtown/Lilly/Anthem crowd. With seating for about 50, the vibrant restaurant is painted in red and orange, and the hot colors are a harbinger of the spicy flavors to come.
During a recent lunch visit, we tried the $7.99 special, which included a spring roll, soup and an entrée. With more than a dozen choices, the lunch menu offers plenty of variety, from classic curries and noodle dishes to the zesty chicken kapow.
The Siam Ginger, ordered with shrimp (for an extra $1.50) and a medium level of heat, was a deliciously sweet/spicy combination loaded with onions and mushrooms. It proved more popular around the table than the mild version of Drunken Noodles. Although we liked the noodles' bright flavor of basil and the crisp-tender green beans, we decided it needed the extra zip that would have come from ordering it with medium spiciness.
With tea or soft drinks, lunch for two easily hits $20; add a couple of desserts, and the tab will top $30. But we couldn't resist our waiter's recommendation of the $4.95 fried bananas with ice cream — especially when he mentioned that the taro variety of ice cream is purple. We actually enjoyed the bright purple ice cream, which we decided tasted like popcorn. The wonton-wrapped bananas that accompanied it were only OK.
While we enjoyed Siam Square's lunch specials, we wanted to try also some of the classic Thai dishes for a carryout dinner. This time, we sampled an appetizer of chicken satay. $6.50, skewers of tender chicken served with a terrific peanut sauce, and two varieties of soup, $4.25 for a cup, $8.95 for a bowl. The thom yum, a broth-based soup flavored with cilantro and lemongrass, was well-spiced, but the thom kah gai, a coconut milk soup with plenty of chicken and mushrooms, proved even better.
Siam Square entrée can seem a bit pricy, ranging from around $11 for stir-fry, noodle and curry dishes to around $16 for seafood dishes such as grouper and a soft-shelled-crab curry, but two entrée can easily serve three or for — and Thai food really is meant to be shared. Four of us sampled the $10.95 pad Thai, a classic dish with rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts and peanuts (nicely spicy, even when ordered mild), and an $11.50 masaman curry, a rich coconut curry loaded with potatoes, onions and cashews that were more sweet than spicy.
And Siam Square is certainly worth a repeat visit. The green and red curries, the cold side dishes and the seafood specialties all sound appealing — especially with a bottle of Singha, a light Thai lager.
By Jolene Ketzenberger