“ Address: 32 City Road / Chester CH1 3AE / Tel: 01244 403222 „
Note - I have eaten at Siam Thai and Tepanyaki several times but this review was written after my first visit in Summer 2011.
~Dinner with Colleagues~
When I stayed at the Macdonald Craxton Wood with a bunch of colleagues in July 2011 we all agreed that we didn't want to stay in the hotel for dinner. The food there isn't bad but it's a horribly stuffy atmosphere and we all fancied going into Chester. My boss loves Thai food which is good for me because it's generally my first choice for ethnic cuisine and since she knows Chester really well she announced we'd book a table at 'Zeeyam'. It took me a while to work out that this was her German pronunciation of Siam.
We ordered a couple of taxis for the 15 minute drive into the city and were dropped directly outside the restaurant. First impressions were that it appears to be a converted canalside warehouse, a brick leviathan of a building looming over the Shropshire Union Canal.
~Thai and Japanese under one roof~
Siam is a Thai and Teppanyaki restaurant which seemed to me to be a really strange combination. I love Thai and I hate Teppanyaki so the combi approach puzzled me. Really what do they have in common? Siam has a great reputation and has won a number of awards at the local Chester Food and Drink Fair which they are clearly rather proud of if their website is anything to go by. Luckily for me the Teppanyaki and Thai zones are completely separate with the Teppanyaki tables downstairs, each with 10 or more seats around the frying table, and the Thai zone is upstairs away from all the theatre of flying knives and whirling spatulas. Those with limited mobility may want to reassess whether they'd prefer the Teppanyaki as it's a big staircase due to the high ceilings.
We headed upstairs and found ourselves in a very pleasant, high-ceilinged large open plan room with brick walls and numerous Thai statues and carvings scattered around. The enormous windows filled the room with light and the use of acoustic tiles on the ceilings kept the noise down despite the wooden floors and brick walls. The furnishings were pleasant with high-backed leather chairs and tables with thick cloths.
We took a round table for five which was a bit of a squeeze. Tables around us were sized for everything from couples up to large groups. We ordered a round of gin and tonics and looked at the menu. Starters ranged from £5.50 upwards with the most expensive starter at £8.95. Lots of soups were available including my perpetual favourite Tom Yum Goong at £6.95. Main courses were rather expensive I thought with seafood dishes from £12.95 to £15.95 and no meat dishes under £11.95 although vegetarian options started at £8.95
I ordered Tom Yum Goong for starter whilst my colleagues shared a platter of starters which included savoury pork baskets, pork satay, chicken in pandanus, leaves, prawn toast, and crispy spring rolls. I was glad to have avoided being part of this mixed starter as I'd only have been able to eat the toasts and possibly the spring rolls (after getting someone to dissect one for me and check for meat). The mixed starters were charged at £11.95 for two people and I couldn't help thinking they got a lot of variety and plenty of food for the money. My Tom Yum was pretty good though a little lacking in 'bits'. I firmly believe part of joy of such a soup is picking out all the leave, sticks, chunks of chili and the like and this one looked as if it had been put through a sieve before serving. The prawns in it were big and juicy, so no complaints on that count and the spice level was perfect for me.
The main courses are a little complicated. They offer a choice of more than 20 sauces and you just choose which meat, fish or seafood you want added to the sauce. Or of course you can have mixed vegetables and no dead animal. In addition to this mix and match approach, there are a long list of chef's specials where the meat or fish is predetermined, presumably to get the best out of the dish.
I ordered squid in a sauce called Gheang Pah which was described as a 'North Eastern Thai hot and spicy curry'. It would contain fresh chili, bamboo shoots, corn, beans, coriander and aubergine. The menu said it could be served hot, medium or mild. When the waiter took my order he challenged me on it - "Madame, is very spicy, very hot". So much for hot, medium or mild options - it seems it's only available in very hot. I'm a fool for a waiter implying I'm too much of a softie to deal with it. "That's fine", I said, "I'm sure I'll manage". Of course that's the kind of talk that gets a little secret message scrawled on the order that says in Thai "This one thinks she's tough - make her cry".
~So who's a tough girl now?~
I don't recall all the orders around the table although one colleague had a giant whole sea bass, another went for a rather wimpy chicken with sweet and sour sauce but the others didn't stick in my mind. When the dishes arrived there was barely space to fit everything on the table and this was only achieved with a lot of rearranging of the glasses. My dish was a horror and I really made a dreadful mistake. The sauce was an unattractive dark brown and very thin, and was hot enough to take your head off. The squid was not great at all and had an unpleasant texture that was rubbery rather than chewy and not quite as fresh as it needed to be. Fortunately the vegetables in the sauce were great and by taking great care to dilute the sauce with lots of rice I got through about half of the dish. The beans and aubergine were great but I did rather engage in the opposite of a Tom Yum in this case picking out the bits I wanted to eat instead of picking out the bits you can't eat.
The dish didn't look particularly big but felt enormous. I kept quiet about not particularly liking it and everyone else seemed happy with their food. I made a note that next time I won't take a challenge from a waiter - I'll just meekly give in and ask him to suggest something he thinks I might like. I'm joking of course, that's just not going to happen.
Puddings were skipped on consensus that everyone had eaten enough so we asked for the bill and for the waiter to call us a taxi. I don't know what the total come to but my guess would be around £30 to £40 per head. The setting was beautiful, the service excellent and everything except my squid dish would send me back for another go. Despite not liking my main dish, I would definitely go back - but next time I'll take care to choose a bit more carefully.
Siam Thai and Teppan-yaki restaurant
32 City Road
Chester, CH1 3AE
Tel: 01244 403222
Bookings are recommended for Teppanyaki and for groups of 8 or more.
On successive visits I've not decided to go for crazy hot food and I've enjoyed my choices much more. The mistake on the occasion described was mine and I don't hold it against them in the rating.