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Vegas - Lotus of Siam review

biondanonima Feb 7, 2008 05:59 AM

Wednesday, February 06, 2008. BF and I checked out of our hotel this morning around 11am and headed directly to Lotus of Siam. We got there around 11:20, and though the location leaves a LOT to be desired, we were reassured by the crowd that was already forming near the door. We were seated immediately and decided to peruse the buffet, just to see what was being offered. As I had read on the boards, the buffet selections looked pretty generic (though well prepared) – pad thai, lots of fried things, chicken curry, hot and sour soup. BF was lured by the siren call of fried stuff, but I managed to rein him in by promising to order the stuffed chicken wings. The staff was obviously pleased when we requested the regular menu. I followed the sage advice of a few board members and ordered the stuffed wings, crisp rice with sour sausage, green chile dip, kang hung lay (garlic/pork stew), khao soi with chicken, and the fried pork belly with Chinese broccoli and oyster sauce. BF was appalled at the amount of dishes, but all of you hounds were right – the portions are not huge (especially by Vegas standards), so 6 dishes for 2 people was plenty but not ridiculously excessive. We stuck with spice level 5, just to be safe.

The crispy rice came out first, so we dug right in. Interesting dish, and definitely not what I was expecting. The rice is deep fried, so each individual grain is crispy – I was expecting something more like chinese fried rice but with crisp edges or something. The dish was extremely sour, although the sweet slivers of red onion on top helped to cut the tang a bit. I felt it was a bit unbalanced, but VERY addictive – something about that sour crunch kept me coming back for more. The next dish out was the sausage-stuffed fried chicken wings, which our server kindly supplemented with a few of the garlic-pepper wings from the buffet. The stuffed wings were outrageously crunchy, with a tasty filling. After the sour rice, they seemed a little bland to me, but BF LOVED them. We both really enjoyed the garlic-pepper wings from the buffet and I would consider getting the buffet if I were just in the mood to pig out on wings. Next up, chile dip, served with a few pork rinds and a variety of blanched vegetables. Holy sh*t, this was spicy. I am not a spice wuss by any stretch (I put habanero sauce on just about everything), and this was killing me. It was very tasty, but I couldn’t eat much of it because of the spice. The vegetables were not as crisp as I like, and there were only about 5 tiny pieces of pork rind, so I put some on rice, which helped temper the heat a bit and allowed me to actually taste the chiles instead of the heat.

Thus sated with appetizers, we turned our attention to the entrees. Each of these was completely delicious, period. The kang hung lay was not nearly as garlicky as I was expecting, but the tender pork was covered in a sauce of rich, earthy spices with just the right amount of heat in the sauce, so I didn’t miss the garlic. It almost tasted more like an Indian preparation than a Thai dish. The crisp pork belly was just over the top – deep fried crispy-tender fatty pork pieces with plenty of fresh Chinese broccoli in a subtle sauce (the sauce was NOTHING like Chinese oyster sauce – it was not thick at all, and only slightly sweet). Each element in this dish worked perfectly together (salty-crispy-fatty-sweet-bitter-fresh), but to get the correct effect you had to make sure to spear a chunk of pork with each bite of greens. Wonderful as these both were, however, they didn’t hold a candle to the khao soi. I love coconut milk sauces in any case, but this was the ultimate – thick, rich, coconutty goodness with just a bit of spice and these wonderful, long, chewy noodles to soak it up. The few pieces of chicken in the bowl were tender and tasty, but really all I wanted was the noodles and that INCREDIBLE sauce. Once we finished the noodles, we took all the rice we had left and put it in the sauce bowl to soak up what was left (though I would have just drunk it if I hadn’t had rice handy). SO good!

Though we were stuffed to the gills by this point, I tried to order the mango with sticky rice – sadly, mangoes are out of season so I was out of luck. Next time. I would love to work my way through this menu a few dishes at a time. The khao soi, kang hung lay, pork belly and sour rice I would order again and again, but I think I would skip the fried wings and green chile dip. Having lived in Santa Fe, I am very partial to New Mexico style green chile preparations and I didn’t feel this measured up (excessive heat notwithstanding). The fried wings were fine, and if you love fried stuff they were excellent, but I’d rather save stomach space for noodles.

Once I get back to NYC and lose the 10 lbs I gained on this trip, I will be sure to head to Sriphaphai and post a SMACKDOWN review of LoS vs New York’s finest. I don’t know that I’ll find all the same dishes at Sriphaphai, but I’ll do my best. Right now, though, I’d say Lotus of Siam is at least as good as Sriphaphai and maybe better. We shall see!!!!!!!

