At the mouth of Fountain Square, across from the eerily empty White Castle warehouse, lies Indy's newest and worst-kept secret of a restaurant. Siam Square has only been open about three weeks, but it already packs a steady, eclectic crowd for lunch. Trendily-dressed women, perfectly-coiffed businessmen and families with babies all share space in the contemporary Thai place decked in the red, orange and yellows of curry.
The restaurant's fashion-forward aesthetic comes courtesy of owner Ed Rudisell, whose background in corporate restaurants is also dotted with serious stints in photography. Siam Square's blocky innards unfold with only a few square windows and colorful depictions of Thai life to decorate its walls. The result is an interface befitting the eclectic Fountain Square area.
But would the food be good?
My first visit, I was greeted by an eraser-board announcement about the craft beer selection. Siam certainly wants to steer its clientele toward a moderately-priced, perfectly-tailored libation. The wine menu is short but representative: five choices of big-hitter whites, each hailing from a different European country (and South Africa); red choices mostly came from America. No grape was duplicated. The craft beer list is about nine strong, with helpful pairing descriptions. I chose a subtle, off-dry Spanish Albarino and got on with the ordering.
I crave the penetrating heat of thom yum soup with its heady lemongrass and pungent cilantro, but the "silky coconut" of thom kah gai sounded like soulful nourishment. I ordered both ($4.25 for a cup). My friend ordered a panang curry ($11.50) for splitting.
My golden standard for thom yum in the city can be found at Thai Papaya, where it comes in a big ceramic bowl loaded with noodles and perfectly plump shrimp. Siam Square's thom yum was flavorful and especially spicy, but this one did not come with noodles, and the shrimp was a little tough. The thom kah gai was better, with big tree trunk cross sections of ginger and a rich coconut broth. Again, the chicken was a little tough - especially compared to that of the panang curry.
My dining companion held the popular opinion that the curries at Indy Thai places are perhaps especially sweet. That may be due to a lack of countervailing spice, I said. Indeed, I don't remember the panang being notably spicy at our requested medium level of heat, but the chicken was stick-to-your-molars chewy-tender, the green beans just firm but subservient enough to my bite and the sauce was perfectly savory-sweet. There was a rationing of promised snap peas, but overall, the dish was good.
Siam soon showed me how hot it could be. Once, I got a lunch special with the Siam ginger plate of chicken, onions, mushrooms, carrots and celery infused with ginger ($7.99). But the root couldn't really stand up to the heat. I had ordered this dish hot. It was searing, sweat-inducing.
Lunch specials come with a spring roll, and this one was a life boat. The compact, crunchy exterior deliciously absorbed the heat so that I could make it to the end of the meal - and a dessert of roti rolls ($5.50). I wouldn't be surprised if these pan-fried pieces of flatbread smothered in a sticky icing were upwards of 100 calories per inch-and-a-quarter-wide serving. A river of butter congeals underneath them as you eat. But they are delicious. All in all, the ethnic foodies will be impressed.
936 Virginia Ave.
Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday: Closed (but stay tuned)
Food: Four stars
Atmosphere: Four and a half stars
Service: Four stars