Award: Where To Eat
Publication: Morris|Essex Health & Life
Publication Date: April 2011
Daily Record 2008
Thai Cuisine: Sirin Thai has been in Morristown for 13 years and in NJ for 20 years (7 in Glen Ridge near Montclair). Sirin Thai boasts that it was the first and only “authentic” Thai restaurant in Essex County and the third Thai restaurant in New Jersey.
“Authentic” Thai: This has a special meaning at Sirin Thai. According to Donna Ocharoen (one of the owners): “All dishes at Sirin Thai are carefully prepared with fresh ingredients. For example, kirfir lime leaves are one of the most important herbs for a curry dish. They are costly to obtain and hard to find in the winter. Many Thai restaurants may eliminate these but we won’t. We have been buying the highest quality produce and kept the same consistent style for the past 20 years.”
“Seafood – that’s another area where we’re very particular.” Donna continued. “We’re always checking freshness, size and ‘tender meatiness’ of our scallops, fish and prawns. For prawns, we only use the imported white ones that cost much more than the tiger shrimp used in other Thai restaurants – but they are sweeter and tenderer. Like most of our food sources, we’ve been getting seafood from the same companies for the past 20 years. They know our quality requirements and our willingness to pay their prices.”
“Authentic” at Sirin Thai does not necessarily mean very spicy. A good Thai meal here is well balanced between seasonings, herbs and spices – the goal is to be tasty and interesting. Sirin Thai’s menu specifications for their recipes include a statement that selections can be made mild, medium or very spicy or ordered without spices. They focus on flavoring the dishes to the specific tastes of the customer.
“Tasty and interesting” – this describes some of Sirin Thai’s different specials every week. One recent dinner entrée special was Chonburi Hansa – a choice of prawns or sea scallops (grilled), caramelized with a honey/tamarind ginger sauce and served with pan-fried zucchini, eggplant, sweet yams and cantaloupe. And how about light crisp soft shell crabs topped with spicy lemon grass sauce, served with steamed baby bok choy (a white Chinese “cabbage”) and yellow/almond rice?
Customer service style: Donna Ocharoen is noted for her “customer service by walking around.” While monitoring her service team, she is known for going around the restaurant and spending time with all of the customers (we’ve also seen this feature at other top–notch Morristown restaurants).
Location, location, location: Just off South Street next to the newly refurbished Community Theater, Kirin Thai is a prime spot for pre- and post-theater service. And it’s just a few steps from the snazzy “under construction” residential South Street condo complexes as well as the action at the Morristown Green.
Let’s hear from some of Sirin Thai’s customers:
Susan and Geoff Nelson – Morris Plains. “We’ve been coming to Sirin Thai for the last ten years – a great place and the food is outstanding. We’ve sampled other Thai restaurants and there are dishes prepared here that we have not seen in other places. The food is always fresh – they do a great job in preparation and presentation and always know how to adjust to our tastes – the ‘spicier’ items for Geoff and ‘not-so-spicy’ for me.” (FYI – Susan and Geoff often dine at Sirin Thai when they are volunteering at the nearby Community Theater.)
Liz and Fred Hoffert – Morris Plains. “We started with Sirin Thai 20+ years ago when we moved East from Chicago and could only get Thai food at a restaurant down in Lambertville. Thankfully we found Sirin Thai in Glen Ridge. It was always a pleasure to see Dana and Noi’s little daughter Sirin (the name of the restaurant) gaily clad in a Thai costume and sorting the silverware (Sirin is now in dental school at UMDNJ). When they left Glen Ridge and we couldn’t find them, we were lost. Then we saw Dana and Noi at a booth at the Morristown Fall Festival and learned that they were about to open the restaurant in Morristown. Liz and I like their roasted duck with peanut sauce garnished with kiwi or peaches. They know how to make it special for each of us- Liz prefers mild and I like it very spicy.”
Greg Stewart, Partner, NexGen Management in Flanders: “I recently hosted some clients from out-of-town who wanted a spicy alternative to a ‘standard business dinner.’ After dining at Sirin Thai, they remarked that this was some of the best Thai food in the New York area.”
