By Bob S. at 2016-08-09
Way back in the 20th century, when Thai food had just made it to the West Coast, I used to eat lunch at a Thai place near the Space Needle in Seattle. They served a Thai seafood noodle soup, a pungent fermented tofu base, electric pink broth with watercress, rice noodles and a whole bunch of squid, shrimp, fish balls and mushrooms. On cold rainy winter Seattle days, this bowl of rich satisfying goodness, called Yen Ta Fo, hit the spot.
Over the decades, in the many towns I've lived, I always ask for it and am usually told that Americans wouldn't like it, it's only for Thai people. Occasionally I would find it, always a bit different. Spinach for watercress, different mushrooms, once it even had tomatoes in it!
I'm a regular at Monsoon Siam. They are really the only Thai place in Madison that even comes close to good Thai flavors and ingredients. Imagine my surprise when, noticing a seafood noodle soup on the specials board, I asked if it was Yen Ta Fo and was told, "No, but we make Yen Ta Fo. It's not on the menu but we make it!". How could I not know that??? Well, they did, I ate it, it was good and I'll go back and have it again and again.
They said they make all sorts of stuff that's not on the menu so, if you have a hankering for some special Thai dish, ask for it, you may be surprised!!
By Pat D. at 2016-12-03
We tried Monsoon Siam for lunch today. It was a pretty great experience overall.
There is plenty of parking behind the building. We entered through the backdoor and walked through the back hallway to the main room of the restaurant. It's not a very large space and it was about half full when we arrived at 11:45. Our waitress told us to pick a seat wherever we wanted and brought over water and menus. We ended up ordering the Guay Teaw Moo Soup and the Pad Cashew off the lunch menu. Each dish is served with either soup or salad and we both chose salad.
Within a few minutes our waitress delivered our salads. These were good sized bowls with lettuce, shredded carrots, ginger and a light vinaigrette. It was extremely tasty. Even better it was served with a tiny egg roll and ramekin of dipping sauce. Excellent beginning.
The soup was noodles in a spicy and sour broth with pork, bean spouts, peanuts and lime. It was delicious! The spice level was not overwhelming but it definitely crept up on me as I kept eating. I loved it.
My dining companion ordered the pad cashew with chicken which was sauteed with cashews and scallions in a sweet chili paste sauce. It was tasty but a little too sweet for me.
My only complaint was getting the bill took a long time. As I looked around, the restaurant had completely filled up. They were very busy. We finally flagged down our waitress but it still took awhile to get the check, pay, and get out.
Overall the food was amazing, the price reasonable, and for the most part the service was good. I would definitely go back.
By Rachel Z. at 2016-11-06
Monsoon Siam is a great Thai option in Madison and one of my go-to places for delivery (I order about once a month). I typically go for a noodle dish, either Pad Thai (solid, not the best I've ever had) or Drunken Noodle (good flavor, well cooked chicken, pretty spicy). These dishes are pretty hard to mess up, but Monsoon Siam's versions are not greasy and hit the spot. Their specials and curries are quite good as well. For an appetizer, make sure you get the Fresh Roll- very refreshing, light, and big enough to share.
Their delivery service is among the best in the Madison area. The food always arrives in 30-45 minutes as promised and they have yet to mess up an order. I've eaten in the restaurant once and had a good experience. It's a simple, small restaurant but service was great. A good option if you don't want to wait for a table on the weekend.
By Jason K. at 2016-12-05
This is my favorite Thai place in Madison. I was introduced to this place by a friend who lived in Southeast Asia for many years (including Thailand). She marveled that anyone in Madison ever goes elsewhere for Thai, and now I understand why. For Laotian food, go across the street to Lao Laan Xang. For Thai, it's Monsoon Siam.
I've become a regular, and every single time I'm there I get the Num Tok. It is just unspeakably tasty. The menu mentions that it's made from "frank beef," which I'm nearly certain is intended to read "rare beef." It's seared on the outside and medium-rare in the middle, and always high quality.
As others have noted, the drunken noodles are particularly tasty. I also really like the Southern Heat (ground chicken with tasty herbs and green peppercorns in a fried, carby shell. My description doesn't do it justice.
It's not perfect, but it's reliably very good. I eat here way more often than I'd like to admit.
By Deb G. at 2016-10-30
Quaint little place in the downtown neighborhood of the Barrymore Theater. We dropped in for dinner before a concert and enjoyed some delicious chicken satay, yellow curry and pad thai. It was a bit HOT in the place, but they gladly adjusted the AC for a more comfortable experience. Nice, friendly service and staff. Was really great to find this place so close to the theater. We ate with the locals and enjoyed it!
