A short walk from my downtown Beverly home lies a feast for my famished frame. There's Bella Venezia and Cabot Place, Marika's and Maria's, Tapa's, and, of course, Chianti. I've tried them all.
But the only Beverly restaurant serving Thailand cuisine sit at the former site of Piccolo Panni, at 150 Cabot St. The Siam Delight has been open barely a year, but it took Chris and me less than a month before heading down the street to give it a try.
It didn't take long before Rathased "Brian" Hirikul, 37, owner and manager of the Siam Delight, knew us by name.
Brian, along with his chef and partner, Supavat Kaewprasert, serve a full house most night. They've decorated the restaurant with bamboo place mats and posters of Thailand.
Brian, a native of Thailand, fell in love with America as a student at John Mason University in Virginia. After graduation, however, he returned to his homeland and opened his first restaurant in Bangkok, where he remained for 10 years.
Brian returned to the United States less than two years ago and now live above the Siam Delight with his wife, Ann. He studied the North Shore demographics before settling on Beverly as a locale for the restaurant.
"I had to choose between Manchester, Ipswich, Peabody, Essex and Beverly," he said. "I chose Beverly. I think Beverly is the best."
Now, less than a year later, Brian can be seen talking with the local business owners in front of his store, or chatting with customers about the food, customs and life back Thailand.
Personally, I've never been a big fan of Thai food. I've tried the Thai Place over at the East India Square Mall in Salem. I've orderd the basics, trying a several of their chicken and seafood plates, but nothing truly impressed me. May be, at the time, I thought the food too strange.
Chris convinced me to try it again when the Siam Delight opened last November. He went in first, ordering lunch one day and, two week later, he brought me with him for dinner. We've been returning ever since.
Brian and Supavat have three menus : lunch, dinner and one for the season's specials.
When we started making our rounds at the restaurant I tasted each one of the curry dishes. There was Green Curry with bamboo shoots, green beans, peas, peppers and basil in coconut milk.
I usually order meals with chicken, but most Thai plates come with your choice of beef, chicken or pork ($8.75), shrimp, scallops ($10.25), or tofu ($8.50). Once I tried the Green Curry I was hooked. I tried them all, green, red, yellow, massaman, then I went to the stir-fried plates.
I had stir-fried basil with onions, peas, peppers. I tried stir-fried broccoli with mushrooms and carrots. I has the stir-fried ginger and the stir-fried garlic, which was my favorite. Sauteed with white pepper, tomatoes, green and red peppers, served with pineapple, cucumbers and tomatoes, it tasted like an Italian lover's Thai food delight.
Most recently, friends of ours returned to Beverly to announce their engagement. We decided to celebrate.
We ordered a carafe of Brian's house white, a nice light wine with a dry aftertaste, and an order of shrimp in blanket ($6.25), from the specials menu. The dish is a combination of ground chicken and shrimp, wrapped in a spring roll, together with whole shrimp. It comes with two dipping sauces - a sweet ginger and a mango-type salsa.
Speaking of mango salsa, that brings me to my favorite Siam Delight dish of , well, all year.
Supavat make a dish of grilled red snapper with mango salsa ($12.95). It's beautiful. The tray of fish arrives covered with small chunks of fresh orange and yellow mango, green cucumbers, red peppers and shredded lettuce. It's jush spicy enough to be Thai and just cool and fresh enough to be a great summertime dish.
I talked Chris into trying it. He went for the soft shell crabs with mango salsa ($13.25). It's almost as good, but you've got to just love crab. He does.
The standard Thai dishes are great here, too. Although I didn't love Pad Thai the first time I tried it, some year ago, I enjoyed it at Siam Delight. On the special menu, look for Crystal Pad Thai ($7.95); it's the same taste and texture of traditional Pad Thai with a little something different.
For dessert, Brian often offers a marvelous Thai pudding. It's not on the menu, so make sure you ask for it.