Approaching the transcendent
Sirin Combines Graceful Hospitality with a “Heavenly” Cuisine
Heavenly, That’s the English translation of Sirin, a wonderful Thai restaurant around the corner from Morristown’s Community Theatre. And while the Pine Street establishment’s food can provoke divine comparison, its name has a more earthbound connection.
When Sirin opened nearly thirteen years ago, chef/owner nouvarat named it after his daughter. Today’s 60-seat restaurant is a breath of fresh air. turning out excellent food reminiscent of its tropical Asian roots. Nouvarat ad his staff accomplish this satisfying feat in an atmosphere defined by the tradition of graceful Thai hospitality.
The look of Sirin’s trio of dining rooms also contributes to the restaurant’s soothing feeling. Each space is individually arranged in a pleasant mixture of floral wallpaper, paintings, and Thai decorative objects. Salmon-colored tablecloths and napkins attractively cover Manhattan-sized tables. Muted overhead lighting encourages conversation in warm, subdued tones. The mellow result establishes the mood in which to enjoy Thai cuisine’s flavors, textures, and aromas.
Sirin’s menu is crafted to bring you as close as possible to real Thai cooking this side of Bangkok. You could begin with a chicken or beef satay($7.95) and be very happy. If you order the poultry, as I did, your reward will be a tender piece of bird blessed with hints of coconut milk marinade and curry powder. A well-made peanut sauce and refreshing cucumber/onion/sweet red pepper condiment round out the ensemble.
Sirin serves two different types of appetizer-sized rolls-both are outstanding. The Por-Pia ($6.95), a quartet of midget spring rolls, delivers waves of taste, thanks to their delicately deep-fried wrappers and splendid filling of crab, bamboo shoots, minced pork and Asian vermicelli. An aquarium-clear yellow plum sauce pulls the collection together. Bravo!
The Sirin Roll offers the Por-Pia spirited competition. In this $8.95 opener, pork, water chestnuts, shrimp, crab and bamboo shoots are ground into pate-like consistency and stuffed into a thin, deep-fired bean curd skin. The aforementioned plum sauce effectively adds a welcome sweet note. Don’t miss this delicious dish.
Arguable the most visually appealing first course is the Pra-Goong ($9.95). Here, a flawlessly curly shrimp rests atop coriander, fresh red pepper and thin, golden-red rice noodles accented with tamarind sauce and lemongrass. It tastes as good as it looks.
A strong follow-up to Pra-Goong is one of Sirin’s aromatic soups. Their version of Tom Kha Gai ($4.95) features tender pieces of chicken floating in a evocative broth of coconut milk, fresh lime juice, galangal, scallions and coriander. Each spoonful is a shining example of simple, well-made Thai cuisine. Another popular dish, Tom Yum Goong ($4.95), gets it s jump from lemongrass, kiffa lime stock, cilantro root, garlic, chili paste and black pepper.
Sirin’s entrees are an invitation to indulge yourself in Thai cuisine’s seductive flavors while enjoying good-quality meat and seafood. Chicken notable emerges from Sirin’s kitchen as an option where bold taste and deft cooking produce winning dishes. Exhibit A is Gai Med Ma-Moung ($13.95) What appears to be a simple chicken dish becomes a confident march of flavors, from the crunchy cashew nuts to the chili paste’s suggestion of heat.
Poultry’s finest hour, though, comes when you order Duck Peow-Warn ($19.95). This dish features elegant, medallion-sized portions of crisp roasted duck. The meat is cooked to pitch-perfect doneness. The kitchen does a fine job marrying a delicious sweet-sour sauce to the fowl’s somewhat smoky flavor.
Seafood fans will be delighted with Sirin’s selections, with shrimp commanding the majority of choices. The flagship shrimp dish, Chu-Chee Goong ($17.95), is the way to go here. The sauce possesses a splendid, creamy coconut milk texture that clings to the tasty shrimp. Cutting the richness is an inspired pairing of shredded lime leaves and red curry. Eat this dish with total abandon.
