At the top of the short list for dining out on a whim or even a big occasion: Siam Garden Cafe, on the edge of town near Pier 38. Think spicey hot, think real cool, think reasonable, think delicious; think big, think fast! Siam Garden has it all. (Hey, is this is good enough for a commercial jingle?)
Parking galore, located just off Nimitz Hwy. on a small strip mall, a most unlikely find for what is
probably the most authentic Thai food on the island. The atmosphere is akin to stepping into someone's living room furnished with colonial-SEAsian hardwood tables and booths, subdued, intimate lighting. The dinner rush begins at 6 p.m. and it is fairly cleared by 7:30 p.m., and seating is fairly easy.
The menu is evenly divided into 1. appetizers, noodles (soup or wok fried) and rice, 2. grilled meats and seafood, 3. curry and 4. seafood dishes, 5. a page for vegetarian diners.
The Thai waitresses are uniformly attractive, business cordial,
speak clearly and intimately know their menus. Prices mostly range from $8 to $11 for appetizers (deep fried calamari, shrimp rolls, spring rolls) to under $15 for main course dishes.
There are no disappointments in all of ten or so visits to this restaurant. It is my belief that everyone goes away happy or with a doggie bag. My favorites include the 'evil jungle prince' green or red curries, dry fried noodles with meats and veggies, and the braised or fried fish plates.
Standing mightily and above all, it is the roasted pork shank. It is crispy glazed and tender, an eight or nine inch section of a meaty ham hock that is flavored with Thai seasonings. Think: a massive chunk of flavorful maple bacon without the saltiness. It is enough for two, should you be persuaded to share it with a cunning dining partner, but it can also be revived as a main course for the next day's dining. No other restaurant in Honolulu has such a dish, for only $15.00.
A variety of Southeast Asian beers as well as popular brands and mixed drinks is available from the bar. Thai teas, coffee and soft drinks are offered as well. You might be wise to have a cold beer at your table if you order the "hot" curries or spiced dishes.
The fare is easy on the wallet and so you don't mind going all in for a larger tip to the pleasing waitresses. Such is the experience that it may be the lunch or dinner here that puts the "Wonderful" in your day!
Credit cards accepted, no reservations needed for smaller parties.
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