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Aug 12, 2006 12:46 AM

Las Vegas Trip Report (Part 2) Lotus of Siam, Nora's Wine Bar, and Hue Thai Aisan Cuisine

Although I was still full from the previous night's dinner, I went to LOS for lunch. Spicy seafood soup (with high quality hunks of red snapper), my beloved hoh mok plar (curry-pasted eggs, cabbage, and catfish. Also a little amuse of green papaya salad with little pieces of fresh, charbroiled shrimp instead of the usual dried crab or shrimp. What can I say? It was all great.

Dinner at Nora's Wine Bar & Osteria at 1031 South Rampart Blvd., the Summerlin cousin of the original on West Tropicana. I've only been able to find one recommendation for it on Chowhound, from Paul Carelli. I'm a little surprised it has gotten so little attention here, as both locations are immensely popular.

I found elements of the place annoying. Reservations seem to be invariably worth only a shorter wait. Upselling begins as soon as you meet your waiter, at least ours, who was rather smug. And they were out of two of the three entrees we ordered.

Nora's offers a huge list, with 60 wines by the glass, and three- and six-ounce pours (with no penalty for the smaller size -- nice). The bar was mobbed, as was the communal dining table.

We ordered the Margherita pizza as an appetizer. The crust was an abomination, and the cheese relatively tasteless and applied too liberally. But I liked the sweet and piquant tomato sauce, and this turned out to be a foreshadowing of things to come. I loved my spaghetti with bottarga, particularly the roasted tomato sauce. My friends both ordered penne alla vodka. One was wild about it, the other kept stealing my spaghetti, as it was the first time she ate bottarga and she was smitten. The vodka sauce was a little creamy to my taste, but it was well prepared.

I had lunch today at Hue, which, despite its name, is primarily Vietnamese. At lunch, bahn mi are the main attraction for takeout orders, but the majority of folks who ate in were eating more substantial fare. I loved my bahn mi, the house special with beef, pork and wonderful sausage. The vegetables were fresh and pristine, and the bread was perfect. Nothing radical or different about Hue's bahn mi's -- just impeccably done. More surprising was the quality of the mango slushy -- it straddled that fine line between juice and dessert admirably.

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  1. Hey, Dave! Sounds like some great chowing. But why wouldn't a place named Hue be Vietnamese, since Hue is a city in Vietnam (one known for its distinctive regional cuisine, at that)?

    Edited to add that I just reread the header with the full name of the restaurant. I guess the owners figure most people won't recognize "Hue" but will feel comfortable with a restaurant that has "Thai" in the name.

    1. Hue does do a few Thai dishes. To further confuse matters, some of the signs there refer to "French Vietnamese" food, although it is in no way fusion food, and almost all the patrons seem to be Vietnamese. I'm highly impressed by the drinks, there. When I went to the Taiwanese place for lunch the other day, I dropped in for a iced "espresso mocha" drink.

      Terrific, and not too sweet.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Dave Feldman

        My new office is near Las Vegas' Chinatown so I will be exploring there a lot at lunch. Today I was headed for Penang but they were closed...are they not open for lunch? Anyway, I ended up at Hue Thai. The menu is indeed extensive..almost overwhelming. Pho would have been the logical choice on such a cold day, and bowls going to other tables looked good. But I was craving greens, and I noticed a special on the menu translated as "Tempura shrimp with green bean" (or something similar; I remember its #31) and the picture showed a pile of greens with the I went with that. It turned out to be quite good: the shrimp are apparently ground into the dish..its really like a fried dumpling with a shrimp taste and some kind of bean, probably mung or something similar. The dumpling is sliced into chunks and served with a big pile of greens: lettuce leaves, mint, and cilantro, as well as a dipping sauce. I finally figured out that you were probably supposed to wrap the various ingredients in the lettuce leaves. yummy, if a little awkward to eat. I had never seen anything quite like that before; I'm not even sure I'm describing it correctly.

        The slushy drinks did look good, but it was way too cold for anything containing that much ice...(You know its cold when a recent transplant from Reno complains about the cold...) .I will be back on a warmer day.....

        1. re: janetofreno

          On a walk past the other day it looks like Penang might be closed for a while - there were remnants of some type of order that had been taped across the handles to the front door. Does anyone have any info about their status?

          As for Pho, it is amazing the options that we now have - about a dozen places within a span of two miles along the Spring Mountain corridor. I have yet to find a favorite since the difference in quality between the places is so subtle, but Pho Hung (5288 Spring Mountain), across the street from the Hue Thai, has a broth that is a little richer and darker than some of the others, and is written in pencil at the top of the list. I envy someone that works in the area and can explore for lunch every day.

          1. re: janetofreno

            The main menu other than the soups is a little hit and miss at Hue's, but worth trying for sure. I usually order the mango slush when I go there -- guaranteed to provide a freeze headache.

          2. re: Dave Feldman

            Banh Mi are "French Vietnamese" food... the French popularized a lot of ingredients and fusion into Vietnam when it was known as French Indochina. Hence the baguette a Banh Mi is traditionally served in and the popularity of pate in Vietnam.

          3. Thanks as always for the report, Dave. Regarding Nora's, perhaps it gets little love here because it is, as you say, annoying. I went once and the food was pretty good, but our server was very smug and irritating, they were out of things -- so it sounds like we had a similar experience. I didn't find the food or the wine compelling enough to justify a return trip, and I sort of wonder if (like a lot of places in Summerlin, it seems) Nora's thrives on being a scene rather than offering a great overall experience.

            2 Replies
            1. re: brisket

              i've yet to eat at the nora's summerlin outpost - i've been to the nora's on flamingo and i've really enjoyed the food and the service....

              1. re: brisket

                And I've only been to the Summerlin branch, where the food was hit and miss but the attitude problem not quite as bad.

              2. Nora's. I don't get it. Seemed very ordinary to me. Just typical Italian, nothing special.