1813 LarkSpur Landing Circle
Larkspur, CA 94939
415-461-0189 / 415-461-0198
By Christina Mueller Welte
Marin Independent Journal correspondent
Posted: 11/09/2011 07:20:00 AM PST
Different diners look for different things from Thai food. Alternately sweet, sour, salty and almost always spicy from chilies, chilies and more chilies, a meal at a Thai restaurant is composed of a range of palate-tingling flavors.
On a recent visit to Tha Siam, the family-run Thai restaurant at the new Marin Country Mart (formerly Larkspur Landing), our table required the kitchen to orchestrate a set of dishes to entice a range of palates, from "no spice at all" to "make mine as spicy as they eat it in Bangkok." The challenge was how to please everyone yet maintain the compelling flavors of this cuisine's native land.
Tha Siam fresh spring rolls ($7.95), served with a prawn perched enticingly atop the upturned log, burst with the flavor of fresh mint and were perfect for our "no spice" fans. The accompanying sauce duo — sweet-spicy and peanut — added another savory dimension to the pleasure of the more adventurous palates. Ginger salad ($7.95) layered mild romaine, cashews and toasted, sliced coconut with vivid ginger and shallots; tossed with the sesame soy dressing, this dish, too, pleased our diverse crowd and spoke clearly of its south Asian origins. Bolder larb gai ($7.95) was a heady mix of salad greens with minced chicken, mint, red chilies and crunchy toasted rice. Similar to the lettuce cups often seen in other Asian restaurants, the delicate dressing balanced the chile's firm pad Thai ($9.50), mild by nature and fragrant with tamarind and a hint of fish sauce, popped with flavor after a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Grilled sea bass mango ($14.95), beautifully presented, was perfectly cooked, subtly spiced and tangy with lime.
Other dishes worked well with our "no spice" crowd but struck the adventurous eaters as too sweet. Tom kha pak ($8.95), a large bowl of coconut and lemongrass-based soup, was loaded with vegetables and tofu, but seemed out of balance with too much sweet creamy coconut milk and not enough punchy lime or lemongrass. Param rong song ($8.95), or beef with steamed vegetables and peanut sauce, tasted only of the sweetened sauce and lacked sparkle.
Upon inquiry about our menu and whether we had ordered too many sweet and/or mild dishes, owner Ed Aswanetmanee explained that he asks his cooks to prepare every dish with a mild heat profile. If you like more chilies in your food, let your server know when you order. This small but important detail should be stated on the menu or conveyed tableside. Given the up-front opportunity to tweak dishes to suit personal preferences would have made our meal an even greater success.
Aswanetmanee warmly welcomes everyone who enters his cozy eatery and is especially attuned to the children. A unique plate was designed for my 3-year-old — steamed carrots and broccoli alongside a mound of rice molded into what appeared to be a snowman — and he went home with a complimentary whirly-gig and toy airplane to boot. Service is prompt and thorough; our water glasses were never more than half empty. But be prepared to walk outside to the bathrooms as there are none inside the restaurant.
With its warm orange walls and authentic tapestries, Tha Siam (its name translates to Thai ferry terminal, conveying the link between its physical location and its culinary heritage), offers a calming environment in which to enjoy a taste of south Asia. Fully half of the menu is vegetarian and all of the chicken and tofu used are organic. Even the fussiest palates will enjoy a taste of Thailand.
Address: 1813 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur
Service: Table service
Noise level: Moderate
Recommended items: Spring rolls, ginger salad, grilled sea bass mango
Liquor selection: Wine and beer only
Wheelchair access: Yes
Heart-healthy and vegetarian selections: Yes
Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; 4 to 9:30 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays; 4 to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Credit cards: MasterCard and Visa
Prices: $10 to $18
Summary: With an extensive menu of seafood, curries, noodle and vegetarian specialty dishes, Tha Siam serves the traditional and familiar flavors of Thailand. Customize your experience by letting your server know your preference for spice when ordering. Friendly, efficient service and a cozy environment offer an escape to South Asia in the heart of Marin.