After a rather pleasant meal at the Bellagio Buffet, J. and I had set out to get some things done before a very busy planned evening.
We headed to the Mirage to pick up our tickets for the Cirque du Soleil show “Love”, based around the music of the Beatles. After getting our tickets, we were attracted to the Jackpot Party Slot Machine and wasted a few dollars there before stopping to get provisions for the hotel room.
By the time everything was done, we were ready to get all pretty for a dinner that I had looked forward to for a very long time. We got our car from the valet and slowly made our way to an old, tattered strip mall just east of the Strip on Sahara Avenue.
And there it was.
Lotus of Siam.
For years, I had heard about the famous Thai restaurant in Las Vegas that has some of the best of that cuisine offered in North America. I was giddy when I secured a 6:30 PM reservation slot and didn’t know what to expect, except that their specialty was Thai cuisine from the northern part of that country.
True to the stories, the restaurant is not very large and sits in the middle of a dreary strip mall that hasn’t seen a refurbishment in decades. After parking the car, we walked into the place and were seated in the front room next to a paneled wall. We were given menus and a wine list.
I told J. to trust me on the selections as I had done lots of homework on what Lotus of Siam’s menu offered. J. agreed but did say he wanted to try the Lime Drink ($2.50) and some wine. When the server arrived, J. ordered that drink and I had a Diet Coke ($2.25).
I scanned the menu and upon our server’s return I had made the selections with J.’s advice and consent. We decided to start with the Crispy Rice and Sour Sausage ($8.95) followed by the Northern Thai Green Chile Dip ($9.95). For our entrees, we would have the Garlic and Black Pepper Shrimp ($19.95), the Northern Thai Pork Stew ($9.95) and the Crispy Skin Duck in Red Curry Sauce with Cognac ($19.95).
J. also decided to try the Riesling Flight ($12.00) and I had a glass of the semi-dry Riesling ($12.00). I had read that Riesling was a great match with Thai food, so I was curious to see if that would pan out.
J. started in on the Lime Drink and offered me a taste. I really enjoyed it because it was exceptionally tart with just a hint of sweetness, but very refreshing all the way around. J. also liked the drink, and said that it was very similar to a carbonated limeade. As always, the Diet Coke was excellent.
Our server brought our wine and the small glasses of Riesling in J.’s flight were labeled with stickers on the stem. J. was pleased with his selection and found that he really enjoyed the sweet wine the best, followed by the semi-dry and then the dry. All were quite good.
The Crispy Rice with Sour Sausage arrived and it was an enticing dish. I scooped some of the concoction on my plate and dove in. Superb. My palate sprang to life with the mix of textures and various flavors. The sausage had a pungent and sour note that was delicious, but it wasn’t overwhelming. The crunchiness of the rice was an added bonus. J. and I lapped up every grain of rice on the plate. This appetizer was a winner for us.
The Northern Thai Green Chile Dip was set before us and I was a bit surprised. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect exactly, but the heaping mound of dip surrounded by vegetables was unique to us. The various vegetables had been blanched and were warm and somewhat limp, but still slightly crunchy. I grabbed a couple of the carrots and spread them with some of the green dip that sat in the center of the presentation. The first bite was wonderful, followed by lots of heat and my lips burning. It was awesome. The scary part was that we had ordered the dip at medium spice. I don’t even want to know what hot would have been, because this was about as hot as I could tolerate it. J. was enjoying the experience as well. It was a very different and welcome change.
I tackled my glass of Johannishof Johannisberger Klaus, Rheingau 2007 and was very happy with how well it paired with the appetizers. It was slightly sweet and had a wonderful bouquet to it. The pour was also quite generous. Again, it was a surprise because of how well it paired with the green chile dip. Who knew?
There was only a short time period between us finishing our appetizers and the arrival of our entrees. The first thing on tap was the Garlic and Black Pepper Shrimp. The presentation was beautiful and the gorgeous shrimp were uniquely presented. The meat of the shrimp had been pulled out of the shell and tail, but was still attached at the tail joint. Both sides were then coated and flash fried. Both J. and I were a bit daunted by the shells and passed on consuming them, but the shrimp meat was incredibly delicious with a subtle garlic flavor and a kick from the black pepper. It was an exceptional dish that left us wanting more.
We then began to feast on the Northern Thai Pork Stew. The serving bowl was filled with large chunks of pork in a red curry sauce. The pork was fork tender and was highlighted by a wonderfully subtle curry flair that was outstanding over rice. The dish was not terribly spicy, which was a nice contrast to the other dishes we had encountered. J. hit it right on target when he said this dish would be like having Sunday pot roast at Grandma’s if she were Thai.
Our final dish was the Crispy Skin Duck in Curry Sauce with Cognac. J. and I agreed that this was the finest Asian dish we had ever had. There are not enough adjectives in the world to describe this sublime dish. Large slices of crispy skinned duck were lined up atop a creamy curry sauce laced with cognac. The duck was moist, tender and the skin crackled when we cut it with the edge of our forks. The sauce was a nuanced meld between sweet, bitter, and savory with just a kick of heat to round out the dish. We were all but licking the serving plate clean to make sure not a single drop of that delectable sauce went to waste. This dish was absolute perfection.
After our meals, our mouths were still burning, so we decided to get two small servings of Coconut Ice Cream ($3.00 each). We had wanted to try the Mangos with Sticky Rice, but we were waved off as our server explained the mangos were not in season.
When the ice cream arrived, we had a nice portion of the creamy frozen dessert. It was very good with the highlight being the chunks of coconut providing a wonderful crunch to each bite. We were both happy with the ice cream.
With our stomachs pleasantly full, we asked for the bill. The total was $107.30 which included tax. We thought it was a steal for the quality of the food. There was no doubt that there was some wonderful craftsmanship going on in the kitchen and the specialty items from the Northern menu and the Chef’s selections were worth every penny. The service was gracious, helpful and friendly.
All of our glowing recommendations set aside, I know that Lotus of Siam’s Northern menu will not appeal to all Thai food aficionados, especially those who are used to the cuisine of the southern provinces of Thailand. Before heading to Lotus of Siam, I had done plenty of research and customers are missing out on the best Lotus has to offer by going to the luncheon buffet or ordering Thai standards such as Pad Thai or Panang. The magic was in the Northern menu and uncommon, specialty items that had J. and I hooked.
The difference was also one of degrees. The Thai food I am used to has bold, brash flavors that spring out at first bite. J. and I found the appeal of Lotus of Siam was the subtle, intricate waltz of flavors with varying levels of spice to accentuate each dish. For some, that would be a turn off. For us, it was a incredibly delightful experience and I would rank Lotus of Siam as some of the finest Asian food I have ever encountered.
Lotus of Siam deserves all the praises it receives and has two new fans who look forward to a repeat performance.
Lotus of Siam
953 East Sahara Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89104
Hours: Lunch: Monday through Friday – 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM; Dinner: Monday through Thursday – 5:30 PM to 9:30 PM, Friday and Saturday – 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM
Notes: Stick with the Northern Thai and Specialties section of the menu. Reservations are strongly encouraged.
Alcohol: Full bar, but stick with the Rieslings.
Additional photos can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com
Lotus of Siam
953 E Sahara Ave Ste A5, Las Vegas, NV 89104