Snapshot from Vegas #3

Lotus of Siam

otus of Siam is the brainchild of renowned chef Saipin Chutima, formerly of Renu Nakorn, a Thai food restaurant in Norwalk, California. Saipin Chutima's cooking, revered for its authentic northern Thai style known as Issan, features fresh-from-scratch sauces and curries resulting in distinct, lip-numbing concoctions. After many years at and much acclaim for Renu Nakorn, Chef Chutima and her husband sold the restaurant and moved on, believing there was more opportunity for growth in the city of Las Vegas. In the year 2000 the couple bought Lotus of Siam, a Thai restaurant located in an unassuming strip mall east of the famed Las Vegas Strip, about 3/4 of a mile from the Sahara. While some might think choosing a locale off the strip was a risky endeavour, over the next eight years fame and praise continued to follow Chef Chutima and her cooking, whose reviewers couldn't get enough of her "addictive" samplings.

We first heard about Lotus of Siam, or LoS as many refer to it as, from the Power of the Internet. The name kept popping up in post after post on Las Vegas forums and it took me a second to actually track down what the "LoS" stood for and more importantly where it was. To get there from our hotel we had to pile into a cab where we were surprised to learn that our driver had never heard of the place. Despite our bellhop's directions and insistence that Las Vegas' best chefs can be found eating there late-night, our cabbie, who was very familiar with this particular strip mall for whatever reason, was completely unaware of the famed restaurant's existence.

"Lotus of Siam? Nope, never heard of it."

Even though locals, top chefs, Chowhounders, and some of the country's biggest reviewers can't seem to get enough the place? Huh, perhaps this was one of the key secrets to its success, the fact that it wasn't totally known?

Well, upon our arrival we were able to see why. From the outside, it's not a stretch to say that one might be certifiably clueless as to what she was about to walk in to. Clearly, the outside didn't scream "A-Mazing!" However upon entering, we couldn't help but feel astounded by the amount of praise framed in the restaurant's entryway:

Nearly every inch of the three walls represented in the waiting area boasts numerous local and national articles hailing praises for LoS and Chef Chutima, including a 2008 James Beard Nomination, and several (and I mean several) articles from Gourmet Magazine, deeming the establishment the "single best Thai restaurant in Northern America." It was almost like walking into a museum.

Hum... "single best Thai restaurant in Northern America" located in a strip mall nearest to a karaoke bar? Yep, sounds right up our alley.

Yes, it appeared from the beginning that this place would be our diamond in the rough.

We spent the next two hours tickling our senses with dish after dish, including one of the hottest red curries that's ever passed these lips (and after time spent in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and too many Portland joints to jot down, that's saying something.) We felt indulged without being overindulged and after a few days on the Strip, the scene was completely refreshing because there really wasn't a scene; just a bunch of people, locals and foodies alike, sitting down, getting down, and grubbing on some Thai food. Was it the best single Thai food we've had in North America? Well, not quite but it was delicious and we surely enjoyed the break from the usual Vegas noise.

Best Dressed Award:
While service was fine and the food was great, I'd have to say our favorite part of the meal was the atmosphere. It delighted me when I read about those uppity eaters who left the establishment before even entering it because of the appearance on the outside. Those diners who scoffed at the location and turned around, expecting something a bit more refined. What those poor souls don't seem to know is that in our experience, abroad and otherwise, some of the best food to be found is in the least expected places. Lotus of Siam is just one such place that proves the saying, "you can't judge a book by its cover" is oh, so true.

Breath of Fresh Air:
It felt good to finally be able to wear shorts to dinner. We were in the desert, after all. Despite the never ending accolades found in the entry of the restaurant, the unassuming and casual atmosphere makes you feel like you could be eating at any Thai food joint, and the prices on the menu are reasonable enough to convince you of the same. Why yes, as a matter of fact, I would like another beer to go along with my meal.

What's still lingering on our tongues:
The Moo dad deaw, or pork Thai jerky, marinated pieces of deep fried pork, served with homemade spicy sauce.

Lotus of Siam
953 E. Sahara Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89104
(702) 735-3033
Reservations recommended, please call at least one day in advance.


Amy said...

So I am wondering if you made it to a little place off-strip called Hash House A-Go-Go?? My FAVORITE Vegas breakfast and lunch place EVER!

Ali and Evan said...

Um, NO! But now looking at their menu, I wish we had! Next time, next time...