A few entrées were appealingly fresh and light. The Rama Thai Delight, a dish of steamed spinach leaves dressed with a chopped-peanut curry, was particularly vibrant; sweet green curry made with coconut milk was bright and unfussy. Both dishes are $8.95 for a chicken or tofu version, and $12 for shrimp.)

The restaurant serves three desserts. The Thai custard served on sticky rice and cloaked in coconut milk ($4.25) is intensely sugary, but still very good; the uncomplicated fresh sliced mango ($5) presented with sweet, sticky rice is as good as ever. But I thought the Thai fried banana ($3.95) was weird: The three slices of tempura-battered banana tasted strangely doughy and salty, too much like the tempura vegetables I had during the same meal, making for an odd déjà vu effect.

Really, there's déjà vu in the whole Uptown Sawatdee experience. Between the familiar menu and the elegant way Harrison has erased the previous tenant, Szechuan Empress, it's as if there had always been a Sawatdee on the corner of 27th and Hennepin. (Remember the fateful season they switched from Szechuan Express to Szechuan Empress? Such a brilliant maneuver, done without changing anything at all except one little consonant--and I was convinced that the capuccinofication of Hennepin would one day yield Szechuan Espress(o). But then, without warning: Szechuan Egress! )

Maybe that's why the Uptown Sawatdee doesn't turn on the lamps in the atrium: Keeping the lights low allows a quiet slide into the neighborhood, an artful remembrance of things that seem like they've always been.

TABLEHOPPING

I'LL GET YOU, GOURMET, and your little Strib, too! My commentary on the Minneapolis restaurant review in the September issue of Gourmet magazine generated a flood of calls and e-mail, but the gossipiest--and thus the best--by far was from Joan Siegel, the restaurant reviewer for the Minneapolis Star, and then the merged Star and Tribune, from 1980 to 1984. "When I was at the Strib," remembered Siegel, who is retired now and lives in Mexico, "Jodie Foster, who was at Yale at the time, had a summer internship at Esquire. She called me up and said: We're writing an article on what the best restaurants in the country are. What are the best restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul?

"So I said to her: You're not going to come out and test them? She said: No. So I replied: I don't know about Esquire's ethics, young lady, but mine are high, and I'm not going to participate in giving out national rankings that aren't based on a fair evaluation. So I got off the phone with Miss Jodie Foster."

Siegel went on to tell me fascinating war stories of her days at the paper. Like the time she was in contract negotiations "and there wasn't a woman in the room. I didn't call those meetings, I called those gangbangs." To scare her, she says, the paper ran an ad soliciting Joe Public to submit résumés and sample restaurant reviews. But she knew it was all a bluff: In readership surveys, she notes, "I beat out everybody but that damn Sid Hartman." Today Siegel has nothing but disdain for her alma mater:

"Whenever I see it, I think, 'I used to work for that paper?' It's such a rag! There's no business news, there's no international news--though there never was." Siegel got a subscription during a recent visit to her old hometown and found even the delivery subpar: "It would come, at best, maybe four times a week. And I don't know if I'm more disappointed when it does come or when it doesn't! Have you seen Tasteless?" she asks, getting in a last dig at the Strib's food section.

Still, Siegel wouldn't go back to restaurant reviewing for all the tortillas in Oaxaca: "It all became a little stupid to me, people's intensity about it. I wanted to say to them: It's just food. Get a life."

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