Lotus of Siam - Good, but better than LA places?
I live in North Hollywood and have been to the Thai places in my area and thai town as well. I have not been to thailand, but I worked in an excellent thai restaurant when younger and know it fairly well.
So I am a bit surprised that LOS is said to be *better* than the LA places - even by Jonathan Gold. I mean LOS was great. We had the Yum Woo Sen (clear noodle salad with pork and seafood). The noodles were a great texture, and good amount of seafood and flavor - could use a bit more lime and Nam Pla (fish sauce) but that's my personal taste. We asked for it 10 stars and there was not a speck of red, but then the heat was intense from a generous amount of green fresh chilies. We had fish cakes, which were good, but its not a dish that can really soar. The salmon panang was sophisticated by flavorful and great (from previous comments on the board, thanks!). I was going ot get the bass fillet with chili sauce but opted for the whole catfish fried and smothered in a sweet spicey sauce. It was excellent - well cooked so crispy and not muddy at all. The last item was Pad See Ewe - spicy wide noodles. They were OK, but the others I was with loved it - one who had spent time in thailand said it was as good as anything she had there.
So... despite this, I think the LA places taste better - and of course are dirt cheap. Anyone else make the comparison?
Both LOS and LA places have ups and downs. Part of the challenge for all Thai places here (and Chinese, etc) is that - in general - we expect consistency. And they also have to cater, in many respects, to a non-expat crowd.
I've spent a couple of months all over the country and found that:
- the best places served you what was in season or what could be found in their markets in the morning. If they had a freshly caught catfish, that was the main dish. Beef? Ulmost unknown. It wasn't always great, but almost always intensely different.
- Their flavor punches are incredible. Their heat tolerance is world class. You need really, really great, in season ingredients to do that. We expect Hatch chiles in New Mexico to be perfect at a certain time of the year. Shouldn't we proivde Thai food a bit of seasonality?
- That said, they and the Vietnamese also seem to allow a lot of tableside adjusting. Tables are set with various condiments allowing diners to add more heat, sweet, etc.
Westerners are usually given salt and pepper. It would be interesting to see if this catches on.
In my opinion, LOS is far stronger than any *single* restaurant in Los Angeles. Los Angeles and Chicago have far richer trove of Thai restaurants, and LOS doesn't have the stupendous boat noodles of Sapp or the addictive rice salad of Jitlada. Jonathan Gold was already familiar with the Chutima's cuisine -- they were the original owners of Renu Nakorn, which was JG's favorite Thai restaurant in Los Angeles.
I used to work, in North Hollywood, with a couple of show biz guys who would spend a month at a time in Thailand 2-3 times a year. When I started working with them, they took me over to Samanluang on Sherman Way near Coldwater Canyon. They taught me what to order and how Thais use their utensils.
On Sundays, we would go over to the big temple on Coldwater for the feasts cooked by the monks.
LOS is good and it does have dishes that aren't found in most mainstream American Thai restaurants, however it really isn't a good substitute for Samanluang.
Don't forget that the J. Gold article was written quite a few years ago, and he zeroed in on his special favorites. Things may have changed over the years. We have eaten at LOS only once and weren't overwhelmed, but maybe if we were to visit more often we would be more impressed. Meanwhile, I still yearn for Samanluang in LA . . .