Thai food has been a personal passion of mine for a very long time, and generally I find the best Thai food in Los Angeles over the hill in Hollywood’s Thai Town or at Sanamluang in Van Nuys. But, who wants or needs to drive over the hill or out to Van Nuys every time for great-tasting Thai food? Burbank deserves good Thai restaurants, and the family-owned, five-table Siam Smile on Magnolia Blvd. more than fits the bill. We tend to eat family style, ordering a few basic dishes to share, and appreciate restaurants who make an effort to be accurate and adjustable with the spice level.
Perhaps the best dish I’ve had yet from Siam Smile is their yellow curry (also known as Kang Ka Ree), a hearty curry with the right amount of heat and an abundance of fragrances and flavors. Usually served with chicken, potatoes and vegetable, I enjoy that Siam Smile uses whatever vegetable they have on hand to make the curry. On one day, they’ll serve the yellow curry with potato, carrot and onion; another day, green peppers will be added to the dish – a surprising and perfectly complementary addition.
The Tom Kha Kai (coconut milk soup with chicken) is perfectly prepared at Siam Smile as well. While the large soup is not a huge portion, it’s plenty for two people – stretching it to serve four is a challenge. Dotted with straw mushrooms and pieces of white meat chicken and flavored with ginger, cilantro and lemongrass, the soup is excellent when freshly made and still very warm. Siam Smile will adjust the spice level to suit, making it very mild to accommodate younger palates, and including extra chilis on the side for those interested in upping the spice factor. Adding warm rice to a bowl of Tom Kha Kai is our favorite way to enjoy the soup.
We often order Pad Thai as well, and Siam Smile’s version is fresh and tasty, with a lots of noodles; the takeout version comes all mixed together, ready to eat, although the peanuts are still relegated to one corner of the plate. Siam Smile’s Pad Thai is a reliable standby the whole family enjoys.
One major caveat is the wait time at Siam Smile. Sometimes, the phone is answered promptly and takeout orders are ready in 20 minutes. Generally, that occurs when the restaurant is not full. But on two separate, recent occasions, I’ve called to place an order, and no one picks up the phone; I then go in to the restaurant to order, and there is one person taking phone orders and waiting on tables, and just one cook. At these times, to-go orders can take 40 minutes or more to fulfill. Siam Smile could add one person out front and one in the kitchen, and make all their customers happy at peak hours.
Siam Smile offers a fairly limited menu, but touches on the main dishes of Thai cuisine and includes some Chinese favorites as well. In particular, the Kang Ka Ree and Tom Kha Kai are fresh and have a homemade quality – their flavors and overall taste puts those specific dishes a notch above those served at Palms Thai in Hollywood. While Palms Thai does seafood extremely well, that restaurant offers more of a paint-by-numbers approach to many Thai standards.
My favorite Thai restaurant of all time continues to be Sanamluang (the original location in Hollywood trumps its spot in Van Nuys.) Even though Siam Smile does not make the fried shrimp cakes like Sanamluang, the restaurant brings the great flavors of Thai home cooking to Burbank, saving us a long drive. Yes, there are other Thai restaurants in the area; some I haven’t tried yet, like the Thai Room Garden. Others, like Gindi Thai are just alright, but rather bland. Chadaka Thai is okay, too, but servers have told me they can’t adjust the chilis in their Tom Kha Kai for some reason. That’s a big strike in my book.
Although Siam Smile does not offer the wider menu found at more established restaurants in areas heavily populated by Thai people, our experience has been very positive with this restaurant. The server has always been friendly, and while the Siam Smile would make everyone happy with a few more staff members at peak times, the food is what it’s all about, and still worth the wait. I look forward to exploring their other curries and more of the menu in the future.
Restaurant Info: Siam Smile is located at 1907 1/2 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, CA 91506. 818-558-5051. Open Monday – Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m and 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Closed Sundays.
Siam Smile receives: On The Marquee
Tops In Town (Outstanding)
On The Marquee (Really Good)
Could Use A Rewrite (Average or Slightly Below)
Don’t Quit Your Day Job (Roadkill)