Bright flavors and fresh ingredients mark Carytown's newest Thai restaurant. 

A Mother's Touch

About six months ago a new Thai restaurant slipped quietly into Carytown and opened shop under a lighted sign that says, simply, "Authentic Thai." The place is Mom's Siam, and since it opened the early trickle of curious diners has turned into a steady stream of regulars.

If there were no other reason to love Mom's Siam, this might be enough: If it isn't fresh, it doesn't go out. Take the somtum I stopped by to pick up one afternoon. They wouldn't let me have it: After 30 minutes, they explained, it's no longer fresh.

But there's more. After a number of visits I noticed that the food is consistently fresh, the service unfailingly polite, and the prices quite reasonable. If you are a fan of Thai food go today for lunch. If you don't know Thai at all, go tonight for dinner. Either way, though, you must try the somtum.

Ultra-fresh julienned green papaya combined with roasted peanuts, chili peppers and lime juice, create somtum ($4.95), a bright, juicy, bugle-blast of electrifying flavors that progress from sweet to sour to hot. It's a wake-up call for your mouth and characteristic of Mom's brand of Thai: well-balanced and boldly flavored.

An excellent match for somtum is the more sober pad Thai, the national dish of Thailand: thin rice noodles stir fried with shrimp, chicken, ground roasted peanuts, scallions and bean sprouts. Mom's pad Thai ($7.95) comes out very evenly flavored from a well-seasoned wok and without adornment or an abundance of oil. Ask for the tray of sauces and be sure to ask which are the hottest.

Finish with some Thai iced tea ($1.50) and a dessert of fresh, ripe mango and sticky rice ($3.95) and you will have had a very healthy, harmonious, satisfying meal for about $20.

But with so much to sample we eat family-style, ordering several appetizers, at least one entrée, and sharing it all, even the tomyum talay ($4.95), a seafood soup with squid, shrimp, fresh basil, lemon grass, mushrooms and a lime-juice broth. Other favorites include the Siam dumpling ($4.95), served with a deeply flavored soy sauce (there's a secret ingredient our waiter wouldn't disclose because the cook, his mom, won't tell him); red pork curry ($8.95) — our waiter's suggestion — in coconut milk with fresh basil; duck salad ($6.95) with pineapple, tomato, lemon grass and lime juice; and yumplakrob ($6.95), a dried fish salad with cilantro, lemon grass, scallions and red onions.

Mom's is more than just a name: mom also is the cook, and eating in her restaurant can be a privileged glimpse into a way of doing things with pride, joy and intentional care — like grinding your own spices, making your own sauce, or folding a napkin — as if you were doing it for family

At the tail end of a recent lunch rush, a group of women asked mom how she folds the napkins so beautifully, like the petals of a flower. Mom put down her tray, laid out a fresh napkin on the table and demonstrated the half-dozen folds required to create half the flower. Then she smiled and slid it toward one of the women: "There, now you finish."

Mom's Siam
2929 W. Cary St.
Monday-Thursday: Lunch 11:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m., Dinner 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.,
Dinner 4:30 p.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday: Lunch Noon-2 p.m.,
Dinner 2 p.m.-10 p.m.


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