Tapas are a Spanish tradition, but the small-plate concept has become so popular that even Asian restaurants have embraced it.
Siam Rice Thai & Tapas in Hollywood has 27 items on its combined appetizer and tapas list. Forget chorizo and cheese — here tapas include marinated beef on a sticky rice ball and fried oysters with mixed berries. The 3-month-old restaurant also shines on Thai standards like fiery curries and noodles both sweet and sour.
Tucked into a shopping plaza on Sheridan Street, this offshoot of Miami’s Siam Rice Thai & Sushi has an attractive, contemporary dining room with a view of the open kitchen and a few communal tables flanked by high-top seats that are inviting to after-work crowds.
Servers are gracious and accommodating despite some language limitations. Speak up if you have any ingredient concerns, as dishes are made to order.
We started with a sensational bowl of lemongrass-scented tom kha gai that rivaled the magic of matzo ball soup for my cold-clogged sinuses. A little hot and a little sweet, its soothing coconut milk broth is also flavored with pungent galanga, lime juice and cilantro. With lots of sliced mushrooms and chicken, it’s one of the best versions we’ve had.
Another of the 10 soups, a pumpkin-carrot puree, tasted like Thanksgiving with an Asian twist. Fresh ginger added zing, but it didn’t compare to the tom kha gai.
On the small-plate menu, lab kai, a ground chicken salad, gets an authentic, nutty flavor from roasted rice powder that’s balanced by refreshing mint, scallions, red onions and a tart lime dressing. Taro corn fritters sounded better than they were, delivering a lot of coating and just a bit of vegetable.
We were tempted by curried beef osso bucco and snapper in ginger-yellow bean sauce, but focused on favorites on the 30-item main-dish list.
Aromatic chicken panang curry with bell peppers, bamboo shoots and lime leaves in lush coconut milk was excellent, served with white or brown rice. (Medium heat had plenty of kick for us.) The curry lineup also includes red, green, yellow and massaman, a hearty meal with lots of potatoes and a topping of roasted peanuts.
Stir-fries include a tender beef and pineapple version in a sauce redolent of garlic and ginger.
Siam Rice passes the pad Thai test with a top-notch version. Dive into a mountain of noodles dotted with stir-fried egg and perfectly cooked shrimp, crunchy scallions, bean sprouts and ground peanuts and, best of all, a delicate sauce that’s not too sweet.
Fried bananas were too heavily breaded. Next time we’ll end with Thai doughnuts, a rice sundae —or maybe another small plate or two.
Miami Herald critics dine anonymously at the newspaper’s expense.