Fin fish is treated with care and skill here. In the light dish Pla Tow Jeow ($17.95), Thai technique and American fish come together to form a fine main dish. The kitchen starts with a filet of sole that is very lightly floured, quickly fried and then slowly sauteed to reach that ideal point between moist and dry. A delicate sauce of ginger accompanies the egg-shaped fillets, a few split black beans. and a tropical fruit called longans.
It’s not everyday a restaurant is named “heavenly” But, then again, Sirin’s cuisine isn’t everyday food. And that’s why you should make a special trip to this Thai winner.
By Tim Hoey
Thursday May 17, 2001
Morristown Thai restaurant offers good food, service, atmosphere
Sirin Thai Restaurant looks like a quaint, old-fashioned, American-style restaurant with rich wall paper, dark wood and fresh flowers. The atmosphere belies the Thai food Served, but it is an attractive and cozy restaurant That we enjoyed spending time in. The prices on the menu were slightly higher than at many other Thai restaurants I have been to , with a few exceptions, and other Asian restaurants I have been to, with a few exceptions, and other Asian restaurants in New Jersey in general. But you will not feel cheated if you go expecting to pay a little more, because the food, service and atmosphere are worth it. During a recent visit, we noted a number of Asian faces among the customers, a sure sigh that the food served is at least reasonably authentic. Thai cuisine shares many characteristics of its close by neighbors, but it is easily distinguished from them as well. Although many of the names of the items on the menu sound similar to the Chinese, they are actually very different in taste. Like Vietnamese food, it is lighter and simpler than Chinese. Vegetables are fresh and delicious. Meat is surprisingly tender. Predominant flavors are a pungent, rather woody herb called lemon grass (also used in Vietnamese cooking), coconut, ginger coriander, chili and a fish sauce called nam pla. Proximity with India has influenced the cuisine as well. Lots of the dishes contain red and green curry, although the flavor combinations are slightly different. Since they tend to use coconut and sugar, many of the dishes are slightly sweeter than either Chinese or Indian. The amount of spice is adjusted readily for each diner, but ask them to add spice with caution; Thai food can blister the mouth. However, we found that Sirin caters to the American palette. Among the successful starters was an unusually tender satay ($7.95), a dish that pops up in most Asian cultures. It usually consists of some sort of marinated slices of meat (beef or chicken) barbecued on a stick and served with a variety of dipping sauces. This tasty version was marinated in coconut and herbs with a hint of curry powder. It was served with a cucumber dip and peanut sauce, traditional accompaniments for this dish. We enjoyed most of the components that make up the appetizer sampler for two ($13.95). Sirin roll is a special combination of minced shrimp, crab meat, pork, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts wrapped with a thin bean and curd skin. It is served with a lusty plum sauce. Another roll also won our hearts, geow-grob, seasoned ground pork wrapped with wonton skin.
The rolls dominated our taste buds but we also enjoyed the mee grob (rice noodles seasoned with a sweet sauce and topped with shrimp and egg). This dish is a favorite and I never miss having it whenever it is on the menu. A passable spring roll rounded out the sampler. A soup called Tom Kha Gai ($4.95) was heavenly. Abundant boneless chicken swam in a savory broth of coconut milk brightened with fresh lime juice.
Thai Curries are prepared with a mix of several herbs and chili and simmered in coconut milk. You can order them mild, medium or spicy, but even the mild can be too fiery for some diners. We tried an absolutely delightful duck curry ($19.95), a new one for me. A half boneless roasted duck was topped with red curry paste, coconut milk, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. We ordered the medium spicy version and didn’t find it too overwhelming. Two additional main courses also received bravos, Gai Yang Sirin ($13.95)was a half chicken marinated with Thai herbs, slowly charcoal broiled and served with a spicy sauce that enhanced the crisp chicken flavor without overwhelming it. Pad po-tak($17.95) combined shrimp, sea scallops, New Zealand mussels, crab and squid which were sautéed with red curry paste, sweet peppers and fresh basil leaves. I loved the these flavors complemented and contrasted with each other.
I wouldn’t bother with dessert. There are too many other tasty dishes to try at this restaurant.
By Hilary Harding