Tuesday, September 29, 2009

29 SEP 09: A Sticky Evening

The server brought out barbecued chicken, with a special sauce on the side. Diet cola was in my glass. The public address system played traditional blues music. Yet the restaurant which offered all this was NOT a typical Columbus "barbecue joint." It was "Old South" to be sure - but it was supposed to be more South Asian.

I gave "Old Siam" on 11th Street a try one recent evening. Old Siam is a new restaurant, but it's in a tight old downtown building - so perhaps the Thai- tiebreaker is an old Siamese cat the chef keeps in a back room.

Old Siam replaced the Tavern Off Broadway several weeks ago. It still serves beer and wine - but the emphasis now is on "authentic Thai cuisine." To be honest, I wasn't quite sure what that meant. Would the rice be a bit more downscale, compared with Chef Lee?

Old Siam has a web presence, which includes its lunch and dinner menus. There's plenty of rice there, but also several dishes featuring curry. I've eaten at East Indian restaurants a couple of times, so they could "curry my favor" rather easily....

Old Siam even uses Twitter to promote some of its specials - but the items posted are for lunch, so I had to ask about the dinner specials. One of them was Thai barbecue chicken, which my server described as something I could eat with my fingers. Good - because I wasn't sure how formal this restaurant was. A lack of tablecloths could simply be a way to keep prices low.

The server added my chicken would be served with a curry barbecue and "sticky rice." I made sure I heard that correctly - because that kind often was criticized in Uncle Ben's commercials years ago....

As I waited for dinner, I was struck by the background music Old Siam was playing. It was NOT "authentic Thai" at all. In fact, my jaw dropped when they played a Southern-style blues tune with the line, "Kiss your bad a** goodbye." Sunday dinner groups from nearby First Presbyterian Church might have done exactly that.

After a few minutes, the barbecued chicken came out. The half-chicken was relatively easy to pull apart - and almost didn't need the curry barbecue sauce at all, because of a nice herb-cooked flavor. If Old Siam keeps this up, it could open a spinoff restaurant which keeps Boston Market away from Columbus for good.

I asked the server to repeat how I was supposed to eat Thai barbecued chicken -- by rolling it in the sticky rice, then dipping it in the sauce. Trouble is, the rice refused to cooperate. It was a sticky rice pattie, all right -- almost like a tropical storm was striking the Thai coast.

The chicken wouldn't pick up any sticky rice at all, even when I dipped it in the sauce first. I'm not sure how Old Siam made it stick together so well - but I suspect Tammy Terry of WRBL uses the same formula on her hair.

Since I was eating "finger food," Old Siam only brought out a metal fork for dinner. Not even the side of that fork could slice through the sticky rice very easily. I made a little progress -- and since the restaurant was surprisingly empty on a Friday night, I had a "buffer zone" if anything went airborne.

I didn't want to embarrass myself and ask for a knife to cut the rice, since this would prove I was a rookie at Thai cuisine. But I also didn't eat the pattie with my hands, like a slice of bread. I may be a single guy, but I DO know something about manners....

After several minutes of trying, I surrendered. I gave up the dinner plates with the rice pattie half-eaten. I also declined the server's offer of a "to-go" cup for my diet cola - although come to think of it, something in the soda might have cut through the rice.

The Thai barbecue chicken had a special price of $9.95 - and with soda and a tip, I dined at Old Siam for less than 14 dollars. That's not a bad price, but I admittedly left a little disappointed. When the rice and blues music are almost as memorable as the main course -- well, you might say there are some loose ends to Thai together.

Now let's move from something old to something news, from the Monday headlines:

+ The Chattahoochee River kept dropping in Columbus, making the Riverwalk visible downtown again. But the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper told WLTZ the water has 40 times the maximum safe level of e-coli bacteria. Some spectators should have stopped at simply throwing rocks in the river....

+ Investigators examined the remains of the fire-damaged River Road Pharmacy. I didn't know about this until Monday evening - yet as I drove to church Monday afternoon, I said to myself Columbus was due for a major fire. Think about it: Jordan Mills, the Phenix City Moose Lodge and Bibb Mill all burned in October. Hopefully this isn't an arson ring planning an early vacation.

+ The Army Corps of Engineers announced a $333 million commitment grant to the new Martin Army Hospital. Take that, St. Francis! Government-run health care will plow you under yet.

+ Alabama Gas indicated it will reduce natural gas prices this winter. The Associated Press reported wholesale prices have dropped 70 percent since the middle of last year, but residential rates have dropped only seven percent. Someone at Alagasco must be absolutely convinced an earthquake's coming.

+ Auburn football coach Gene Chizik visited the Columbus Quarterback Club meeting, and declared to WRBL: "Columbus might as well be connected to Alabama...." If you see Chizik "wanted posters" plastered across half of the Government Center by the end of the week, this is why....

+ Troy University announced a four-year home-and-home football series with Mississippi State. Troy coach Larry Blakeney said a home game against a Southeastern Conference school is "a step in the right direction." This means either Blakeney is tired of all the blowouts in big stadiums - or he's calling Nick Saban a chicken.

+ Instant Message to Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue: Ohhhhh - THAT'S what you meant by "Hands-On Georgia" week. It's about public service. It's NOT about the two attractive young women who sat next to me at church....

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