I have been back in New York for almost five days, but I'm still in a fog, after eating at Lotus of Siam eleven times. What made this experience so pleasurable, beyond the amazing food, was sharing lunches and dinners with a rotating group of old and new friends. With the exception of one group of 10, all the meals were with between 4-6 people, which made the meals comfortable and the conversation easy.
Rather than blather on about how great the food was, I thought I'd just mention some noteworthy dishes that I don't think have been mentioned on Chowhound before:
Tom Klong Pla Krob -- is a Thai-Cambodian soup made with smoked "sheet fish," a thin lake fish with very little meat but a lot of flavor. It includes tamarind sauce, fresh herbs, mushrooms, chili and other spices. Spectacular, a sort of Thai gumbo.
Tom Yum Plar Kapong -- Hot and sour soup made with red snapper, this is soothing compared to the above, and restorative.
Sua Rong Hai -- Charbroiled beef. Steakhouse-quality beef, a wonderful accompaniment to the bourdeaux that Melanie found on the menu.
Nua Sao Renu -- sliced charbroiled beef over sliced cabbage, with a hint of tamarind sauce and fried dry chili.
Koi Soy -- Issan-style beef tartare, with, as the menu describes it, "fresh and dry chili, fresh herbs, rice powder, seasoned sauce, lime juice, served raw."
The noodle dish on the Northern menu (forgot the name), which includes wonderful homemade egg noodle that Bill buys in Pasadena.
I'd estimate that I sampled at least 50 dishes on this trip, including the entire Northern menu and quite a few off-menu selections based on stuff that Bill found. The last night, Saipin produced a stunning salmon trout, stuffed with green chilies. It was amazingly delicate. This came after our small party had eaten 8 courses or so (including a whole catfish). We also had soup at almost every meal, and as I recollect, not one of them had a coconut milk base. Many were delicate broths, based on fresh, exotic greens that Bill found. All the old favorites are still available, and just as great.
I have usually drunk limeade at LOS, but then Melanie Wong showed up and the vino started flowing. I hope Melanie can talk a little here about wine and Thai food, and why she agrees with Bill that German Rieslings are the right accompaniment for most of the dishes. Bill is extremely modest about this kind of thing, but he seems to know more about wine then he lets on. All I know is that I vastly preferred drinking the (many) Rieslings with this food than beer, which somehow doesn't seem to suit Saipin's cooking.
As always, Bill & Saipin and staff were exceptionally gracious and generous. When he has the time, Bill is happy to share his knowledge about Thai food, and he'll do everything but the macarena to make a customer happy.
I'm pleased that the restaurant seems to be quite busy now, especially at lunch during the week and dinner on the weekends. And even better, those that do come seem to be ordering more adventurous dishes, especially the Issan specialties.
Bill made one instructive comment one night. He said that Saipin makes no attempt to reinvent the wheel. She is not trying to innovate or startle, but "just" trying to cook authentic food to the best of her ability. This she does with such love and skill that I feel honored and humbled to have spent eleven meals in her presence.
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