Went to Lotus of Siam on Monday for lunch. We were greeted by Bill, and immediately asked about the northern menu. Bill told us it was a bit overrated and that we should try the other specialties on the normal menu. However, we insisted and the menu arrived along with the other menus. So we ordered the sour sausage, the spicy chicken soup (isaan menu), pork stew (isaan menu), chicken wings, green papaya salad with salty crabs, drunken seafood noodles, and steak under the bbq menu.
The sour sausage arrived first and it was wonderful. We ordered 5 in heat, which was perfect. It was limey, spicey, and the rice was wonderfully crispy, almost like rice crispies.
The spicy chicken soup came second. it was also nice and hot. the broth was very limey, full of thai chiles, straw mushrooms, and something very similar ginger. It was great.
Then the chicken wings came. they weren't too spicy, and though good, certainly not the best chicken wings I've ever had. They're made with a thai sweet chile sauce that you can find in any asian grocery store. Bill brought us some German Reisling, which went very well with the chicken.
Next was the green papaya salad. Bill kept on telling us how spicy it would be and brought out some thai iced tea which he said would calm the heat. That papaya was a bit ripe, more yellow than green, and it certainly wasn't spicy at all. the salty crabs were wonderful, extremely salty as i remembered in the other papaya salads i've had.
Bill brought us a sample of the sausage. it was full of lemongrass and just okay.
Then the pork stew, noodles, and steak arrived. the pork stew, which i had been looking forward to, was just okay. Everyone at the table agreed that it was very similar to a curry that we'd all had growing up. very dry, beef-jerky like. a very thick stew.
the noodles and steak were very standard, something you can get at any other thai restaurant/
overall, the service was great, with Bill being very attentive to our table. We agree that we should've listened to his warning about the isaan menu. He said it would be like Hunan cooking, which it definitely was. I did enjoy the spicy chicken soup though. that was my favorite along with the sour sausage.
Bill's family has Thai Nakorn and Renu Nakorn open in California. I've been to Thai Nakorn, which is excellent. I think Lotus of Siam has great Thai food, better than anything on the east coast. It's comparable to Thai Nakorn though. I think that if you've grown up eating asian food, the Isaan menu won't be so outstanding. Next time we go, we're going to order mostly from the normal menu, as Bill had originally suggested.