Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lotus of Siam

One of our favorite lunch spots is Lotus of Siam, a favorite Thai restaurant of locals and tourists alike located in the Commercial Center on East Sahara. It has actually been hailed as one of the best Thai restaurants in North America, so we are lucky to have it here. The chef, Saipin Chutima, has been cooking since she was five, and took a formal apprenticeship under her husband's grandmother at the age of seventeen, despite her earlier desire to work in a beauty shop. All her years of hard work in the kitchen have really paid off and her restaurant is one not to miss.

Usually when we go for lunch I get the lunch buffet ($8.99) because it is full of fresh vegetables, but this time, in the interest of this review, I decided to get another dish called Khao Soi (pictured above, $8.95). This dish reminds me of my quest to find the best version of it in Thailand, and it shows her talent with Northern Thai cooking more than the buffet, which is half comprised of Chinese dishes (a business decision I'm sure, since Thai food is still not amongst one of Americans' favorite cuisines). Khao soi is like a Thai version of traditional Vietnamese pho, but heavier due to the use of coconut milk. There are egg noodles at the bottom of the flavoral broth rather than rice vermicelli, and it is topped with fried egg noodles that give the dish some textural complexity. You can choose to add either chicken or beef to your spicy soup at Lotus, and it is served with a side of lime wedges, red onion, and pickled cabbage. When we were in Thailand two years ago I was introduced to khao soi while traveling to Chiang Mai, the largest city in the North. Khao soi is a popular dish in the North, and though I had read about it in my travel books and inteded on trying it, the first time we had it was accidental. We rented a scooter for the day and traveled to a Mong village outside Chiang Mai where we stopped at a little food hut and ordered what other people were having (see below). We were thoroughly satisfied with our meal and thought we should go to more villages. Then, after getting a $6 hour long massage one day, we stopped in a place called Just Khao Soi, where I imagined I'd be having it for the first time. When it came out we recognized that we had been exposed to it earlier, but were in no way disspointed by the urban version here. I loved how they served it. It came with various accoutrement to season it to your liking, and also a little pitcher of coconut milk so you could add as much as you liked (see below). Though the khao soi at Lotus is delicious and I recommend getting it, Lotus is known for serving the best Thai food in North America, not Thailand (see the puny plate of accoutrement at Lotus below).

One thing you must have at Lotus is the koong sarong ($10.95), shrimp wrapped in bacon and wonton wrapper that are deep fried. They are fantastic and earn their keep on the website's list recommended dishes. The larb ($8.95) here is also the best version you can get in Vegas, with proper acidity and toasted rice powder. There is never any fat left on the plate as well, making it much lighter than other versions. This is what Ian gets everytime we come.
Today's food rating: 9
Today's ambiance: 6.5 (a little better since the recent expansion, but still has a cafeteria like feel)
Would we go back? WE DO, ALL THE TIME

Khao Soi in Mong village

Just Khao Soi in Chiang Mai

Koong Sarong


Khao Soi sides at Lotus

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