Lotus of Siam
Crispy Duck Pad Kee Mao
Chicken Pad Kee Mao
Sour Isaan Sausage
Crispy Duck with Panang Curry
Nam Kao Tod
Tom Kha Gai
Beef Spicy Fried Rice
Spicy Catfish with Basil Leaves
Nam Prik Noom
Chicken Kang Ka Noon
Already the rare recipient of a Las Vegas Beard Award, Chef Saipin Chutima named Best Chef: Southwest in 2011, Lotus of Siam was recently nominated as a semi-finalist for Best Restaurant, a surprising recognition that occurred in the two-weeks between making a reservation for twelve and the actual 5:30pm Saturday that the group sat down for the meal.
Having visited the unassuming icon of Thai food that rose to national attention in the mid-2000s only once prior, a lunch reconnecting with a local restaurant General Manager and his girlfriend at Christmas 2012 seeing a limited number of plates amidst a dining room that was completely packed, arrival prior to opening over four years later saw a line for walk-ins of 30+ circumvented by a simple phone-call and credit card on-hold, the group seated promptly at a lengthy table with water soon poured and a Wine list offered.
Having performed due-diligence this time, the sizable menu navigated beforehand with a choice of ten different plates in orders of one or two, depending on portion, it was after a brief exchange with the server that a hand-written list was annotated to spice-level five with requests for a slow roll-out, the plan originally going smoothly but soon deteriorating into a flood of plates that saw several miss out on various dishes as they circulated the table.
More pricey than Thai anywhere else in town, though the ingredient quality is undeniably high, it was at a Hot Pot of Tom Kha Gai spewing fire that all gazed as it was presented near room’s center, the smooth flavor of Coconut and boiled Chicken blending with Lemongrass and light heat an elegant way to start while the Northern dip of Green Chilies was little more than a tiny portion of Salsa crafted primarily from roasted Jalapenos, several Garlic Cloves and Sesame.
Watched over by photographss of famous folks who’d stopped in, everyone from Joe Montana to past-Presidents smiling and signed behind glass, plates of Sour Isaan Sausage and Nam Kao Tod trailed the Soup and Dip by approximately fifteen minutes, two orders of the former enough to offer a small slice of snappy Meat with a deep, yet pleasant, funkiness to everyone while the latter was a great suggestion from someone who’s visited the restaurant frequently, slices of Cabbage and Peanuts served alongside a deep-fried Rice Ball studded with Pork amidst earthy aromatics and the unmistakable flavor of Fish Sauce.
At this point only 5:55pm, the restaurant completely full and two-deep at the bar with a line still snaking from the door, a flurry of servers soon saw the table packed with two plates of Drunken Noodles, a small mound of Spicy Rice plus filleted Catfish in Basil and Crispy Duck with Panang Curry, the fried rice no different than that at any Chinese restaurant on Spring Mountain Road and thus no more compelling than a steamer of the white stuff while the Pad Kee Mao was oily and not particularly flavorful beyond the Soy and Fish Sauce, an upcharge of $27.95 for Duck compared to the $12.95 Chicken really not justified as the flavor of each was drowned out.
Impressed by the meaty Catfish, though a whole-animal preparation would have been more price-appropriate than the small filets of a fish that is generally quite cheap, Duck in Panang Curry righted many of the faults found in the other dishes with great crispiness and rosy flesh amidst the robust sauce of Coconut, Peppers plus light notes of Sugar and Citrus that was so good that it commanded a second plate.
Rounding out the evening by 6:40, the staff vigorously working to turn the table, Northern dishes of Kang Hoh and Kang Ka Noon each furthered the rumor that LoS’s best plates are found on the back page of the menu, the Dry Pork Curry a spicy little number with big fermented flavors while the crunchy rounds of Jack Fruit were not dissimilar from Artichokes in taste or texture amidst a vibrant, acidic Curry that was good on its own and even better when mellowed by the White Rice used to sop it up.
THREE STARS: Exiting Lotus of Siam at $30/each after Tax and 18% Gratuity, not accounting for those who chose to drink wine, it would be hard to say that anyone had eaten their fill while some actually reached out to say they did not even have a chance to sample several of the plates, a combination of rushed service and small portions paired with some truly average dishes leaving me in no rush to return before delving further into Las Vegas’ less-famous Thai places.
RECOMMENDED: Nam Kao Tod, Crispy Duck with Panang Curry, Chicken Kang Ka Noon, Sour Isaan Sausage, Tom Kha Gai
AVOID: Spicy Fried Rice, Duck Drunken Noodles, Nam Prik Noom.
TIP: There is a reason the website does not list prices, and why servers push Prawns and Duck as the proteins of choice on plates where diners are given the option. Unless dining solo, do your research and ask about portion sizes.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.