  1. k
    kjs Feb 7, 2008 07:20 AM

    hmmmm....good thing you didn't visit at dinner time and go for a post-dinner stroll in the area !!!

    1. glazebrookgirl Feb 7, 2008 10:59 AM

      I look forward to the SMACKDOWN review, as many here have debated the relative merits of each restaurant. Thanks again for all your reviews!

      1. d
        Dave Feldman Feb 7, 2008 11:07 PM

        You ordered the wrong freakin' wings! Good for your waiter for dragging some of the garlic wings to the table from the buffet. They aren't always hot on the buffet but they are worth ordering from the menu. The soups are usually good at the buffet and some of the specials are, too.

        But I have to commend you and the BF for giving it your all and ordering six dishes.

        The only real surprise to me is that the crispy rice w/sour sausage wasn't balanced. That's unusual.

        The green chili dip isn't everyone's cup of tea. It's the perfect wake-me-up for a party of six, so everyone can have a few bites.

        You wouldn't believe how much garlic is in the pork stew. The garlic is introduced in several stages of doneness, all the way down to totally macerated.

        I'm glad you loved the khao soi. Bill, the owner, drives to Pasadena, California to get the hand-pulled noodles for the khao soi. The pickled vegetables and lime are hte perfect accompaniments. There are khao sois in New York but the ones I've tried haven't even approached LOS's. I don't think Sripraphai has it or any of the stuff on the northern menu.

        Next time, be sure and get the sticky rice with coconut "ice cream" even if mangoes aren't available. Not quite as good, but still over-the-top wonderful.

        Your posts are a delight.

        13 Replies
        1. re: Dave Feldman
          biondanonima Feb 8, 2008 07:16 AM

          LOL Dave, I really wasn't all that interested in the stuffed wings, but BF truly was about 1 second away from succumbing to all the fried goodness on the buffet, so I had to make sure to have SOMETHING on our table that was breaded and deep fried. I do feel lucky that our waiter brought over the buffet wings for us to try, though, because they were FIERCE (and piping hot, since we got there right at 11:30).

          You're probably right about the green chili dip being good for a larger party - it's not a huge portion but since it's SO spicy, a little goes a long way. I think we ate about 1/3 of it, so it would have been perfect for 6.

          I will DEFINITELY get the sticky rice next time, regardless of mango availability - I was annoyed with myself when we left for not getting it. So annoyed, in fact, that I made BF drive us over to Luv-it Frozen Custard for a consolation ice cream. He got a sundae made with their vanilla, which was excellent, but I tried the flavors of the day (pineapple and peach), which was a big mistake. To quote BF: "these flavors taste like urinal cakes." Not really sure how he knows what urinal cakes taste like, but the peach and pineapple weren't good, that I can vouch for!

          1. re: biondanonima
            The Dairy Queen Feb 8, 2008 07:41 AM

            Sorry, don't mean to pull this astray, but I thought Luv-it Custard wasn't open in "winter." Is it open now?

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen
              biondanonima Feb 8, 2008 07:45 AM

              It was open on Wednesday of this week, so 2 days ago. They're not open Sun/Mon, though.

            2. re: biondanonima
              d
              Dave Feldman Feb 8, 2008 06:57 PM

              I don't think the chili dip is THAT spicy, but it ain't maple syrup, that's for sure.

              I'm with you on Luv-It flavors, at least the one I tried. I find that caramel goes better with the vanilla custard than fudge or chocolate. Unless things have changed recently, it's open until 10:00 p.m. on Tues-Thurs, and until 11 on Friday and Saturday night.

              1. re: Dave Feldman
                The Dairy Queen Feb 13, 2008 10:10 AM

                Thanks for that, Dave. We ordered from the appetizer menu a dish described as "pork jerky," which was supposed to come with a spicy dipping sauce. It was wonderfully, decadently delicious, but the sauce was red and not all that spicy. We chickened out when asked about heat and asked for 4 to 5 (I wish we'd gone higher--six, maybe), so, we wondered if they substituted red dipping sauce for green? The red sauce just wasn't that spicy...

                Or, did we order the wrong thing altogether?

                (Full report to follow later, btw...)

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen
                  d
                  Dave Feldman Feb 13, 2008 06:02 PM

                  Yes, I agree that the sauce isn't that spicy at all (folks who can only handle a one can easily eat it). The pork jerky isn't a big favorite of mine; I prefer the beef.

                  I don't know how long you are in LV, but if you are going back and want to get in touch with me, you're welcome to email. Can't wait to read your report.

