Lotus of Siam, a Thai restaurant in Las Vegas, has been lauded as the best Thai restaurant in the country by some of the most well-known critics around. It is known for it's excruciating attention to detail with sauces and depth of flavor, its expansive German wine list, and its low-key, unpretentious approach.
I'd been aware of Lotus of Siam for years but it didn't come to the front of my consciouness until recently when it seemed that everyone around me was talking about LOS.
Most notably, I have a good friend who went to Las Vegas solely to eat at LOS. She ate there five times in three days, then happily returned to San Francisco raving about the food and the wine list.
And last week I thumbed through Jay Rayner's new entertaining book The Man Who Ate the World. In his chapter about Las Vegas, he explores the question of whether Lotus of Siam is the best Thai restaurant in America. His conclusion:
"Either Thai restaurants in the U.S. are staggeringly poor, or Lotus of Siam, an admirable restaurant serving very good food at reasonable prices, had been hyped beyond all human understanding. I tend toward the latter." Rayner continues on to say that nevertheless, he enjoyed his meal at LOS more than any other in Las Vegas.
Obviously, Lotus of Siam incites very strong feelings among food lovers and I put it at the top of my list when going to Las Vegas last weekend. While a group of girlfriends were shopping and laying by the pool, I grabbed a cab to Lotus of Siam, located in a strip mall about $10 away from the strip.
At lunchtime, LOS offers a buffet which I bypassed and asked for a menu. Armed with advice from others, I ordered the Northern style pork larb, the nam prik noom (a mixture of chilis, garlic, onion and tomato made into a dip for veggies and pork skin) and the Northern style tom kah kai. And just when I thought I couldn't eat anymore, I ordered the mango sticky rice.
The dishes that came out of the kitchen were outstanding, and I would return in a minute. The flavors were bright and amazing, and I enjoyed every bite. There were a couple of things that I would do differently, however. Next time, I will go with others so that I can taste many more dishes. And next time, I will have a conversation with the server about the spice levels. When at most restaurants, I make sure that the server knows that I like spice, and that even though I have a "vanilla face" I like things hot. But here I didn't do that -- I let my guard down and the food didn't come out spicy enough for me (it was too spicy, however, for a friend who ate my leftovers and had to gulp down gallons of water afterward).
Is this the best Thai restaurant in the country? I have no idea, and am in no way qualified to answer that. Will I go back? In a heartbeat.
Reasons to go to Lotus of Siam when in Vegas:
1) It's off the strip, inexpensive, and a good respite from the chaos.
2) The wine list is enormous and a rare exploration into German wines.
3) The depth of flavor in every dish is well thought out and wonderful.
4) The mango sticky rice. Next time I'm in Vegas, I will go there just for this dish.
5) Rare dishes that are hard to find in North America, with a focus on Northern style, Issan dishes.
6) Enormous menu that guarantees you can eat differently many many times. Any level of Thai eater will be happy -- beginner or expert.
Lotus of Siam
953 E Sahara Ave, Las Vegas
Open for lunch Monday - Friday