Food: Las Vegas and Travels09 Apr 2010 06:40 pm

My parents have been in Thailand since January. They go for a few months every year, and although I would love to get over and visit them every year, it’s not possible. So instead I Skype periodically with them and hear about all the awesome food they are eating. Even decades after our first visit to the country, my dad is still astounded at the low prices and the deliciousness of every dish. We’ve really lost touch with freshness and flavour in many of our eateries here in North America, I’m afraid. This is especially evident when one compares food court food.

Although I cannot spare three weeks to make a good trip out of going to Bangkok, I can spare a few days off to go to Vegas. Luckily, one of the best Thai restaurants in the United States (so “they” say) lives there. Some say the best in the western hemisphere. Although I urged my parents to go on their last trip to Las Vegas, neither they nor I have had time to go until this past trip.

After drinking beer in the airport lounge in Edmonton (beer was flowing heavily there following Canada’s Olympic gold medal win in hockey) and snacking on little on the plane, Evan, Mike and I were ravenous upon touchdown in Vegas. I grabbed the rental car and we were off to find Lotus of Siam.

The King, and The King!

L.O.S lives in a strip mall east of the strip on Sahara Avenue, beside an Indian restaurant, a showgirl’s wig store and various Korean BBQ and Japanese joints. (And near to a notorious swingers club!)

I’ve heard the line ups are long and you would be crazy to show up with out a reservation, but luck was on our side on Sunday night. We had to wait a mere 10 minutes for a table, in a small waiting room where a single photo hung of the King of Thailand with The King: Elvis. That photograph blew my mind.

This restaurant has been in Las Vegas for a decade, and is different than most Thai restaurants you will find because they specialize in street food and northern Thai food. You’ll still see old favourites on the menu, but there are many other items you may be hard pressed to find even in some areas of Thailand unless your Thai language skills are strong.

We ordered tom klong pla-krob to start, which is a seafood soup enhanced with “smoked sheet fish.” They were out of the Cambodian smoked fish, so we got the soup with catfish instead. The soup was still great, with delicate fish and an acidic tang. I can only imagine what it would be like with the additional smoky flavour of the special fish.

Additionally, we got kang ka noon; a spicy jackfruit curry (on the left). I found this dish lacking a bit. The jackfruit wasn’t as sweet as I hoped, and didn’t exhibit a sweet/sour dichotomy as I had hoped. It did have an interesting texture, but was lacking depth.

We also got sticky rice and Northern larb (sometimes known as lahp.) It was minced pork, with herbs and dried red chilis. The thing that makes it different is that it does not contain lime juice, as other (ie., Laotian) lahps do.

Our dishes came out in order of heat, ending with the nam prik noom or green chili dip. It looks a lot of a tomatillo salsa, right? It’s roasted green chilis mixed with garlic and onion, served with cooling steamed vegetables like cabbage, asparagus, green beans and cucumbers. It was super spicy, but not in a hot wings kind of way where you can only taste heat. There were some interesting flavours going on. I really appreciated the vegetables.

The restaurant is currently overhauling its decor and adding a wine room to support their enormous wine list. The restaurant itself was huge, and I couldn’t imagine how incredibly busy it could get.

We started off slow and then ramped up the heat. Although my dad likes to ask for things Bangkok Street Hot at Edmonton restaurants, I don’t think I would recommend it at Lotus of Siam. They’re serious about spice. Our server asked us what level of heat we wanted for each dish, applying the unuseful scale of 1-10. Then he said “10 can make Thai people cry.” So we stuck to an upper limit of 7, which I found hotter than most four chili dishes at restaurants here at home, but still edible. (Can restaurants find a better way to rate heat, please? PLEASE?)

Overall, I really enjoyed our visit. We seemed to order well, too, since I enjoyed almost all of our dishes. It was a great way to start the trip.

Lotus of Siam
953 E. Sahara Ave
Las Vegas, Nevada
(702) 735-3033

One Response to “Lotus of Siam, Las Vegas”

  1. on 11 Apr 2010 at 12:21 pm rocketBouchard

    I need more dishes. Sounds interesting though. On the heat thing. I assume that the problem is relative heat. As you noted in your post, Edmontonians don’t really understand about hot. So instead of trying to figure out the eater’s understanding of hot (which is impossible), let’s pick static things to compare to. For example,

    3: Frank’s Red Hot
    6: Eat a raw habaƱero

    other things: pickled jalapenos (maybe pick a brand), green chilies, dried chilis etc. etc.

    On the other hand, there is a unit for measuring food hotness (from science!), so we could all get used to that. The Scoville Scale (I may have the spelling wrong and I’m lazy). Essentially, we need a food hotness standards organization and we all need to know what our hot number is. I am VERY tired of nuclear hotwings or Thai food being only warm because the douche who wrote the menu or makes the food doesn’t know from hot.

    PS: I have a BUNCH of mexican chilies to play with if you’re interested. I find the “chili powder” that they peddle here a little pathetic, so I’m looking for something better.