By Jody M. at 2016-07-13
The drunken noodles are the best. Just the right amount of heat and good saucy oiliness.
My husband got the Poo goong ob, a clay pot filled with vermicelli noodles, shrimp, mushroom, napa cabbage, and some crab meat on top. I'm not sure all the ingredients were cooked in this clay pot but the seasonings with ginger and sesame oil was good. For the price of $14 though, we knew we were mostly paying for the seafood in the dish.
Service was attentive with checkins and water refills.
By Steven L. at 2016-10-01
I got Monsoon Siam for takeout the other day and it was quite good! I got the Ka Pow (or something like that, I forgot the name) and it was deliciously flavorful! On the greasier side, but really tasty with decent portions. I can't really comment on the service, but the takeout was simple and quick. I would recommend this place if you're a fan of Thai food!
By Monica L. at 2016-03-28
PROS: Excellent entrees
CONS: Disappointing appetizers
As appetizers, the cigar rolls and nam tok were underwhelming --- not worth reordering. The cigar rolls had essentially no filling --- just crisply fried spring-roll-eqsue shells, and the nam tok was oversalted. However, the pad see ew and the tofu ball panang curry were pretty amazing, probably among the best I've had in a while. So the moral of the story is: Order the right dishes and the food will be awesome.
By Laura J. at 2016-11-10
Really great. I was surprised. Probably some of the best Thai food I've had in Madison. One item came slightly too spicy when we ordered it less so, but everything was delicious. We particularly liked the yellow curry which was creamy and coconuty.
By Holly T. at 2016-02-10
How have I not reviewed this place, yet???
This place is consistently great! Thai is my favorite food. I used to drive to Rockford if I wanted a decent Thai meal. Now, thanks to Monsoon Siam, I no longer have to make that trek.
Basil chicken (Kao Pad Ka Pow Gai) is my absolute favorite dish on the entire planet!!! It's pretty close to the real thing that you'd get in a sidewalk cafe in Bangkok. Nowhere else even comes close...believe me I've tried. I can't get enough of this place or this dish.
I've also had their Panang Curry which is also fabulous. It's a very close second. I highly recommend this place.
By Chy L. at 2015-08-03
We arrived with the idea of getting carry-out but noticed they had nice outdoor seating area in the back of the building.
We were greeted right away by a smiling waitress with water in hand.
We ordered the papaya salad ($8), pad see ew with beef ($9.95), and drunken noodles with chicken ($9.95).
The papaya salad arrived with two warm jumbo, skewered shrimp, which is a nice addition compared to other Thai restaurants. The young green julienned papaya were crisp, however was sadly drowned in salt, and too much sauce. There was two shots of juice remaining on the plate. The portion left something to be desired as well.
The pad see ew contained the correct, pillow-y rice noodles, generous and equal portions of Chinese broccoli, scrambled eggs, and beef. The sweet and savory soy sauce was distributed evenly among the entire dish.
The drunken noodles was done very well. It also contained, cooked to perfection wide rice noodles, and sweet and spicy sauce. It was welcoming to have perfectly balanced vegetables and chicken mixed throughout.
Our dining companions ordered the fried rice dish and really liked it. The spring rolls appeared satisfactory, appearing to have generically identical shape and texture.
I would not think twice about coming here again. Next time I'd skip the appetizers and go straight for the real stars of the show - the entrees.
By Lydia R. at 2016-10-17
Very solid, quick take out Thai food. Go for the lunch special: it's really affordable and you get a lot of fThe woman that runs the place is a bit brusque, but it works for her. I personally think it's way better than Lao Laan Xang.
By Drew G. at 2016-07-10
Great food, reasonable prices, good beer selection, helpful staff and mostly quick service at a time when it was packed. Will go back. Lot's of great choices on the menu. Easy to find parking, great bars nearby.
By Mollie P. at 2016-07-26
Ordered delivery and it was nasty. Sloppy, greasy, overly sweet and cold. The basil chicken was just bizarre, everything else was underwhelming. The only decent thing in a huge order was the Khao Soi.
Won't be ordering again.
By Belinda L. at 2015-04-26
I expected a lot after reading the reviews and hearing raving recommendations from close friends who share the same likings for food. And it was with great anticipation that I came here with a bunch of friends on my birthday for lunch.
The experience was meh. Not that the food wasn't ok, I thought the food was actually pretty good. We share the lemongrass tofu, the green curry, drunken noodles, yellow curry and red curry. For most of their dishes, especially those curries, they offer custom level spiciness to suit your taste buds and adventure. We were not that brave to try the highest level of spice, but we had a 3 star for the green curry, and 2 stars for the red and yellow. I love spicy food, but that said the 3 stars was a little too spicy for me, bearable, but 2 would make it less painful to go through the entire bowl of curry I feel, just fyi ~~ But that said the curries were delicious.