                  1. re: Dave Feldman
                    The Dairy Queen Feb 16, 2008 07:16 AM

                    What a kind offer, Dave. Sadly, we were already home in-10 degree weather by the time you posted--nevertheless, Vegas is an easy winter getaway for us (for us, the mid-60's LV temps seemed balmy--we swam in the outdoor pools every day--compared to the sub-zero temps at home. We had to chuckled at the "polar bear plunge" news story in the LVRJ http://www.lvrj.com/living/15333091.html) so, there will always be a next time for us.

                    We'll have to try that beef next time and I'm convinced that we somehow got a red chili dip instead of the green one everyone's talking about --even brisket below says it's the hottest thing he's ever tasted. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/487165#3402070

                    I posted my full Vegas report, including some photos of my visit to LOS (including many of the dishes discussed in this thread because, of course, it inspired me to try many things) here http://www.chowhound.com/topics/489870

                    Side note--we couldn't find Luv It Custard. I tried to find it just by sight--didn't think to bring an address. Is it not visible from the Strip?

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                      d
                      Dave Feldman Feb 17, 2008 04:56 PM

                      No, Luv-It isn't visible from the strip. If success in the food biz involves location, location, location, I don't know how it still lives. Luv-It does have a website -- 505 E. Oakey Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89104 -- it's sort of across from the Stratosphere (i.e., on the other side of the strip).

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen
                        d
                        Dave Feldman Feb 17, 2008 04:59 PM

                        I'm in Las Vegas now and had a fabulous special -- a beef curry that was clearly made from the same beef as used in the BBQ, but marinated overnight. I think it was grilled and then cooked over low heat in a wonderful, rich sauce. It tasted like the best beef stew in existence. But my heart still belongs to the hoh mok sea bass -- right now, that's my go-to dish at LOS.

                        Can't wait to read your report.

                        1. re: Dave Feldman
                          q
                          QAW Feb 17, 2008 08:19 PM

                          The beef curry is sublime. I first had it as a "Christmas present" on the house when placing a large carry-out order back in December. Their list of non-menu specialties is long enough to fill a full menu page these days. In fact, one could do a memorable tasting evening strictly from items that are not on the printed menu yet.

                          1. re: QAW
                            d
                            Dave Feldman Feb 18, 2008 01:04 AM

                            I agree, QAW. Five of us plowed through about 15 dishes tonight, about half of which were non-menu items. The beef curry tonight was a little different than the night before, with different garnishes. I'll ask Bill tomorrow about why so many items are usually available but still off-menu. Some of them, such as the beef curry, require preparation the day before. The brisket is marinated the day before, for example. There might be supply issues in some cases, especially with fish.

                            Saipin knows that I'm mad for hoh mok preparations, and made a hoh mok halibut tonight. I think I still prefer the sea bass, but it was fabulous. We also had a crispy pork chop tonight (cut into slices not unlike the barbecued beef, but even thinner), that Bill said is often eaten with the green chili dip.

                            If you might be interested in a meal at LOS while I'm in town, shoot me an email (address is on my profile).

              2. re: Dave Feldman
                Rubee Feb 8, 2008 08:20 PM

                Hi Dave, how have you been?

                That's great to know - thanks for that info on the hand-pulled noodles. I'll be sure to order the khao soi next time we get to LOS. We just moved to Phoenix so hopefully that will be more often!

                1. re: Dave Feldman
                  janetofreno Feb 18, 2008 01:47 PM

                  I don't know how I've managed to eat at LOS seven or eight times and never had the khao soi before...man was that a delight!!! We must have it next time we eat there....

                  btw, I enjoyed my lunch there with several hounds today...especially enjoyed the khao soi but also really enjoyed the green chili and mushroom dips. Is my tolerance getting better or is it getting less spicy?? Anyway, enjoyed it.

                  I had to leave before all the dishes were served, and before I could have a much-craved second helping of the khao soi. Then I went back to the office and the first THREE appointments after lunch no showed!!!! Next time I'm just going to have them page me when they are ready for me......

                  Thanks for the invite, Dave!!

                2. Honeychan Feb 8, 2008 01:50 AM

                  Thanks for your wonderful report! I've -got- to try the khao soi now that I know what it is! I live in Vegas and can eat at LOS as often as I get to that scary mall.. (*shudders* I cannot stand that mall!) So, hearing how yummy and coconutty that dish is, has me raring to go back ASAP!

                  Sorry that mangoes were out of season for your desert! I have late-night dreams about how delicious that mango and sticky rice is!

                  1. The Dairy Queen Feb 8, 2008 04:49 AM

                    Thank you for your terrific post--I think we'll just order everything you ordered...except, we'll get the right wings... And, maybe ask them to pull back on the heat on the green chile dip...Oh, and we'll get the coconut ice cream... Thank you for making it easy!

