Filled and Stream

Next on our table was the tiger tear ($5.95), sliced beef in lime juice, coriander, and chilies, served cold over greens. We ordered this at level three and wished we hadn't. Only two of us survived.

But as if in a video game, we were all magically reborn to enjoy the "stand-up" chicken ($12.95), a whole roasted game hen staked upright, vegetables at its drumsticks like disciples. This sacrificial chicken was baptized at the table with typical Thai flair -- in flames. We suspect the unfortunate fowl to be the reason our meal took so long to appear (it couldn't have been that River had bigger fish to fry). Thai dishes average less than ten minutes to prepare. But a chicken can take as long as an hour to bake, thus delaying a course. And for the weak-hearted, the cruel presentation can delay the entire meal, permanently. We were thankful we hadn't ordered King of a Little Lake ($13.95) -- frog legs. The possibilities for presenting stir-fried Kermit could prompt animal rights intervention, or at least a protest from Miss Piggy.

Compared with the "stand-up" chicken, our other choices appeared tame. The chicken with asparagus ($8.95) and ginger beef ($7.95) were hardly works of art. But the ingredients were fresh and generous and a soothing contrast to the shrimp curry ($9.95), a spicy red-curry and coconut-milk broth with potatoes and a pineapple twist. A little rum and this could have been one interesting pina colada.

As to be expected, the noodle dishes garnered the most praise. Though a bit soupier than I prefer, the pad Thai ($5.95), practically the national dish of Thailand, moved faster around the table than it probably did in the wok. With the exceptions of lemon grass and coconut, pad Thai combines the flavors that most characterize Thai cuisine -- fish sauce, peanuts, dried shrimp, garlic, chili powder, and coriander.

Pad see eiew ($7.95), a variation on a theme, used sen lek (medium flat rice noodles) as a base. Topped with a variety of meats -- chicken, beef, and pork -- as well as broccoli and bean sprouts, this dish could be a satisfying meal in itself, and perhaps should have been. Because noodle plates rarely reside more than two or three minutes over fire, we would have been assured of a meal that was not a marathon, and a postprandial mood that was not impatience. But by then we had cast our bread upon the waters.

SIAM RIVER 3455 NE 163rd St., N. Miami Beach; 945-8079. Lunch Monday -- Saturday from noon until 2:30 p.m. Dinner every night from 5:00 until 11:00 p.m.

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