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Lotus befuddling experience

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Michael Aug 7, 2001 03:04 PM

Hi all,

Was in Vegas for the first time ever this weekend visiting my parents who recently moved there. Went to Lotus of Siam, and I wonder if I missed something. I have a special enjoyment of Thai food, and was very much looking forward to Lotus of Siam after reading rave reviews here and elsewhere.

It was very, very good, but I didn't see too many dishes that I couldn't get elsewhere. We also had a waitress that tried to talk us out of anything we ordered. I ordered the sausage and she suggested the satay instead. Thankfully, I stuck with it and it was excellent. However, the other dishes I had were just ok. The catfish red curry was mild to bland. My father had a BBQ pork dish that was very good. I didn't see any of the dishes anyone recommended. I didn't see a special Issan menu. Should I have asked for one?

Was I just a victim of the gringo effect? What are the basic procedural instructions I need to follow in order to find out what special ingredients have just been flown in from Thailand that very day? Do I need to ask to talk to the chef and say "I'm just in from Chicago, this is the first place I've come to eat in a city known for it's famous restaurants, so make me up something nice"? I asked the server what she recommended, and the "satay" (again) and pad kee mow came up. Pschaw, I can make that myself!

We had a nice time, but I'm still somewhat befuddled. I had so wanted/expected an amazing culinary experience, but was left somewhat unsatisfied. I want to give it another chance when I go out there next. Please help...

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  1. k
    Kitty RE: Michael Aug 7, 2001 03:28 PM

    We asked for the special Northern Thai menu (according to Dave's recommendation on this board), which is a separate menu from the regular one. Funnily enough, our waitress also tried to talk us out of ordering certain dishes (off the Northern menu), but we stuck to our guns as well and were glad we did!!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Kitty
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      kevin RE: Kitty Aug 7, 2001 03:47 PM

      true. you have to ask for the special Northern Thai menu even though they may be reluctant to give it to you. Also, you may want to ask if Bill Chutima is there so he can help orchestrate a spectacular meal for you. If not the great dishes are:

      Beef Jerky
      Salt and pepper chicken wings
      Salmon in cognac curry sauce

      Also, from what I've heard try:

      Whole Charbroiled Catfish (not the same as what you orderred I think)
      Duck Curry
      Noodles in Cocunot Cream Sauce (from the Northern special menu which sounds excellent)
      and be sure to try the desserts esp. the fresh mango desert preferably.

    2. d
      Dave Feldman RE: Michael Aug 9, 2001 03:19 AM

      Michael,

      I'm really sorry that your experience at Lotus was disappointing. I don't want to be an apologist for the restaurant -- it certainly seems like you were trying your best to get a good meal.

      I don't quite understand your comment about how you couldn't find dishes you couldn't find elsewhere. I didn't start ordering off of the Northern/Issan menu until my third or fourth visit to Lotus, and yet I ate many dishes I'd never been offered in Thai restaurants in L.A. and New York.

      But once I tried the pork stew, I knew I had to work my way around the Northern menu. Dishes like the chili dips and pork stew were completely new tastes to me.

      But some dishes that seem familiar really aren't. Try the drunken noodles with minced chicken instead of seafood, and you are in for a revelation. The wet Northern Larb is superb, and tastes like a cousin of what is usually served in Thai restaurants.

      If you don't mind doing it, I think your best bet next time is to ask for Bill Chutima, tell them that I sent you, or Tom Armitage sent you. But even more importantly, stress that you love Thai food and you are eager to try dishes that you can't find in other restaurants. That's all you need to do. Nothing will make Bill or Saipin happier than to introduce you to their cuisine.

      I haven't even posted about my last trip to Las Vegas (didn't think there would be much interest in reports on 8 more trips to Lotus) but if you do a search, I think you can find many folks' recommendations about specific dishes, including mine.

      Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

      1. d
        Dennis RE: Michael Aug 12, 2001 10:07 AM

        Hello,

        I have just returned from my first ever trip to Las Vegas. The Lotus of Siam was among the several restaurants that I sampled.

        Before going, I had printed out a number of the posts on this web site devoted to the Lotus of Siam restaurant. I took them with me in a manilla folder for easy reference.

        I had read earlier that I should request the Northern Thai menu. However, I became confused when I noted two of the most highly touted offerings from this web site on the main menu: (1) Nam Kao Tod (2) Pla Dook Yang.

