Naam Thai Cuisine Underwhelms, But it's Still Packed

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Naam Thai Cuisine in Madrona comes with its blessings and curses. If you're a parent, it would be a shocker to find that yours is the lone child seated in the dining room. Trouble is, the service is so sluggish, especially on peak nights, that what should be a quick trip to Naam for a plate of noodles might become an all-evening affair that will make the most docile child cranky, overwound, or both.

Housed in a space that formerly hosted several failed eateries, including the short lived Coupage, Naam sits on a block of 34th Avenue near Bottlehouse and Pritty Boys Pizza. In contrast to the typical traditionally decorated Thai joint, Naam's interior is fresh and modern. The cool color scheme implies a sort of optimism that, after many visits, doesn't seem to have been absorbed by the wait staff.

On a recent Friday, Naam was filled to capacity with diners and busy with carry out orders. That still doesn't justify why, after requesting two times for a server to take our order, no one arrived for at least 20 minutes until a confused bartender wandered to the table wondering what could be the matter. As the evening continued, missing silverware went unnoticed, water went unfilled, and no one bothered to check in after food arrived.

What in the past proved to be thoughtfully prepared traditional-style Thai plates was replaced with mediocre fare. Fresh rolls filled with a single shrimp per piece arrived room temperature in a still-warm, slightly greasy peanut sauce. Presentation makes the appetizer more pleasing, with sprigs of greens curling toward the ceiling in a vertical stack.

The chicken in Naam's noodle dishes is extra lean, making healthier meals for kids than plain spaghetti and meat sauce. Add extra vegetables to the generally child-approved Pad Thai--they'll hug the rice noodles making them hard to pick out.

The crab fried rice special, prepared with either Dungeness or King depending on the kitchen's stores, was overly salty and priced five dollars more than the same dish with tofu or pork. Frozen peas and carrot cubes and shredded bits of mushy crab peppered the unappealing plate. A bag of fried rice from Trader Joe's would have been almost as satisfying.

With underwhelming food and bewildered servers, it's hard to justify driving any distance to eat at Naam unless it works out some kinks. If you go and end up unhappy with your meal, take heart. Molly Moon's Madrona walk-up window waits just outside.

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