Back when Thai food was still a relatively new phenomenon in the Philippines, when pad thai was still an exotic fare, Filipinos fell in love with the harmonious combination of tastes of lime, herbs, chilies and fish sauce. But as the novelty wore down, it suddenly dawned on many that some of the restaurants weren’t even good in the first place, and the sweetened versions of dishes from central Thailand were the only Thai food many Filipinos knew.
A slew of chefs specializing in Southeast Asian cuisines emerged in the past couple of years, and along with them legitimate Thai dishes came in, introducing local diners to traditional Thai food that stays true to their homeland renditions. Read: they don’t hold back on the chili. Now, when Thai food fans want something that’s as close as it can get to a table in, say, the Isan region, they’ll likely be heading to Siamaroi in Jupiter Street, for example.
This unassuming restaurant is a wonderful discovery. The kitchen is in the hands of a Thai couple (whose son is taking up medicine in a local university), and it’s obvious they know their cooking well. It’s a refreshing departure from the Thai food available to Filipinos. The menu’s not groundbreaking and prices are a bit higher than other Thai restaurants, but the dishes are fresh and intense enough for adventurous tongues.
We start with the Thai Papaya Salad, a northeastern recipe consisting of shredded green papaya, lime juice and fish sauce. It’s flavorful with a deeply satisfying kick. The sour and spicy Tom Yum Kung is another familiar Thai dish, and Siamaroi’s version buzzes with fresh galangal, lemongrass and lime leaves. Large shrimps and other seafood sim in the fiery red broth, which can easily serve two.
On the side of the main dishes, we have the Green Chicken Curry with rice, which is mercifully not as generous on chili as the previous dishes, providing a spacer between the intense dishes. It’s a welcome respite for my tongue and the waiter, who constantly has to refill my glass with water.
I’m in love with Siamaroi by the time the meal is over. Its dishes are more reminiscent of Thailand than most restaurants in Metro Manila – or in the Philippines, for that matter.
Note: The restaurant is scheduled to transfer to their new location in Conrad Manila beside the SM Mall of Asia in April. The good news is that it will be more accessible to me, since it is nearer where I stay, and that it marks a significant step forward for the owners. But part of the restaurant’s charm is its off-the-beaten-path vibe, and moving to a luxurious hotel ensures that this aspect won’t be retained.
124 Jupiter Street, Bel-Air, Makati City