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Siam II

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As a rule, Thai food is a little tougher to find than Chinese food. It seems like every burg, village and pit stop in America has a Chinese joint, but until recently, Thai food wasn't all that common outside large cities. Now, it's a little bit better, with several open in Boise and its environs. Still, they remain fairly unique in this area.

On a gray Sunday afternoon, my family and I stopped into one of the newer ones in the Treasure Valley, called Siam Thai Restaurant, or Siam II (the first one is still going strong in Boise), which has been around for about a year. The place was absolutely empty and absolutely spotless, warmly decorated (with plenty of colorful banners and symbols of Thai culture) and just waiting for customers. Our server was attentive and friendly, and got us our drinks--they make a very smooth iced tea--and took our orders right away.

Siam II serves both Thai and Chinese cuisine, and since I was the only one in my nuclear family unit with previous Thai food experience, they decided to play it safe and stick with known dishes. We started off with egg flower soup--more robust than I've had before, with thicker noodles and carrots--and a satay chicken appetizer ($6.50), which came sizzling hot and tasty, although the ends of the chicken were tough to bite through, requiring a little quick fork action. My son, who isn't the most adventurous eater, thoroughly enjoyed it even though the tangy/sweet yellow sauce, with its hints of ginger and other spices, was unfamiliar.

My wife had the Almond Chicken ($6.50) with fried rice, which came with a thin layer of broth in the bottom of the dish that didn't sit well with her at first, but the food was tasty enough for her to ignore it. The kids both went with sweet and sour dishes, chicken for my daughter ($6.50) and pork for my son ($6.50). Unfortunately, neither seemed enthused with their choices; my daughter complained of a ketchup-like taste, where my son's appetite for adventure--and food in general--fell off steeply after the appetizer. I took a bite or two of his, however, and found nothing to complain about; the breading was crispy but not overwhelming, and the meat was tender.

Having never tried it before, I went with the Mussaman Curry ($7.95), which is essentially a sweet and spicy beef stew with potatoes, beef and peanuts. The curry became stronger after the first few bites, and though the sweet aftertaste was disconcerting at first, the combination was flavorful and grew on me, lending the well-cooked potatoes a spicy flourish that combined well with the nicely tender beef chunks. The total cost of lunch was a bit higher than expected, but not unreasonable for a family of four, and the service was hard to beat for friendliness, efficiency and general competence. Plus, we had the whole place to ourselves, an advantage of eating out on Sunday afternoons, and the atmosphere of the restaurant was relaxed and calm.

Overall, while there were some aspects of the meal that could have been improved upon, Siam II was a positive dining experience for the family. Well-prepared food, excellent service and an inviting atmosphere--not to mention one of the absolutely cleanest places I've ever eaten in--make it worth visiting for Asian cuisine fans.

--Brandon Nolta wears tissue boxes on his feet.

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