Siam Cuisine at the Black Walnut

Under new ownership, this delightful restaurant in Doylestown, Pa., gives French cuisine a Thai twist.

By: Richard Burns

Siam Cuisine at the Black Walnut

80 W. State St.

Doylestown, Pa.

(215) 348-0708
Food: Very good

Service: Very good

Prices: Upper moderate to expensive

Cuisine: Nouvelle French/Thai (moving toward fusion)

Ambience: Pleasant but plain

Hours: Lunch: Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner: Tues.-Thurs. 4:30-9 p.m., Fri-Sat. 5-9:30 p.m., Sun. 4:30-8:30 p.m.

Essentials: Wheelchair accessible through side entrance; all major credit cards accepted.


   NOUVELLE French food served in a pleasant house on a busy street in downtown Doylestown is how one would describe the Black Walnut prior to early April. After that, the addition of "Siam Cuisine at" to the name signified a major broadening of the menu.
   We visited the Black Walnut after the transition, without realizing the ownership had changed and Thai specialties had been added to the menu. In fact, the menu was at the beginning of changing from a French orientation to one that will ultimately feature nouvelle French and Thai cuisines, and dishes that fuse the two. As a result, if you visit now you are likely to find new and different items on the menu.
   The chef, however, is the same: Jack Gudin has been at the Black Walnut for the past six years. The restaurant is now owned by Chumlong Deengdeelert (everyone calls him Mr. Long), who also owns three Thai restaurants in the area. With Chef Gudin in the kitchen, the transition is likely to be smooth and positive. In addition, the Black Walnut will be much more accessible than before, when it was open only for dinner four nights a week. It is now open for lunch on weekdays, with dinner every night except Monday.
   Because my daughter was home with a friend the weekend we visited, we were a rather large party and were able to sample more of the small menu than we normally would have. Since the menu will be changing, as will the wine list, I won’t have much to say about it except that the number of choices were small, but the selections attractive.
   The appetizers included four choices that were Western in nature and three that were Thai. A large bowl of ginger coconut milk soup ($7) was smooth, sharply flavored with ginger but softened by the coconut milk, a delightful combination. The Thai sampler plate ($12) was large enough to serve two or three people and included three dumplings, three Thai spring rolls and three grilled shrimp accompanied by Belgium endive and watercress and three sauces: a spicy peanut sauce, a tamarind sauce and a mild chili sauce. The plate was decorated with another, thicker chili sauce that we discovered was very hot compared to the others, although the Thai items were rather ordinary in taste.
   We also sampled the Exotic Caesar salad ($8) and Turban of Greens ($7). The Caesar featured very crisp hearts of Romaine, arugula, fresh basil, shavings of Parmigiano and a delightful anchovy vinaigrette to form an outstanding salad. The Turban was a collection of organic greens wrapped in long thin slices of cucumber to form something that looked a bit like a turban. The house vinaigrette was pleasant but not unusual.
   The final appetizer was the big winner, a Risotto alla Napoletana ($9). The good-sized bowl of moist and tender rice included asparagus, cooked in a white wine-tomato base with a strong Asiago cheese mixed with roasted vegetables — a taste and tactile sensation. I highly recommend it (it was also on the entrée menu at $18).
   For entrées, we selected the salmon ($24), the rack of lamb ($29), the scallops ($24) and the pad thai with fresh shrimp ($24). The salmon was served with crispy thin cross-sections of artichokes heart deep fried and served cold — excellent! — with a chive butter sauce. The presentation was impressive in the vertical mode, but the salmon had been slightly overcooked. The rack (a huge portion, eight ribs) had an herb-and-mustard crust and came cooked perfectly to order.
   The scallops were sautéed with wild mushrooms and garnished with snow pea shoots on a bed of rice. The scallops were large, abundant and succulent. The pad thai is a somewhat traditional stir-fry dish of rice noodles, ground peanuts, tofu, chilies, lime and Thai basil with a tamarind sauce that can be made with vegetables or different shellfish, in this case, shrimp. The portion was served very hot, right out of the wok, and was quite large, with six to eight good-sized shrimp that were nicely cooked. However, the dish lacked the full and biting flavor of most Thai dishes.
   Desserts ($7 each) are all made in house and were especially good. The crème brulée was large, creamy and nicely flavored. The lemon meringue tart was beautifully presented on a bed of raspberry sauce, which complemented the tart lemon taste. The Pyramid of Chocolate was a chocolate-lover’s dream — a 3-inch-high pyramid of dark, firm chocolate encasing a lovely dark chocolate mouse, served on a lake of raspberry sauce. Delectable.
   The restaurant consists of three small dinning rooms on one side of the house. The rooms are quite plain and not very noteworthy, but pleasant enough. The service, provided largely by the delightful Tiana, originally from Brazil, was informal, effective and fun. She was struggling with the new menu but did so with humor and graciousness.
   Chef Gudin appears to know what he is doing with French food and will undoubtedly create more interesting Thai fusion as the restaurant matures. We look forward to seeing how it progresses.
For directions to Siam Cuisine at the Black Walnut, click here.