I had heard specifically to try two places off the main strip in Las Vegas, a place I don’t typically frequent for anything other than dining and poolside lounging (like Charlie Sheen, i’m obsessed with winning and hate to lose). I was told one spot in particular serves the best Thai food in the nation. To this I was largely skeptical, but then I was told about the fantastic wine list, featuring current vintage as well as aged Riesling – basically the magic words for a good time. So I decided to check out Lotus of Siam.
Living in Los Angeles I am extremely particular about Thai food, as I feel the best examples outside of Thailand can be found here, and to some extent in New York City. The most popular region for Thai cuisine in the past few years has been that of Isan, (sanskrit meaning ‘North East’) style eateries from Thailand’s largest region bordering the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. The Mekong is the 12th longest river in the world begins from melting snow on the Tibetan Plateau. Isan cuisine has a strong Cambodian influence, as well as the heavy use of chili peppers which distinguishes it from Central Thai Cuisine.
I think my large mistake dining at Lotus was to avoid the northern style dishes that I was told to stick with, as well as go for dinner (we went for lunch). Things got off to a rather lukewarm start with a dirty water glass with partially melted ice.
A quick improvement came in the form of a really lovely older waitress who had such joy in her service it made our experience grand. After a great sake to start we went after some of the excellent by the glass Riesling selections. My favorite glass ( we did have several) was the 2002 Weingut Eifel Pfeiffer Trittenheimer Riesling Spätlese.
All golden hues and richness on the palate, this wine had a effervescence and mild acidity that made it perfect for spicy Thai food. I had a good time reading about this wine – from Trittenheimer Apotheke, a famous steep slope single vineyard in the middle Mosel wine region (Germany). The site has dark clay/slate soil with some stones and gravel. The name ‘Apotheke’ means apothecary, after the Benedictine foundation of “Abtsberg” or “Abteiberg.” (Apotheke is also the name of a sick bar in NYC – former Opium den where my old friend and mentor Miguel Aranda tends bar)
In addition I ordered a bottle of Sake from the impressive list which featured not only in impressive array of affordable selections, but SMV (the Sake Meter Value) or in Japanese the Nihonshu-do.
SMV is just another reason why the Japanese are so forward thinking in their beverage sensibilities as the SMV indicates the density of sake compared to water. From sweet to dry in powers of 5 and acidity on a scale of 1.0 – 2.0.
We started with Issan style fermented sausage (Sai Krok Isan) which was homemade, spicy, and delicious, but not quite as hot as I would like it (temperature wise) nor was it grilled, which is the best way to enjoy it. The garnish on the plates was rather simple.
The fried fish was also well done with a weak presentation, and slightly undersized for the price. I also thought the chili sauce that accompanied this was rather weak, though it did pack some discernable heat. The garnishes were kind of nonsensical and sloppy. This felt very cafeteria.
The wine went particularly well when paired with our curry dish which was easily the highlight of the meal. Adorned with glorious fried duck, nice and hot, adequately spicy ( I would’ve gone much higher on my heat in retrospect, I think we went with 7?). The mint was a nice touch. I thought this could’ve been slightly more generous on the portion as well.
Dessert, as readers of the blog know, is not something I obsess over most of the time. Yet when I hear the combination of Banana, Coconut, Toast I’m usually already sold, and I’m glad we ordered this one. Addictive and completely delicious.
I was happy to skip it, but I did want to try the Thai Tea and I was convinced to try the fried bananas with ice cream. The bananas were so addicting and delicious that I almost ate them all myself.
The Thai Tea wasn’t really anything special but of decent quality. I really liked the soda fountain style glass that it came in and the generous quality of ice. The flavors were kind of mute, I spied one of the waiters pulling it out of a refrigerator and giving us what looked like the end of a plastic pitcher.
The Banana desert, the curry, and the wine list alone make it worth a second visit. The dishes were well priced and the service was warm, which for me are two essential components of a good experience, which we did indeed have.