I’ve gotta give props to the fans of Chowhound. After combing through various blog posts searching for the right places to grab a bite to eat off the Las Vegas strip, one place kept coming up in their conversations… Lotus of Siam.
People mentioned things like, “It’s the best Thai food in the country,” and “There’s nothing like this anywhere.” After a little more research, I realized Gourmet magazine even called it “the single best Thai restaurant in North America.”
Once we drove to the mini-mall where it was located and drove past the front door, we thought twice. Could this place really be as good as people say? Especially when the outside looked so…sketchy? Well, if you go, don’t let the exterior or questionable location deter you.
I played it safe and made reservations, thinking I was being overly cautious. Once we walked in, we realized the reservations were necessary.
Apparently, one of the main reasons why Lotus of Siam’s dishes are so distinctly different is because they’re from a different region of Thailand. More specifically, northern Thailand, which takes a lot of its culinary cues from southern China, Myanmar, and Laos. The waiter explained that the spices, preparations, and ingredients can vary quite a bit from mainstream Thai cuisine in America.
So my husband and I dove in head first and ordered dishes that seemed different and intriguing to us.
We started with the Mushroom Dip. I know, why order a “dip” at a Thai restaurant? Well, the readers of Chowhound recommended all three of their dips, highly. Boy were we glad we listened. This chilled dip was served with an array of the brightest, freshest veggies, like cauliflower, broccoli, crisp snow peas, green beans, cucumber slices and cabbage. I’ve never tasted anything like it! It was an amazing combination of softened (probably stirfried) various mushrooms, eggplant, carmelized red onions, chilis, green onions, cilantro, and other ingredients that the waiter couldn’t share with us. It was texturally interesting, especially with the fresh veggies, and the flavors were like nothing you’ll ever try. You MUST order one of their dips if you go.
We also ordered the Northern Style Tom Kah Kai Chicken Soup. It was delicious with lots of kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, cilantro, and lime juice flavors. But, man was it spicy! There were at least two different chilis in this soup, some of them whole (with pith and seeds, which is where all the heat is)! We should’ve ordered this one a little less spicy. I needed entire glass of water just to get through the little bowl. But it sure was tasty.
We ordered two entrees, again off their northern cuisine menu. The Jackfruit Red Curry I had to order just out of curiosity. It had the consistancy of a soup more than a curry, and was full of jackfruit pieces (which has the texture of softened artichoke hearts). The flavors were distinctive, but it was my least favorite dish of the night. I wasn’t a fan of the softened jackfruit’s texture or the brothiness of the curry. My husband, however, loved this one.
Last was the Rice Vermicelli Curry, which had very distinct Chinese and Laotian influences. The thin rice noodles were similar to something you’d get in a bowl of pho (Vietnamese rice noodle soup), but the spicy flavor was similar to something you’d get in a regional Chinese restaurant. It was rich with the flavors of ground pork and chili in a tomato based spicy broth. It was served with fresh mung bean sprouts and lime, which added another element of texture and flavor. I could’ve polished off a whole bowl of this stuff if it weren’t so spicy! Whew!
There’s not much in the way of decor in this place, but the service was good enough. And they kept our water glasses full, which was necessary given how spicy everything was. They’ll ask how spicy you want your dishes on a scale of 1 to 10, so go for a “2″ if you’re not that into spicy food, or you’ll be sorry. The table next to us (Hi, Megan and Diane!) were practically crying after just one bite of their Mushroom Dip!
This was definitely a memorable dining experience for me and my husband and not to be missed if you’re in Vegas. Who knew the best Thai food could be located in the middle of a mini-mall in a bad part of Las Vegas?
Lotus of Siam – 953 East Sahara Ave. - Las Vegas, NV - 702.735.3033