Sunday, March 3, 2013

Lotus of Siam @ 953 East Sahara, Las Vegas

Alright, let's talk Thai;  I could eat Thai food everyday, for every meal, I literally cannot get enough of Thai food into my pie hole. And I would gladly move to Thailand in a heartbeat if it weren't the sauna sweatbox of tropical equator hell, where  I'd look like a tool that had taken a shower in my clothes pretty much whenever I walked outside....  not pretty.  Although, I could find a job where I'm naked all the time, but then I probably couldn't eat all that food so it's glutton's catch 22.

So as a consolation, I've been terribly fortunate to have the best Thai restaurant in the U.S. right in my own back yard, (well, ten miles away but whatever) within the first week of moving here, I had my first experience at Lotus of Siam and my world has never been the same since.  

And what a surprise that here, in this archaic mish mash of tired trashy tourist sin reeking of cheap vodka and regret, there lies a culinary palace in the most unsavory of places, but a landmark nonetheless, (and ever since it's small cameo on Top Chef, the hoards of tourists have increased tenfold, making wait times to over an hour at peak times).  In a rundown shopping center east of the Strip, Chef Saipin creates some the loveliest, humble yet sophisticated dishes that make up for the lack of ambience.

The following are my favorite dishes at Lotus, although there is so much more on the menu. I get too comfortable in my ways and I'll have to and extra effort to expand my horizons and order out of my comfort zone...

Now please, please do not be disparaged by the desolate location and crappy shopping center facade; yes, it is dilapidated and no, your car will not get jacked (many a friend have periodically checked to see if their car's still there) no worries, the homeless keep an eye out for ya!  They've even told me I had a brake light out, which deserved a buck...good people, those cracky addicts...


And once you enter please, please do not be afraid.... this is actually an improvement - just imagine you're back in the 70's... I dunno get creative, life's an adventure, yadda yadda yadda, just shut up and eat..

As you enter through what I can only imagine is akin to walking through the entryway of a Western Union in Compton, you've suddenly matrixed into a crowded, tiny vestibule that is indicative of the original size of the restaurant.  In fact it's recently gone trough an expansion, and when you've managed to squeeze past the herd, the room on the right is the expansion, while directly in front of you is the original dining room.  And the interior, although updated, has the exact the same finishes: green carpeting dark, mahogany wood chair rails, brass railings and oddly scaled glass drop's like a time machine into retro...without the chic... which I have grown to absolutely love, like visiting grandma's house in the not so nice neighborhood during the Holidays.

Moo Dad Deaw (Thai style pork jerky): deep fried marinated Pork + Spicy Sauce:

Apart from your typical Thai Apps, (Shrimp Toast, Stuffed Chicken Wings)  The Moo Dad Deaw is an awesome starter, akin to a Bar snack item, to be eaten with a nice cold beer.

These succulent, juicy, tender pieces of pork are the precursor to chicken fingers, you can easily pop these suckers one after one in your mouth; as a good accompaniment, have some Sticky Rice to go with it; go ahead wreck your diet, you weren't serious about those New Year's resolutions anyways...

Braised Short Rib with Penang Curry:

My favorite curry dish on the menu, which isn't you normal curry dish:  the Braised Short Rib with Penang Curry - this luxurious dish has all the depth and richness laid into it's protein not usually paired with Thai cuisine but definitely makes sense.  The hearty Short Rib goes so well with Penang, which is so good, Chef Saipin add Cognac into the Curry which elevates it to whole different level.  I bypass all the other curries cuz I know this one has the best flavor profile out of all of them.

Pad See Ew: Stir fried broad flat Noodle + Black Soy Sauce + Egg + Chinese Broccoli + Beef

Lotus of Siam has made me a Pad See Ew snob, ever since that first time I ate here, the quality and technique that is executed here is so superb; I honestly have to remind myself that it's not supposed to be this good!  First, the Noodles have that perfect texture; mochi chewiness but firm enough to achieve maximum noodle satisfaction.  Combine it with the Egg, Beef, Broccoli and sweet Soy, it's such an addictive dish that's light yet savory with just a hint of Black Pepper to tighten the palate...just yum.

Crab Fried Rice: Fried Rice + Crabmeat + Onions + Tomatoes + Eggs

Another all time favorite of mine:  Crab Fried Rice.  The way that Lotus makes this dish is pretty unbelievable, the rice is incredibly fluffy with a light infusion of crab broth.  I love finding morsels of Crab and Egg as if it's a treasure hunt and there's always a big hunk of Tomato wedge that's seems so out of scale with everything else that's on the plate.  But, as I've ordered this dish consecutively on numerous occasions, it's become a endearing and integral component that adds acidity to an otherwise aromatic, subtle dish.  It is a must-get item on the menu, but be warned, it's not an all out powerhouse of strong flavors, so you may want to order it as an earlier course before the heavier dishes arrive to your table.

As dining experiences go, it's all over the place except for the food.  And in the end, with moderate prices, I can't really say that anything else affect the fact that Lotus has the best Thai food I've ever had.  And in a way, the wonkiness of it all is almost a ironic metaphor for Las Vegas; for just a mile away, you pay exorbitant prices for hyped up mediocre food in most places while you could just come to Lotus of Siam, have an unbelievable feast and live with the fact that you didn't pay last mortgage on interior design fees and bloated real estate prices...

Looks aren't everything in life honey....oh and on the left is their homemade Limeade-best drink ever to cool your burning hot tongue!

Ratings (Out of Five Stars)
Food:          5+++
Ambience:  2 (much improved hole in the wall)
Service:       4.75 (they're always so busy, it can't be helped)

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