‘Three servings of Somtam with fermented crab, extra spicy’. When I heard the couple next to me order spicy papaya salad with their ice coffees, I knew I had to stick around. ‘Maybe you could try one portion first?’. The friendly waiter really wanted to ease them into Isan cuisine, but there was no stopping these weekend warriors out for an authentic adventure. Last Saturday, I paid a visit to Siam Senses in Antwerp.
For the better part of a month, I had been craving some authentic Nam Tok Moo (‘Porc Waterfall’). Classified as a meat salad and very similar to Laab Moo, it includes grilled beef instead of the minced variety. If you’ve never tried, I do really recommend it. If you ever find yourself in Bangkok’s MBK mall, do yourself a favor and head up to the sixth floor food court. The second to last stall does an amazing Nam Tok.
Last Saturday, after doing some shopping in Antwerp’s Seing Thai supermarket, I decided to give in to my craving. As Ploy Pochana across the street doesn’t do a Nam Tok, I headed over to Tjoung Tjoung. My latest review concluded that a follow-up was needed. Two birds, one stone? The birds flew the cage when I saw the place was packed.
Second option: Tawan. Closed, holiday leave. With all three classics eliminated I remembered spotting a new eatery in the Asian district: Siam Senses. Walking through the Chinese gate, next to the Radisson Blu hotel, the tiny restaurant is located immediately to your left.
Siam Senses looks small, but modern and inviting. It is set up like a take away restaurant that offers comfortable seating for a quick bite. Even tough empty when I entered I was quickly followed by a family and several regulars came by to pick up take away orders. Always a good sign.
The menu is compact and focused on street food. The limited selection of dishes is an advantage, in my opinion. A quality range with high turnover guarantees freshness. I would advise them to work with a rotating selection, tough. Variations of the menu, or having a few ever-changing specials, will bring some excitement to the place.
What I did not care for, however, was the condition of the menu card. Smudged, corrected with a pen, new prices glued over, dirty. As a new customer, I don’t need to know that the Tod Man Pla used to offer 4 cookies and that the Tamp Poo Pala did not come with salted crab before. Not a good first impression.
Nevertheless, I went for the fish cookies (‘Tod Man Pla’) as a starter, followed by … Nam Tok Nua with sticky rice.
Belting out Ed Sheeran’s Shape of you, the female chef quickly cooked up my cookies. Clearly pre-processed, I wasn’t exactly in love with the shape of them. Even tough not hand made for somebody like me, they were very tasty and not oily. Everyday discovering something brand new was clearly an objective for the couple that was about to have a seat next to me.
Middle-aged and out for some Saturday night cross-cultural exploration, they started off with Caffè Yen (‘Ice coffee’)..’Three servings of Somtam with fermented crab, extra spicy’. When I heard the extremely hospitable waiter suggest that the couple, unfamiliar with Isan cuisine, try a single serving first, I knew I had to stick around.
My Nam Tok Nua was absolutely spot on. Prime pork, perfect seasoning, fresh produce, no intestine. Just how I like it to appear on my plate in Thailand. Not a very common dish in Belgium, Siam Senses passed my authenticity test with flying colors. This dish in itself calls for frequent future visits. On a scale of 3, I had chosen 2 peppers, which will be perfectly fine for most punters. One should not fear the level of spiciness at Siam Senses. With the sticky rice served in the appropriate straw container and cooked to perfection, I was absolutely satisfied with my dish.
The lady next to me whispered underneath her breath: ‘I’m slowly dying’. Her face red, she had clearly learned an important cross-cultural lesson. One doesn’t know what extra spicy implies, until ordered at an authentic Thai restaurant.
With a ‘check bin’ (bill) of EUR 21 for my Tod Man, Nam Tok, sticky rice and a coffee, I consider the prices appropriate. I will gladly recommend Siam Senses and will return. Next time I will try their signature Big Noodle Soup (‘Kwai Tiaew Rua XL’).
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