February 8, 2009

Siam Cafe: Authentic Chinese Food in… Cleveland?!

by admin

I am totally into food. Add my friend who is also totally into food, and you get a Pepto Bismol-inducing food frenzy. On one such occasion, we visited perhaps the only authentic Chinese joint in Cleveland proper, Siam Cafe. Apparently, they also serve Thai and Vietnamese food, but we were there for the good stuff. ALSO apparently, they tout themselves as a seafood restaurant, but I don’t recall if I saw one of those huge tanks with really dirty and feeble looking lobsters in it.

Condiments: Sriracha sauce (what’s a Thai place without it?), soy sauce, salt n’ peppa, and some other weird sauce that’s probably crusting out in that dinky plastic jar.

This is supposedly a sort of mango bubble tea. It’s got dark tapioca pearls in it and a foggy liquid. And yes, I denied my friend her offer to take a sip.

Summer rolls with sweat peanut sauce. Who can go wrong with these things? To be honest, I used to really hate these, but after spending time in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and its large Thai population (Thai restaurants outnumber any other Asian restaurants, and most Japanese and Chinese places are run by Thai owners), I grew to love the chewy rice paper wrapper, the thin, white, and slightly soggy clump of noodles, fresh kick of cilantro, and the strips of shrimp. With a nice huge gob of peanut sauce and the crunch of chopped peanuts, this is awe-some!

This was a sort of chow mein, that is, with fried noodles engulfed by a thick savory brown gravy full of broccoli, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, carrots, and chicken chunks. The textures in this sort of dish is always nice, you get the fried goodness of low-quality noodles dripping with a nondescript, not quite good sauce. I feel like the sauce in this was lacking in any sort of tasty flavor, and it was not hot enough.

Probably the best dish of the night. This large portion of thick tofu slices (chunks?) fried with a weird bleb in the center (notice the light coloring in the center of the pieces). My friend would push in the bleb, fill with sauce, and proceed to eat. I adapted this method, which proved to be better than the old, cover with sauce or dip in sauce technique.

I was very excited about this dish but was sorely disappointed. I believed the “SEAFOOD RESTAURANT” part of the joint’s name, and went with a fried lobster with green onions and garlic. The dish was very very lukewarm. I think that was the problem. If it was sizzling and hot straight from the wok or frier, it would be so tasty, but it was ruined by the “I’ve been sitting on the counter for 15 minutes to come out” factor. It was mediocre and tastes like what you would expect of leftovers if you brought this home and wanted a little snack.

I don’t know if this proved to you that two girls can be voracious eaters (there was basically nothing left on the table except for some of the white rice that they give with the meal), but afterwards, we went to the Cheesecake Factory located maybe 20-30 minutes away to have dessert. Yes, we are crazy, and no, this isn’t the worst we’ve gotten ourselves into.

They give you this basket of bread regardless. It’s nice because the bread is warm and actually good for a generic chain restaurant that’s on the pricey side. The white bread is pretty standard, but the pumpernickel? with oats on top is very sweet (honey?) and is quite good.

Pumpkin pecan cheesecake. I believe this is seasonal. It’s like packing 2 of my favorite desserts into one. Literally, it is. They just stuff the pumpkin pie cheesecake layer between the pecan topping and that sweet goo that is distinctively pecan pie. Tell me, though, who seriously eats this much whipped cream? It’s actually funny that I ate the whole thing except for the whipped cream. It’s like those people who go to a restaurant and get a Diet Coke to drink but then this huge fatty 5-course meal. Oh wait, that’s me.

I think this is the 30th anniversary chocolate cake cheesecake. It looks tasty, but doesn’t come with as much whipped topping as the pumpkin pecan.

Another good bet at the Factory is the carrot cake cheesecake. It is another one of those packing 2 of my favorite desserts in one. It’s also like asking for a quadruple bypass as opposed to a triple. I also enjoy the apple crisp. I also recommend this $30 appetizer they have which is a sampling of “the best of” the appetizers which they sell. Yes, on another occasion, I’ve split this with only my friend. And yes, all of my disposable income goes into foodstuffs.

Bottom line: If for some sad sad reason you are in the metro-Cleveland area and hankering for some affordable Asian cuisine, this may be the place for you. It’s conveniently right next to a gas station so you can stop to fill up your tank before you get the hell out of there and run to the safe haven of cream cheese desserts.

Siam Cafe
3951 St. Clair Avenue
Cleveland, OH
T: 216.361.2323

The Cheesecake Factory
24265 Cedar Road
Cleveland, OH
T: 216.691.3387

18 Comments

  • kayoko
    Posted February 9, 2009 at 1:11 am

    Awesome! I love the way you girls roll. Could you elaborate on how to eat that fried tofu? I’m curious- so you put the sauce INTO the middle of the tofu?

  • Lawrence
    Posted February 9, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    I grew up in the Cleveland area, and although I moved out of there for good reason, it’s not THAT terrible of a city. You make it sound like you were in Basrah…or Gary, IN.

