Monday, May 2, 2011

Lotus of Siam, Las Vegas

If you're a fan of Thai food and have ever been to Las Vegas, you've probably heard of the Lotus of Siam. Tucked away on the back side of a particularly unpromising-looking Sahara Avenue strip mall, this unassuming restaurant has been heralded, by Gourmet magazine, as the "single best Thai restaurant in North America."

I discovered the Lotus on a visit to Las Vegas a few years ago, after reading rave reviews online. My sister and I searched out it's remote location and waited in line, with an assortment of locals and sharp-suited businessmen, for their popular lunch buffet. The restaurant was so small and the food so good that the line of eager patrons stretched out into the parking lot for the duration of our stay. Buffet philosophy seems to run in favor of quantity over quality, but the Lotus breaks with this tradition, offering a limited selection of excellent dishes.  I was particularly impressed by their Pad See Ew (rich, flavorful and not too oily) and their Green Curry (perfectly spiced and slightly sweet), and it's a testament to their food that the memory of this meal brought me back all these years later!

In the time since my last visit, the Lotus has expanded, taking over what was a wig store next door and adding an impressive array of German wines in a glass-fronted wine 'cellar'.  They've also opened a satellite location in New York City, but the original spot is as unpretentious as it ever was. I arrived five minutes before opening time and joined the growing line out front. Inside, the same small-but-excellent buffet awaited us. For the sake of the blog (of course!), I sampled a bit of everything but my favorites were the Pad Thai, the Green Curry and the Ginger Tofu.  It's hard to explain what sets the Lotus' fare above that of other Thai establishments, but the flavors are clear and distinct, the noodles are perfectly cooked, and each dish is always fresh and never bland, over-salted or oily.

The dishes on the buffet change each time (though some, like Pad Thai and rice, are standard), but there's usually something to please every palate - from the savory orange chicken, or sweet and sticky garlic chicken wings, to the spicy yellow or green curries. For dessert, there are orange slices, glistening chunks of fresh melon, or sinfully delicious 'fried bananas' (banana slices dusted with sweet coconut, wrapped in crispy spring roll wrappers and fried).

Sadly, my only experience is with their lunch buffet, but I've heard amazing things about their dinner service and their Northern Thai dishes in particular.  Reservations are recommended for dinner and the prices, for Las Vegas, are surprisingly reasonable. They're known for their incredibly spicy dishes - which you can order on a heat scale from 1 to 10 - so you may want to defer to your server's expertise if you're ordering anything hot!

Accolades for the Lotus - there was even a signed thank-you from Drew Barrymore!

I'm always a bit suspicious of over-hyped eateries, but in the case of the Lotus, you can believe what you read. Perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit that, over the course of three trips to Las Vegas, I've visited the Lotus four times! The food is consistently good, the price is excellent and it's nice to see that, in spite of their growing success, the Lotus hasn't shed its humble, hardworking reputation as a local (and global!) favorite. If you find yourself in Las Vegas, brave the backstreets and give this hidden gem a try.

Lotus of Siam on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Cool, I haven't been to Lotus yet, I will definitely put it on my list for my next Vegas trip. I love good Thai food!