House of Siam: Thai Up in the South End

Let's Eat by Kitty Kaufman

Back in 1976, who might have guessed that a young man fresh out of Lowell University sporting a degree in industrial engineering would end up on a cozy Columbus Avenue corner dishing spiffy Thai cuisine? The aptly named Joe Thailand, owner of House of Siam, has been ensconced in his dream location for six years. Before that, if you've been around long enough, you'll remember his Huntington Avenue location across from the Westin Hotel where he served up crispy pad thai and curry for 14 years.

He opened here April 13, 1998, noteworthy because it was Thai New Year. Choosing that day, he said, "would bring good luck and happiness." And so it has. His menu is known far beyond his South End location, with deliveries and catering to downtown businesses, colleges and the medical area. Zagat has rewarded his attention to detail with strong ratings. His clientele would say simply that the food is great.

Owners who devote themselves solely to their establishments, supervising everything down to the flower arrangements and who are still there at midnight washing down the furniture reap certain rewards. For them, there are no inconsequential details: the heat in the chili sauce is important, the produce is always today's, and the duck, well, what can we say except that the duck is always divine. He is, he says "always here" except when he's off to work out or shop vegetables twice a day in Chelsea and Chinatown.

Here is yet another successful family business. "My staff is like my family," he says. Owners who boast of workers with them from "day one" are a provocative group. What happens is that they not only love each other but they love you too. Don't be surprised when you're greeted with hugs and kisses here even if you're a newcomer.

Oh yes, the food. Here's the dilemma: House of Siam's dinner offerings include over 30 seafood dishes, 25 fried rice and noodles, 10 vegetarian plates, more than 20 appetizers and 35 specialties of the house. Although we tried very hard, we couldn't eat everything.

© October 20, 2004; December 22, 2004; January 29, 2005 for The City Shopper
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