We don’t lack for decent Thai food in Bakersfield but we have a promising new place: Siam Iyara Thai & Fusion, at the corner of White Lane and Ashe Road.
Located in what was for decades a Korean restaurant, this small, humble Thai restaurant is owned by Jake Kittiprapaphong, who has made it a family restaurant with some fusion elements but a lot of basic but aromatic Thai standards. We attempted our first visit on a night that the restaurant was closed due to one of those annoying break-ins that seem so common in Bakersfield nowadays, not just downtown. A family member was outside explaining that some creep in a white truck drove up — they had it on camera — busted some glass and got inside, cleaning out the stash of cash. That’s life in our city nowadays.
So we came back another night with another couple and ordered a large sampling of the menu: the soft fusion pot stickers ($7.99), the larb chicken salad ($11.99), the Siamese shrimp ($12.99), the pineapple fried rice with shrimp ($11.99), the yellow curry pork ($11.99) and the pad see ewe with chicken ($11.99), finishing it off with a sticky rice with mango ($7.99) for dessert. We had leftovers. Considering the quality, that’s not a bad thing.
Pretty much everything on the menu is available with your choice of protein (beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, tofu or “seafood combo”). Not sure what that is but the menu offers crab, salmon, catfish and fish so I think the possibilities are endless.
The fusion influence is subtle; this isn’t like ReMix on Stockdale Highway where creative experimentation rules. For example, the pot stickers, a Chinese standard, were excellent but the Thai touch was really a peanut sauce drizzled over the top, with hot oil that we always love with these pork/vegetable-filled wonton treats underneath. Take your pick on the dipping, and there were some crispy onion bits in the mix, too. Interesting.
Really hard to choose a favorite from all this. The larb chicken salad is made with ground poultry, mint, cilantro, green onions, carrot strands and big sheets of iceberg lettuce underneath. I’m not sure, but it sure seems like the lettuce wraps so many chains serve came from this Thai standard. Despite the red peppers (that kind you can’t eat) on the plate, there wasn’t a lot of heat in this dish. My brother-in-law, Henry, thought the dressing for this had a nice rice wine vinegar presence.
The shrimp were flattened after butterflying and deep fried crispy, topped with crispy basil and carrot strands (they seemed to be everywhere, which is not a complaint). The strips of red peppers and the sweet-hot sauce they call three flavors was another plus. It was the first plate to be emptied by our party.
The pad see ewe had perfectly soft flat wide noodles with assorted pieces of chicken, broccoli florets, cabbage, artistically cut carrot discs and a bit of egg mixed in. The pineapple fried rice featured six jumbo shrimp, raisins, a few cashews, white and green onions, carrots, peas and, of course, an occasional piece of pineapple — not overdone there at all. The freshness of the veggies in all of this left an overwhelming favorable impression.
The women at the table loved the yellow curry pork, which was a solid stew with strands of white onions, carrots, potatoes and a crispy garnish of fried red onions on top. This is a perfect choice with the cooler temperatures. And closing it with sticky rice with a sweet white sauce and fresh sliced mangos on the side was a perfect conclusion to the meal.
Beer and wine is still a work in progress. There are three beers (Chang, Singha and Leo) for $5 and wine (unidentified winery) is $7 a glass. We can’t recall what the interior looked like when it was the Korean restaurant but it’s a clean, pleasant place now with gray wallpaper, subdued but not overly dark lighting and black wooden tables and chairs. A very conversation-friendly place.
Service was efficient from the small crew — we counted two people out front on this weekday night — but the place has yet to be discovered. The crowd was light and the place, as we noted, is very small.