Siri's Thai French Cuisine
2117 Route 70 West
Track Town Mall
Cherry Hill, Camden County, New Jersey
The Artful Diner
Special to nj.com
December 26, 2005
In her review of Siri's Thai French Cuisine (New York Times,
New Jersey section, March 27, 2005), Karla Cook spent most of her time moaning:
"But Where's the Heat?" If her readers arrive expecting
"instantaneous heat followed by layered, lingering flavors," of
typical Thai cuisine, she warned, they have definitely come to the wrong
What Ms. Cook failed to comprehend -- and would certainly have been more
knowledgeable had she paid a call during Executive Chef Fred Cherenfant's
illustrious tenure behind the stove -- is that Siri's was always known
for its subtlety and finesse rather than its fire. In point of fact, while Thai
cuisine does enjoy the well-deserved reputation for its incendiary peristaltic
reprisals, the degree of its spiciness varies greatly. And not only was Mr.
Cherenfant a gifted interpreter of Thailand's often tumultuous tastes and
textures, he was also a master of taming their heat and artfully fusing their
illustrious attributes with a number of Western culinary traditions, notably
Over seven years ago, I posted my initial critique of Siri's Thai French
Cuisine. This can be a veritable eternity in the lifespan of many eateries
-- an establishment changes hands, the chef departs, and all bets are off. This
is, unfortunately, precisely what has transpired here. Just over a year and a
half ago, Siri's was purchased by Sam Sittikul and his wife, Vallpa; and
since Mr. Sittikul assumed the reins in the kitchen, the changes have been
notable... and not for the better. The menu itself hasn't been altered
significantly -- some minor tweaking here and there and the elimination of
several chicken dishes -- but the quality of both the preparation and presentation
of the cuisine have, in my opinion, suffered dramatically. Understated and
stylish artistry have given way to a kind of oafish, heavy-handed anomie.
And the bouillabaisse ($21.00) is all too typical of the kitchen's
self-destructive slide into oblivion. Mr. Cherenfant's original version was the
stuff of which dreams are made -- especially my wife's! It was a unique and
exciting interpretation of the seafood classic, an unparalleled study in
aesthetics as well as gastronomy. Shrimp, scallops, baby lobster tails, and
salmon were combined with crunchy carrots and jicama in a crystal clear, mildly
spicy broth redolent of lemongrass. Pristine in every respect. Alas, the
current rendition is not even close. The shrimp and lobster tails are tough, the
scallops rubbery, and the broth, now also tinged with tomato, is decidedly
As disappointing as the bouillabaisse may be, however, it is still several
notches above the special roasted crispy boneless half duckling served up with
peach schnapps glaze ($18.00), which is totally beneath contempt. The skin is
certainly crispy... but the flesh is incredibly dry and tough and completely
inedible. The peach "glaze" is comprised of preserves that
undoubtedly sprang directly from a jar of Smuckers, while the schnapps is
conspicuous by its absence. And the fowl is partnered with a gloppy, tasteless
mound of rice and unremarkable and unadorned sugar snap peas. The dish is,
without doubt, an unmitigated horror.
Other entrées fare somewhat better -- though not a great deal. The
pan-sautéed Atlantic salmon ($20.00) isn't bad; unfortunately, the filet is
drowned beneath an overly viscous brandy mustard sauce that is neither terribly
attractive nor tremendously flavorful. The accompanying scalloped potatoes, on the
other hand, are quite excellent. If only other offerings had as much going for
The grilled chicken breast with Thai green curry sauce ($14.00), however,
does represent a certain high-water mark. Thick slices recline on a bed of
tender baby bok choy, are crowned with an equally tender array of sautéed fresh
vegetables, and the curry provides a well-rounded zip to the proceedings. But,
once again, presentation (or the lack therefore) is the culprit. The dish isn't
particularly prepossessing -- simply inundated with sauce -- and, despite the
herb-olive oil marinade, the chicken is on the dry side.
Starters, in my opinion, have infinitely more to recommend them than do the
main courses... but they are still something of a hit or miss proposition. The
vegetable spring rolls ($4.00) are very nice, wonderfully crisp and not at all
greasy, and are companioned by a ramekin of invigorating sweet chili sauce; and
the steamed portabella mushroom and leek dumplings ($6.00) -- five slightly
doughy pockets arranged in the shape of a pinwheel set in a pool of delicate
caramelized shiitake sauce -- are also quite good.
Obversely, skewers of grilled chicken satay ($6.00) are simply dreadful. The
fatty chunks are overcooked and enveloped in a gummy, nondescript peanut sauce.
On the other hand, the grilled diver scallops over field greens ($9.00) are
just the right consistency and adorned with a spicy lime dressing. Sensuously
thin slices of smoked duck breast are also pillowed on field greens, but the
presentation is marred by a rather strange tasting soy-balsamic vinaigrette
Desserts from the adjoining patisserie ($6.50), created by Siriat
Tantiraksachai, sister of the former owner, are a highlight here... but even
they seem to lack the pristine artistic panache exhibited during the
restaurant's former regime. The crisp blueberry tart with sweet lemon cream is
an excellent choice... ditto the apricot tart. But the banana tart is just
so-so, and the Key lime pie looks somewhat fatigued and has a rather odd consistency.
Outwardly, not much has changed at Siri's Thai French Cuisine. The
sensual and subdued dining room accented with Asian art and artifacts, crisp
white napery, and fresh flowers still belies the bland strip-mall exterior.
Behind the closed doors of the kitchen, however, things appear to have gone
awry; the food has, in my opinion, lost a good deal of its luster.
Interestingly enough, after grousing ad nauseam about the lack of
authentic Thai offerings (see paragraph one) Ms. Cook still bestows a "Very
Good" on this establishment; which is extremely misleading to potential
diners and adequate proof, I fear, that this is one dear lady who can catalog
every tree in sight... and still manage to get herself lost in the forest.
Under the former proprietorship, Siri's Thai French Cuisine was a
restaurant to which I would gladly have returned at a moment's notice. At this
point in time, however, given the current state of the cuisine, it simply
cannot be recommended.
Hours: Lunch: Mon - Sat, 11:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.; Dinner: Sun - Thurs,
3:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 3:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.
Credit Cards: All major
Smoking: Smoking is not permitted in the restaurant.
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Web Site: www.siris-nj.com