I love the tofu! It was so soft on the inside. The lemongrass sauce and bok choy really enhances the taste of the tofu being light yet fragrant. I'm glad that lived up to expectations. We also tried their thai iced tea, but were not too impressed either.
So what was the problem? Service. There was only one waiter the entire time. Since it was lunch period they were busy and one person simply could not handle the crowd no matter how efficient you are. He forgot about one person's orders and also a thai tea as well so we had to remind him. Also, we had asked for split checks, but the waiter mixed up almost the entire table's orders. So what was written on the receipt was completely different to what we were actually charged on our cards.
It was such a mess, and overall not the best experience.
By Aaron K. at 2016-08-29
Immediately shot to my top 5 restaurants in Madison, which is no small feat considering how much I love so many other restaurants in this town. We've been 4 times, each time trying different dishes (6 total), & all have been uniquely delicious, but the massaman curry, squash curry & drunken noodle are truly exceptional. Friendly/quick/attentive service, fresh ingredients, & masterful preparation/presentation. Literally no complaints. Highly recommended!
By John B. at 2016-11-17
Best, most flavorful curry of the Madison Thai options - of which there are several good options. Other stuff is good too!
By Ang R. at 2016-12-03
I've been here a few times and have had good food and service in the past. However, I went last night and it was awful. It was busy when we walked in, I'll give them that, but it thinned out the longer we were there, although we were only there so long because of the terrible service. I've never had to wave down a server to take our order but after sitting there for 20 minutes while the servers went to every other table, we finally had to flag them down. Food was pretty good, although my shrimp dish was mediocre best. The entire time we ate though, no server. They were at every other table but ours. I never got the sauce I asked for, twice, for two different items. Again, had to wave down the waiter to get the check. They seem far more focused on phone/delivery orders than half their customers in the restaurant. Terrible service, I won't be back. Get your business in order and take care of your customers who are actually there.
By Corey D. at 2014-10-26
Ok, here's the thing. Monsoon Siam has become my east side jam. I'm here at least once a week it seems for meetings, solo lunches, take-out, whatever! It's just sort of a perfect place! And the fact that they totally did the outdoors up for Halloween just makes me smile!
Recently I've fallen in love with anything that includes tofu. Not normally a soy fan, I have to say these folks know how to cook it, and they know how to sauce it up so it's plate licking good! The fried tofu is insane, and the lemongrass tofu on the fist page of specials is just plain nuts. Deep fried lemon grass? Yeeeeeassss. I like that lunches come with your choice of soup or salad and a small lil spring roll. It's a good amount of food for around seven bucks, and faster than a speeding bullet. I sat down and placed an order last week and could barely get comfy before my order was up.
By Douglas H. at 2014-11-07
I went to Monsoon Siam with the Madison Review Crew meetup group with the intention of writing a review. Then, a day before, a member of the group writes that he can't come, but is looking forward to hearing if it is indeed of authentic Thai quality, since he is Thai, and he cooks traditional foods here at home.
So. Is Monsoon Siam authentic Thai? Is it Thai traditional, fresh, authentic, vivid?
I have no idea! It could be authentic Serbo-Croatian for all I know - - I have never been to Thailand - - but whatever it is, they should not change ANYTHING, because this is splendid cuisine. The presentation - - just the very looks of the meal? You will be tempted to let it sit getting cold on the plate for 45 minutes, staring at it, just because it LOOKS so gorgeous. If you were really small, or got down really low to the table, and looked at them, it would be like going to Disneyland for the first time - - it would be that colorful and fantastical.
And same with the flavors. The three dishes we got - - one was big, broad, flat, floppy noodles that were sublime delicious (with just a touch of sweetness); another was crispy squid done up luscious with smatterings of fresh herbs and veggie touches, and you just wish that the dish was big as a house, instead of just a regular portion, because you could eat it nonstop for a month; the last was minced chicken with spices in a thin flaky-formed shell that was super hot but unlike anything else anywhere. All three dishes were electrifyingly interesting, pretty, and delicious.
And did I mention the cigar roll appetizer? No, I did not yet mention the cigar roll appetizer. It was like egg rolls, but actually FUN. The texture was the thing - - it made life more interesting and alive, just sharing one of the three cigar rolls in this appetizer. When was the last time you could say that about an egg roll?
Service was great, because these were (also) real people, enjoying themselves, and being themselves, and loving what they were doing.
(BTW: the company was great too!)