Last fall, Mt. Vernon was abuzz with the news that a new Thai place had suddenly popped up at Calvert and Preston Streets. Any new Baltimore Thai restaurant represents a statistically significant jump in the total number, since there are so few. But Stang of Siam is further distinguished by a credo of carefully delineated, almost deconstructed flavors and a beautiful dining space.
Expansive glass allows sunlight to fill the room during the day, giving the already high-ceilinged corner space an even more open feel. The interior design is very appealing with dark-wood carvings. In addition to the main dining area, there is a small but gorgeous bar and a mezzanine space
in the rear occupied by overflow tables. The background music is a perfect analogue for the ambiance—
a soothing but eclectic blend of pop and smooth jazz.
The menu is a standard Thai roster of soups, noodles, rice dishes, and stir-frys. But the same savvy that guides the aesthetics of the place is evident in the execution and plating of the food. Attention to detail is everywhere—the ubiquitous tom yum’s broth is clear and clean, yet intense, studded with slices of fiery galangal and rods of lemongrass, in addition to the usual shrimp and vegetables.
And those vegetables—snow peas, zucchini, cabbage, carrots—are blanched to a perfectly crisp state, whether featured in a salad or in a main dish, like the Thai benchmark larb (spicy ground chicken). It has lots of heat but is otherwise muted in the lime and fish-sauce departments. Rings of tempura-style battered calamari are surprisingly tender despite their large diameter and arrive with three pleasant dipping sauces. And the chicken satay is exceptional for its succulence and ample char. The presentations, and the plates themselves, are strikingly pretty.
The entrees possess the same intriguing flavors as the appetizers, but they would have benefited from more intensity. The curries have great complexity, perfectly cooked vegetables, and lots of your chosen protein (chicken, pork, beef, or shrimp), but they lack fire. Even the three-star heat level is underwhelming.
The pad Thai is a “wet” style, with a zippy, fairly sweet sauce, excellent rice noodles, and a generous amount of meat or seafood. A more acidic bite would have added more zing, though, and the fried rice, while aromatic and delicious, lacked a smoky wok flavor.
Overall, there’s no doubt that Stang of Siam has great food. The lunch special ($10) is an exceptionally good value. It includes a soup, two spring rolls, and an entree. And if you need to wait out rush hour, the house cocktails—most under eight bucks— take away the cares of the day