    And why presume that the one Chinese place you stumbled upon is the only good one? Bo Loong, which is just down the street from Siam, is a Cleveland institution and has some of the best dim sum I’ve ever had. And Li Wah serves up great authentic Chinese options that stray far from the typical American-style menu.

    http://cleveland.citysearch.com/profile/7988339/cleveland_oh/bo_loong.html
    http://cleveland.citysearch.com/profile/7988368/cleveland_oh/li_wah_restaurant.html

  • Sonja
    Posted February 9, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Geez Lawrence is so passive aggressive. I personally think PF Chang’s is the best Chinese in Clevo.

  • Ricky
    Posted February 10, 2009 at 6:56 am

    I’ve never been to a PF Changs. But I’ve been to Ninja which I guess is the Japanese equivalent of PF Changs. I imagine the restaurant having an artificial rice field, shaolin monk like waiters, footbinded waitresses, and rickshaws carrying food to your table.

  • kayoko
    Posted February 10, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Aw, Larry’s cool- lots of OH love! It’s a good thing- I’ve always wanted more posts about the midwest, I mean you figure there’s gotta be good eating out there too, right?

    I’ve never been to PF Chang’s but I’ll def go now that you mention it. There’s one in Palo Alto with a huge concrete horse out front. Is that their THING??? It’s so bad.

    OMG and Ricky- you’ve been to Ninja? I def need to go and see the whackness for myself. How is it even still OPEN??

  • Sonja
    Posted February 10, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Dear Ricky,

    Actually I’ve never been to PF Changs, I just felt like saying I was a Chinese food retard. Which is both fine and true because I’m from Ohio. Omg, I’ve been to Ninja too. Didn’t you love the twisting turning stairway, wailing and chanting (or did I imagine that) and the one white female waitress who almost set your table while performing ~~~~Ninja magic**~~~??

  • Sonja
    Posted February 10, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    ~~~~Wok N Roll!!!~~~~

  • kayoko
    Posted February 10, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    OMG i used to go to a place in Pasadena, LA called Wok ‘n Roll. So bad- lots of sake bombs and chicken teriyaki rolls.

    SO BAD!!!!

    Will report back on PF Chang.

  • Lawrence
    Posted February 10, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Hey, I didn’t mean to come off as passive aggressive. I thought I was just throwing snark back at snark. Or is that only allowed on gawker?

    I agree that Cleveland does have potential. And it’s sad. But I also think that its unfair reputation is one of the biggest things keeping it down.

  • kayoko
    Posted February 10, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Snark on snark much appreciated here at UM. Keep up the good work, Larry!

  • Ricky
    Posted February 11, 2009 at 5:46 am

    Sonja – Our ninjas were Japanese when we went unfortunately we did not encounter the rare white ninja. Our ninja also revealed that the secret ninja magic is puerto rican rum.

    Kayoko – We went on a monday night and it was surprisingly packed, the ninja I spoke to said they get a lot of birthday parties and corporate outings. The food was okay, its typical pan asian food but with special effects like fog, and flames. I think when they first opened up in ny, it was more of a kaiseki place.

  • kayoko
    Posted February 11, 2009 at 11:17 am

    I have totally been wanting to go there, at least for a drink- they have a bar right??

    I’m coming out in March- maybe Ninja should be our next Umamiventure????? OMG that would be HILARIOUS!

  • Ricky
    Posted February 12, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Kayoko:
    I would recommend it if it was on someone’s expense account. But just go with focus on the novelty factor and not the food.

    Sonja:
    I found an all naengmyeon/mandoo place which had a combo of your choice of naengmyeon and choice of plate of mandoo.

  • Sonja
    Posted February 12, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Ricky, I would like to know why you mention this nengmyun and mandoo place but do not mention ANY details. Details??? BTW I SAW ALL THOSE MITSUWA PACKAGES ~~~~****BOLONIYA BREAD 4 EVA~~~****

  • Ricky
    Posted February 13, 2009 at 9:07 am

    my bad its called You-Chun its on the corner of 155 and Northern across from the big Han Ah Reum in Flushing. They used to have a location in manhattan but it closed.

    Boloniya used to be sold out everytime I go to Mitsuwa. But the last 2 times I went they had tons, I guess the bad economy is affecting Boloniya sales.

    Teriyaki boy isnt bad as Yoshinoya, well Yoshinoya in America.

  • Tyson
    Posted February 13, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Re. You Chun, I was gonna say—I think I went there when I first moved here, and tried going back a few months ago and it was gone. I remember the naeng myun being decent, but haven’t tried the mandoo. Is the one in Flushing worth a visit?

  • Ricky
    Posted February 16, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Its def worth a visit. Theres a lot of interesting stuff in that area like upscale kimchi stores, fried chicken joints, specialized restaurants, and massive korean markets.

  • kayoko
    Posted February 16, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    C’mon guys, Yoshinoya nor Teriyaki Boy is THAT bad.

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