Sexy Thai

Is sushi the new sex?

In the big, bad world out there — to which some refer as the real world — sex is the sizzle that sells the deodorant and hair gel and gas-sucking highway mastodons and watery, gruellike beer that has about as much taste and character as those who make it.

In the foodie world, sushi is the sizzle that sells the pad thai and cha gio and potstickers and bulgogi. It's as though no Thai restaurant in South Florida can survive without the lure of toro and uni and a spicy tuna handroll.


Sea Siam

12735 S Dixie Hwy, Miami; 305-233-5599. Open Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday 4:30 to 10:30 p.m., Friday 4:30 to 11:00 p.m., Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Raw fish equals sex. Who knew?

It seems no one told the folks at Sea Siam. Although the ubiquitous sushi bar is still present, this place is really a Thai restaurant and has been for twenty real-world years, which translates to a quintzillion restaurant years in our happy sneeze-and-it's-already-closed dining scene. We went to this charming eatery in a soulless Dixie Highway strip mall not to sample sushi but to eat some really good Thai food. And we did — tasty stuffed shrimp, crisp skinned duck, spicy beef stir-fry, incendiary Panang curry.

Sea Siam is a handsome place. The big, square room is cut down to size by intricately carved wooden dividers; the same ornate panels also serve as window treatments. A mural of splashing waves covers one of the walls, on top of which swims a school of ceramic fish. There's a very cool, dimly lit bar up front. The sex, I mean the sushi bar, is situated in the rear.

Now for the food. Five finger-size shrimp are stuffed with minuscule amounts of crabmeat, pork, and noodles; wrapped in thin pastry sheets; and deep-fried. They're addictive little snacks, with just enough stuffing to subtly flavor the crustaceans.

Pad thai is good too, if slightly on the sweet side, but nicely done. Unlike many versions, it comes only with your choice of chicken, pork, or beef; the addition of shrimp costs $1.75 more. In fact Sea Siam is a bit pricier than many of its competitors — seafood, duck, and specialty dishes all break the $15 barrier. On the other hand, you're paying for bigger portions and better quality.

We report. You decide.

I really liked the restaurant's crisp duck, half a boned-out bird with crunchy, virtually fat-free skin in a savory brown sauce studded with cashews, peas, black mushrooms, baby corn, and pineapple. The well-done meat had a pleasantly crisp-chewy texture, rather like Chinese twice-cooked pork.

Thin slices of beef in a wickedly pungent garlic sauce were just the opposite — tender, almost silken, bathed in a different savory brown sauce given a zing by copious amounts of black pepper.

And if it's zing you want, simply ask your cheery waitress to make your order spicy. The kitchen here doesn't fork around; spicy means "hot enough to flay the skin off your lips." As with that Panang curry I mentioned earlier, a complex, fiery concoction with red and green bell peppers and tender shards of pork: It's hot, all right, but it hurts so good.

The only dish I wasn't overly wild about was a dessert of Thai donuts, little barrel-shape clumps of dough that were too greasy and pillowy to really enjoy, although I guess I could have had sex, er, you know what I mean, instead.


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