Drinkimg with Charlse Mudede
A Brief History of Siam
It's all a bit of a blur now, but Siam Thai Cuisine was initially Siam on Broadway, an affordable but really good small restaurant that had a huge fish tank and an open kitchen next to the entrance. Some years passed, and the owners of Siam on Broadway opened a second restaurant in a huge heap of a building in Eastlake—remarkable only for the inclusion of a train car in the structure—called Siam on Lake Union. The restaurant had an even larger fish tank and what looked like all of the room in the world. While sitting in the east section of the main dining area, you could see some old, rusting ships that hadn't braved the waves in eons and a bike/pedestrian path. The path led to a quiet community of floating homes and a small park, Terry Pettus Park, that's frequented by ducks, drunks, lovers, and raccoons.
Some years ago, Siam on Broadway closed for reasons that are unknown to me (it seemed to be doing just fine). And not too long ago, Siam on Lake Union moved up the road to a brand-new building on Eastlake Avenue and changed its name to Siam on Eastlake. (At some point, Siam Bothell also came into being. Who knew?)
During these changes of names and locations, however, Siam's food has remained the same. The spicy and cucumber-rich beef salad (one of my favorites dishes in the Thai repertoire) I had many years ago at Siam on Broadway, and a few years ago at Siam on Lake Union, was identical to the one I had this week at Siam on Eastlake. This was also true of the beef and broccoli dish—both were ordered from the happy-hour menu at $7 apiece and came with a bowl of brown rice. I also drank one glass of red wine, a glass of white wine, and a vodka-something-or-other. All of this drinking and eating was enjoyed in the bar area, which has suspended light fixtures that bear a resemblance to UFOs.
Though I recognized some of the people from the old days (the days when I was a poor student, and so happy to have access to decent grub and booze at a reasonable price), the person who got my attention was the bartender: a youngish and cheerful-looking man. The day I happened to visit Siam was also his last day of working there. He was moving to Thailand. He was moving because of a woman. He was going to live happily ever after with her. While drinking, I couldn't stop dreaming of the bartender's next world—the new smells, sounds, laws, languages. I saw him eating a meal in the heat, saw him drinking a cold beer in the moonlight. And the more I drank, the easier it was to picture his happy life in that faraway land.