Arts and Entertainment
by dan leone
SO LONG AS we're talking Thai (food, not the language), I may as well knock over this place in Oakland I've been thinking about ever since someone wrote and told me it was their favorite Thai restaurant in the Bay Area.
Now, I'm not going to say that it isn't mine not right now, anyway, because that would ruin the suspense. And where would Cheap Eats be without suspense?
[Five minutes later] Huh? Hey, I asked you a question! Where would Cheap Eats be without suspense, man?
[Ten minutes later] All right, never mind. Forget it. Watching the Super Bowl this year turned me into a pothead, is the problem. It wasn't the game itself hooray for the Patriots! so much as those stupid commercials insinuating that druggies did in the World Trade Center. Did you see that? Can you believe it?
I couldn't, which is why as soon as the game was over I headed down to Dolores Park with all the money Crawdad won in the block pool and tried to score however much of whatever I could score. I'd never bought drugs before, and rarely, if ever, even used them, but I have to thank those dumb-ass commercials for turning me on to a whole new world. I met some real nice boys and practically learned whole new languages, saw some scenery ... and ever since then I've been smoking stuff in the barn, hiding out, waiting for George Bush to smoke me out like those other evildoers. Send me down to Cuba, or Trinidad. Hell, I'll even go to Jamaica, if that's where he wants me to be. Mon.
I don't know what's going on.
You get hungry, though. You do get hungry. One thing to eat is Thai food, and one place to eat it at is Siam Bay, the best Thai restaurant in the Bay Area ... according to this one guy.
Me, I liked it. Crawdad, she loved it.
Here's what we got: stuffed chicken wings ($6.95), roast-duck noodle soup ($7.95), and the most expensive thing on the menu, grilled trout ($12.95). Which I regret, not because I didn't like it, not even because it was the most expensive thing on the menu, but because it was so plastered with garlic that I almost couldn't sleep last night, on account of having to pee every 15 minutes, on account of having to drink so much water. Not to mention that I kept dreaming I was a terrorist, riding around in a golf cart.
But the trout was tasty, and very big. It was the whole fish, cooked in tinfoil with all kinds of Thai herbs and spices, but especially garlic, and then with this spicy (also garlicky) green chili sauce for spooning onto it. To be fair, they could have served us someone's sweaty old straw hat, flattened and filleted, wrapped in tinfoil ($12.95), and that spicy green chili sauce would have saved it. It was so good we kept sending them back to the kitchen for more, even after the fish was gone, by which time we were spooning it straight down the old gullet, like medicine.
But my favorite part of the meal was the roast-duck noodle soup. The ducks were skinless and fat free, which impressed Crawdad more than me. The broth was dark and mysterious and all-around flavorful, and the rice noodles were so good that if they weren't homemade, then I don't want homemade. What else all was in there was bean sprouts, green onions, and cilantro.
Oh, and the stuffed chicken wings. Get this: they're chicken wing meat minus the bone and plus a bunch of ground pork and silver noodles and shiitake mushrooms, all wrapped in rice paper (as opposed to chicken skin) and fried, like a spring roll. Then they put it on a plate two rolls' worth with the nubs of two actual chicken wings at the end, just setting there, trying to fool you. Which is all well and good and beautiful and delicious, but what about the skin?
What about the duck skin, for that matter?
No wonder the waitresspersonpeople all seem so happy all the time at Siam Bay. They're back there in the kitchen eating all your skin! Lard knows the place wasn't busy, especially in comparison to the gigantic fancy-pants Vietnamese joint, Le Cheval, next door.
Skinlessness notwithstanding, I'd rather be sitting in one of those big-backed booths under a Christmas-tree-light-lit bead-and-sequin painting of horsies, listening to nice soft Thai music at Siam Bay any day of the week but especially if it's lunchtime on a weekday. All-you-can-eat buffet: $6.95.
Siam Bay. 1009 Clay (at 10th St.), Oakland. (510) 452-1499. Lunch: Sun.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Dinner: Tues.-Thurs., 5-9:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 5-10 p.m.; Sun., 3-10 p.m. Takeout available. American Express, MasterCard, Visa. Wheelchair accessible.