Dining Review: Siri Thai Cuisine — where curries are delicious and 'hot' means hot

There are those times when even the thought of driving beyond the Burbank/Glendale area depletes our energy.

This is greater Los Angeles, after all, and we do get tired of the commute, no matter how tempting the destination. So it comes as no surprise then, that despite the closeness of excellent Thai food in East Hollywood and North Hollywood, we just can't get there — especially on a weeknight.

Fortunately for us, Siri Thai Cuisine, which takes up residence in a strip mall on Burbank Boulevard, just east of Hollywood Way, provides enough of the real thing to satisfy our Thai cravings.

Our small band arrived late on a Friday night. From a tiny stage at the back of the room, a mellow-voiced singer played guitar and crooned rock standards, providing a chilled-out soundtrack to the sparsely populated restaurant. Despite the few of us at tables, a brisk flow of customers arrived one after another to pick up takeout.

The menu is large and in a nod to those who must either feed picky children or who want to eat food one can only describe as "Asianish," there are plenty of things to order that aren't exactly or even closely Thai. That being said, if you want real Thai food, there are some very good dishes from which to choose.

It was a currycentric kind of night, and we ordered yellow curry with chicken and red curry with beef and pad Thai, (because how could we not), as well as my personal favorite, papaya salad with shrimp. We also had one person in our party with self-described "simple tastes," and we grudgingly acquiesced to an order of grilled chicken breast with teriyaki sauce.

The curries were delicious, velvety smooth, deeply flavored and aromatic with perfectly cooked meats, crunchy vegetables and a low chili heat that permeated every bite. Pad Thai, which according to a CNN poll is listed at number five of the world's 50 Most Delicious Foods, was a reliable standard that disappeared rapidly.

When ordering, our server had asked me how hot I'd like the papaya salad, and I had replied, "Thai hot." This was a mistake. After one bite, everyone bowed out but me. After about six bites, my forehead was popping beads of sweat. I couldn't feel my lips and my tongue began to throb.

Through the pain, I could discern that the crunch of the shredded papaya and carrots and green beans was a delight, the tomato sprightly and the butterflied shrimp expertly grilled with a bit of char around the edges.

The individual who had insisted upon the grilled chicken breast with teriyaki sauce guarded it jealously and, after purloining a taste, I understood why. You can never underestimate the goodness of a juicy chicken breast, and let's face it, teriyaki sauce can make just about anything pleasantly edible.

A couple weeks later, far fewer of us were back for an order of tom kha soup, large, soft, chewy noodles (pad si-eew) with chicken and another shot at the papaya salad with shrimp. The soup was a solid classic. Its silky coconut broth was offset by sharp chunks of ginger, subtle lemongrass, peppery chili and the bright tang of lime. Our pad si-eew provoked the same happy response as the pad Thai.

This time, I requested a mild papaya salad. While there was virtually no heat to flavor the dish, which was disappointing, the marinade, shredded papaya and vegetables and gorgeous, perfect shrimp were lovely. I ate every bite. Next time though, I'll order it medium hot.

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What: Siri Thai Cuisine

Where: 2730 W. Burbank Blvd., Burbank

Contact: (818) 842.8222; www.siri-thaicuisine.com/

When: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m.;

Friday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Greenbaum Kasson is a contributor to Times Community News.

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