                    ~TDQ

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                      Debbie W Feb 8, 2008 05:57 AM

                      I'm not sure they can adjust the heat on the green chile dip. I think the menu says something like "very spicy only" (I'm paraphrasing). I'm scared to try it. Usually I like fairly spicy food but am finding at LOS that I can only handle a 4 or so. Definitely get the sticky rice with coconut ice cream, if mangoes are still out of season when you go.

                      1. re: Debbie W
                        biondanonima Feb 8, 2008 07:20 AM

                        Debbie is right - there's a sentence on the menu under the green chile dip that says something like "good for people who like very spicy food." The waitress told me that it's good for women who want to lose weight, because it's just vegetables and no rice or oil - do you think she was trying to tell me something? :) I think it's probably good for weight loss because a) you can't eat much of it and b) it incinerates the entire contents of your stomach.

                        1. re: biondanonima
                          The Dairy Queen Feb 8, 2008 07:42 AM

                          Then I'll order a case of the green sauce in jars to go! I'm just so intrigued by the sauce, so, we'll see if we have room for it.

                          ~TDQ

                          1. re: biondanonima
                            j
                            Jase Feb 8, 2008 07:49 AM

                            Another great review. Thanks!

                            Renu Nakorn in Southern California was the original place of the current LOS owners and they served a green chili dip that I loved. But they must have tweaked the recipe or something, when I had it at LOS, I was almost defeated. I love hot stuff too and I barely finished it at LOS, but it was so good, I fought through the heat. My wife, who is an admitted heat wimp, loved the flavors so much that she too was fighting against the heat just to taste more. Agree that they also don't give you enough pork rinds.

                            Renu even after they left, gave you plenty of pork rinds. The salty and fatty crunchiness compliments it really well and seems to temper the heat just right for me.

                            1. re: Jase
                              biondanonima Feb 8, 2008 08:36 AM

                              When I was talking to the waitress and commented about how hot the dip was, she said something about how some chiles are hotter than others (of course) and that it can be hard to control the heat. i wonder if maybe their chile supplier in Vegas just has hotter chiles?

                              In any case, they definitely don't give you enough pork rinds - also, the few they gave me were such tiny, broken pieces that they weren't large or sturdy enough to dip. They should head over to the mexican grocery store to stock up - the hispanic groceries around here have AWESOME chicharrones!

                              1. re: biondanonima
                                j
                                Jase Feb 8, 2008 09:16 AM

                                Heh, I actually stopped at Renu one time and got a double order of the dip to go. Swung by a carniciera and picked up a bunch of chicharrone. Went home, popped open a beer and went to town.

                                Renu is also better than LOS at acommodating my request to hold cilantro on the dop. But otherwise LOS does a good job holding cilantro on everything else.

                                I'll have to consider doing that next time in Vegas. You can never have too many snacks in the hotel room. I think that dip is potent enough, I'd have no problem letting it sit out for for a few hours.

                                I've got two 5 day trips in the next two months. Your great reviews will go into the data bank. LOS, Rosemary and Bouchon are in my regular rotation anyway.

                                Hope the SHOT show was good for the bf. I know several people who went but yet to hear from them. Except for one gal who I took to Rosemary's at a previous trip. She ate at the bar by herself on this past week and texted me the butternut soup was wonderful.

                            2. re: biondanonima
                              b
                              brisket Feb 15, 2008 01:14 PM

                              I think that green chile dip is probably about the spiciest thing I've ever tasted. It's insane.

                        2. m
                          masstech Feb 8, 2008 03:15 PM

                          Thanks for another very thoughtful review.

                          1. t
                            torta basilica Feb 17, 2008 05:45 PM

                            How come no one is talking about the wine pairings they do? That made an amazing restaurant experience absolutely stupendous. I love telling them to go for it...

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: torta basilica
                              susancinsf Feb 18, 2008 06:34 PM

                              not to worry, I will be doing just that when I have a birthday celebration there next week! Can't wait...

                              1. re: torta basilica
                                d
                                Dave Feldman Feb 19, 2008 07:39 AM

                                I wouldn't be shocked if you have such a report real soon, t.b.

                                1. re: Dave Feldman
                                  Ruth Lafler Feb 22, 2008 10:51 AM

                                  LOL, Dave! When such report appears, I'll comment on my three consecutive delicious meals at LOS this week, but I will say that when we went back for dinner the second night (an early dinner after a long lunch), I was reading the menu and said "I shouldn't even be hungry, and my mouth is watering." Now I'm craving Thai food, and I'm sure I'm going to be disappointed by anything I can find here.

                                  Anyway, the wine list is amazing -- don't just take my word for it, take Robert Parker's.

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