I read with disappointment James H. Schwartz’s review of Seng Thai restaurant in Belfast (“Dine Out Maine: Seng Thai in Belfast is popular but prosaic,” Dec. 7), and I feel compelled to rise in defense of my favorite hometown eatery.

Mr. Schwartz is a knowledgeable restaurant critic – and his work is a welcome addition to the Portland Press Herald – but I think he missed something important in his visits to Seng Thai. Not about the food, the service or the atmosphere, to all of which he gives due consideration, and even praise. I don’t even disagree with his conclusion, “It’s good Thai food – for Maine.”

Where Mr. Schwartz and I part company is in what being “good … for Maine” signifies. In his view, it constitutes damning with faint praise, and if Seng Thai were in Portland it might be appropriate to view it through that lens. But it’s 100 miles from Portland, in a city of 6,000, and that context is important.

I’ve sampled Thai food in a dozen cities across the country, and I’ve never had any I liked better than what Suthisa Phumsaard cooks and Amy Rogers serves. If I lived in Portland, would I drive two hours for it? Of course not. But for those of us who live in or near Belfast, that’s just the point. It’s not two hours away; it’s right here, close enough for a workday lunch or a school-night family dinner.

Midcoast Maine has many virtues, but an ethnic melting pot it’s not. To enjoy authentic, consistent and delicious food, lovingly prepared by neighbors who brought their native cuisine from half a world away, is indeed good for Maine. And that’s not faint praise; that’s praise, full stop.

Bruce Snider