LOS - What Star Level do you order and why
When I first visited LOS 10 years ago I found myself sweating and crying at 4 stars out of ten. Mind you I still ate everything, but it burned me up. I backed off to three stars and that seemed fine.
But my last five visits, going back to November, 2012, the heat has been missing almost completely at four stars, even for food I had eaten in previous years. One of these was a "swamped" time but the others were times when they weren't completely full.
Have they "americanized" the heat level, so that five or six stars is needed to equate to back-in-the-day 3-4 stars?
Is this toning down or inconsistency due to expanded size and increased cooking staff (with perhaps less supervision in kitchen)?
What stars do you order (where in general is your heat tolerance outside LOS?) and have you had consistent results over the years?
I now order 10 stars. I think most of this is that I have become acclimated to spicier food and a little part is that the ratings have become diluted. It's not a macho thing with me - I just generally prefer the flavors that way for any food that is meant to be spicy.
When I'm ordering for my own taste, I usually ask for a 9, but I have tried zero (yes, not one chili pepper) to 10. If there has been a trend over the past 15 years, it has probably been to the food at whatever spice level being slightly less hot, but I'm guessing that the main reason is that you have become acclimated to spicier food.
It isn't a science by any means.
I once arranged a banquet for 16 folks where there were four samples of each dish, each at a different spice level. I experimented and tried all four of a couple of the entrees, and the differences were easily discernible.
One other point. Don't be afraid to return a dish at LOS if it doesn't satisfy you. In Thai cooking, the chilies are the last thing thrown into a dish, so it's not like anyone is stuck with a mother sauce that can't be easily modified.
re: Dave Feldman
We went with a 7 and found it perfect, at the upper end of my comfort zone, pushing me just close enough in the edge to keep my attention. For a comparison, I tend to like things spicier than many of my friends (e.g., "hot wings" or even "extra hot" but not the xxx danger zone), and not nearly as hot as friends from India and Korea enjoy without batting an eye.
We went earlier this year for the first time and generally enjoy fairly spicy food. When asked, we ordered a level 6 or so (not really knowing what to expect and wanting to enjoy the food).
The first dish came and had some spice, but we were surprised it wasn't hotter, so we actually asked our server what level we received. Without missing a beat, he told us it was a 3. So, in my mind, I think this means they automatically dial it down from what you ask for unless they know you...
If we hadn't asked our server, we would have left there assuming if we ordered a six, that we had received a six. Not so in our case and I have to wonder whether that is the explanation for the OP's experience. I bet they catered to the masses a lot less 10 years ago.
I may be the wrong person to answer this, as my heat tolerance is pretty low. Last visit, I ordered both the soup and the meat dish at 2*. The meat dish was noticeably hotter (I'd say a 4*) than the soup, which seemed about right for a 2*. On my previous visit (also both dishes at 2* -- the same dishes, BTW), the soup came back much hotter than the meat dish.
My guess is, the spice level is a bit imprecise -- especially at low levels. I've been going there for some years, and have not noticed any particular trend in either direction, FWIW.
I would also like to add that chili peppers are not an exact science either. While you can pick 2 peppers from the same basket at the farmers market or super market their spiciness can be dramatically different.
I'm a 7 or 8 guy, depending on the dish. Lean towards 8 when a colder/room temperature dish.