Monday, May 28, 2018
Features and More

Review: Grand Siam brings appealing Thai for Feather Sound, Carillon crowd

CLEARWATER — Roll past Courtside Grille on Ulmerton, just before Jimmy John's and right near Beef 'O' Brady's is the Grand Slam. Odd name for a new Thai restaurant, right? Why can't I find a phone listing for it? • Ah, it's a font thing. A conjoined I and A masquerade as an L, making Siam appear to be Slam. Mystery solved. • But there's still some intriguing oddity at the three-week-old business where Tru Lounge, and Flo Lounge before it, offered VIP couches, bottle service and all the other club tropes (even a self-serve breathalyzer machine). The new Grand Siam, owned by Mat Chaiungsinsap who owns Ban Thai restaurants in Tampa, Clearwater, Brandon and Lakeland, still feels like a club.

Its bar features so much open space one can imagine 100 or more Carillon Business Park workers mingling and letting their hair down. The dining room, too, with its dramatic fluted chandeliers and long, polished wood sushi bar, has enough open floor space for several bowling alleys, dance floors or whatever. In short, it's a lot of space and not a lot of tables.

One reason for this is a persistent aim to be a nightclub on weekend nights. Yeah, maybe, but Thai food and traditionally attired servers (lots of tinkly bells) don't exactly gel with a thumping backbeat. We'll see.

For now, it's an appealing space for familiar Thai dishes, offered at prices that are competitive with Ratchada or 9 Bangkok in St. Petersburg, and, in fact, Thai food is underrepresented in Feather Sound. To my mind, sushi offerings are fairly workhorse in ingredients (the usual krab, tuna, shrimp tempura) with slightly excessive plate presentations and garniture.

In a scattershot approach, the best Thai dishes were those sumptuous with coconut milk: A quartet of chicken satay ($5.95) gets a bath of gently curried coconut milk before being grilled and paired with a sweet peanut sauce and tiny bowl of cuke salad. A tom ka gai soup ($3.95) brought a lush cup of galangal and lime leaf-scented coconut milk, crowded with straw mushrooms and white-meat chicken. Panang shrimp ($6.95 at lunch, $9.95 at dinner) brings traditional sweet, mild curry spiked with shrimp paste, coriander and crushed peanut.

Pad Thai ($7.95 at lunch, $9.95 at dinner), albeit pretty, lacked some of the high notes that make for an exceptional Thai noodle dish: no lime, no tiny pickled turnip or dried shrimp, no cilantro. Its pale pink sauce needed some oomph, which the kitchen is obviously capable of, given the fiery, vinegary punch of a mixed yum seafood ($9.95) with its thin rounds of scallop, shrimp and hatch-marked squid bodies almost ceviche-cured in a chile-sparked sauce and set atop iceberg, sliced onion and cukes.

Dessert offerings are fairly limited, with a pleasant housemade coconut ice cream ($3) and wonton-wrapped banana hunks ($3.95) fried in oil that, sadly, tasted of all the savory items that had been fried in it previously. A small quibble, but what makes Thai flavors often so beguiling is their brightness and forthright character, each element distinct and providing a counterpoint to other flavors and textures.

With no printed wine list yet and a short list of beer and sake, the beverage program still seems in flux. A full bar is a welcome boon, a rarity among area Thai restaurants.

Service is efficient, sometimes verging on brusque, but clearly the staff is composed of restaurant pros. A good thing, because at least at lunch, the restaurant has already been embraced by nearby workers as a regular go-to spot. Whether Grand Siam will be a "grand slam" for late-night carousing remains to be seen.

Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow her on Twitter, @lreiley. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.

Comments
With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

TAMPA — Behind the construction walls near the carousel at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, hammers, saws and power drills made a racket in the blazing Friday heat. A raft full of 100-pound water jugs took test trips on the new Roaring Springs ride set ...
Published: 05/25/18
Rare red wolf pups born at ZooTampa

Rare red wolf pups born at ZooTampa

The pups are an important addition to the populations of this rare Florida species, and the first red wolf births at the zoo since 1993.
Published: 05/25/18
Veterans get in free at Busch Gardens, SeaWorld and more with Memorial Day deals

Veterans get in free at Busch Gardens, SeaWorld and more with Memorial Day deals

Memorial Day is a time to say "thank you" to our veterans. The following is a list of free offers for them to enjoy. Some even last all summer.• Busch Gardens and SeaWorld are offering U.S. veterans and up to three guests get free admission to the th...
Published: 05/25/18
Denis Phillips, hurricane season guru, talks his signature beer, suspenders and Rule #7

Denis Phillips, hurricane season guru, talks his signature beer, suspenders and Rule #7

SAFETY HARBOR — Denis Phillips cracks a pop-top and pulls a can that looks a lot like him to his lips."It’s got that citrusy feel to it," he says. "Which is a Florida thing. That’s not bad." Indeed, there’s a grapefruit finish to Rule #7 Hurricane Sa...
Published: 05/25/18
Hooper: More than a restaurant, Lee Roy Selmon’s was a meeting place

Hooper: More than a restaurant, Lee Roy Selmon’s was a meeting place

It’s where former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Doug Williams had lunch with current Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.It’s where University of South Florida fans often gathered to watch the program’s biggest road games.It’s where folks showed up in...
Published: 05/24/18
Eight women accuse Morgan Freeman of sexual misconduct in CNN report

Eight women accuse Morgan Freeman of sexual misconduct in CNN report

Eight women have accused actor Morgan Freeman of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior on-set, at his production company, and during press junkets, according to a report.CNN reports that 16 people have spoken out against Freeman’s alleged misco...
Published: 05/24/18
Ballet Nacional de Cuba stuns with a spectacular ‘Giselle’

Ballet Nacional de Cuba stuns with a spectacular ‘Giselle’

TAMPA — The Ballet Nacional de Cuba performed Giselle, its signature ballet, on Wednesday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. Fifty-four dancers charmed a packed house, culminating in about two hours an effort that took more tha...
Published: 05/24/18
Bar review: Things are hopping at new Swan Brewing in Lakeland

Bar review: Things are hopping at new Swan Brewing in Lakeland

Lakeland’s a little out of the way, but I’m always eager to check out the bar scene there when passing through or attending an event. Every place I’ve visited just seems so pleasant.I regret missing the boat on the city’s first brewery, Lakeland Brew...
Published: 05/24/18
tbt* local craft beer of the week: Dark Harbor Mocha Stout, Sea Drift Ales & Lagers

tbt* local craft beer of the week: Dark Harbor Mocha Stout, Sea Drift Ales & Lagers

The saga of Barley Mow Brewing Company and its eventual offshoot/successor Sea Drift Ales & Lagers is a complicated one. The most interesting part is how the latter came to be as a result of brewery-distributor tensions, in which Barley Mow pulled an...
Published: 05/24/18
Dr. Beach ranks Caladesi Island No. 7 on list of country’s best beaches

Dr. Beach ranks Caladesi Island No. 7 on list of country’s best beaches

Caladesi Island’s "crystalline quartz" sand and "sparkling clear" water left an impression on Dr. Beach, who ranked it in his annual list of the country’s top 10 beaches.Dr. Beach, or Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, is a professor and director for the Lab...
Published: 05/24/18