        When I saw these two offerings on the main menu, I figured that maybe there was no separate menu after all. Should I have still requested one?

        In any event, I took a solo taxi ride out there from my hotel and ordered the two offerings mentioned above.
        When I was asked about how "hot" I like my food, I said "extra hot."

        The Nam Kao Tod was excellent, bursting with wonderful flavors. However, it was not as "hot" as I was hoping for.

        The Pla Dook Yang, which is the charbroiled whole catfish, was wonderful. But again, it was not to my preferred level of "hot." In fact, it wasn't "hot" at all. Even the accompanying sauces weren't hot.

        Overall, the food was excellent. But I was hoping for a lot more "burn." Could it be that I was also a victim of the "gringo effect?"

        After my meal, Mr. Chutima came by to see how I enjoyed my meal. My table having not yet been cleared, he marveled at how well I had devoured my whole catfish. He told me that most people are totally clueless as to how to go about eating it.
        So, maybe they figured I was just another "gringo" when the order came into the kitchen.

        I didn't express my disappointment about the lack of "heat" with my food. Instead, I praised him about how much I enjoyed it.

        I also had my manilla folder with me, with about twenty printed posts about this restaurant from this web site. I showed it to him, and he seemed genuinely delighted. In fact, he asked me if he could keep one of them, and I gladly assented.

        He was also gracious about my request for a taxi call.

        A couple of other observations:

        (1) For the most part, the restaurant was fairly empty. This was about 8:00 P.M. Such a stark contrast from the bursting crowds I encountered at all of the other Las Vegas restaurants I sampled. I am curious as to why such a highly touted restaurant had so little business.

        (2) I would suggest adding cocktails to the restaurant's repertoire. I'm the kind of person who enjoys a couple of cocktails before and during my meal.
        I've never been a beer or wine person. But then again, this is just a personal bias and not a legitimate criticism.

        Getting back to an earlier point, the only reason why I nixed my original intention to request the special Northern Thai menu is that I saw that two of the most highly regarded items discussed on this web site were on the main menu.

        Question--What are some of the more outstanding offerings that are on the separate menu and not on the main menu?

        Overall, I was satisfied with my meal. But I was disappointed in the lack of "heat." When I return next summer, I will definitely give it a second chance and be more emphatic about my heat preferences.

        Comments and suggestions welcome. Thanks.

        Dennis

        1 Reply
        1. re: Dennis
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          Dave Feldman RE: Dennis Aug 13, 2001 12:22 AM

          Dennis,

          Believe me, you can eat *very* well at Lotus without ever touching the Northern menu -- it's just that the Northern menu is full of items that you are unlikely to have ever encountered in a North American Thai restaurant. It is indeed a separate menu, but the confusion may stem from the fact that many of the items on the regular menu are also Northern, as well.

          As for the heat issue, I'm afraid that you ordered two dishes where the heat is not incendiary. In particular, the sauce for the catfish, although full of chilies, is meant to provide more than heat -- in particular, the lime that adds wonderful acidity.

          Believe me, if you order the pork stew or green papaya salad and ask for a 10 in heat, you'll feel it.

        2. r
          Rubee RE: Michael Aug 12, 2001 02:01 PM

          That's too bad - I likewise have been there after reading all the posts on Chowhound, but had a delicious and memorable meal. You should definitely give it another try and request the Northern menu. We've only been once but had such a nice experience. It was lunchtime and when we walked in, the young man at the desk said "for the buffet?" as he seated us. When we said no, we were hoping to try the Northern specialties, he gave us a big smile and said "would you like me to order for you?" Why of course! He asked how spicy we liked our food, and off he went. We started with the Nam Kao Tod and he followed with three (!) more dishes, including those huge prawns in curry sauce, and a plate full of the spicy hot sausage. There was so much food and only two of us but because it was so delicous we ate everything (and then of course I had to try the sticky rice with coconut). We waddled out but what an experience. Don't give up -- you must go again! By the way, the young man who served us turned out to be the owner's nephew, gave us his card, and couldn't have been nicer to us.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Rubee
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            Michael RE: Rubee Aug 15, 2001 12:36 PM

            I'll be back in December, and will give it another shot. I'm so dissapointed that nothing like your experience happened to me and my father. Maybe I shouldn't go on a Sunday, maybe I should go for lunch.

            I think it was the woman that waited on us. She seemed new. There was a young man who fits your description, and had he initially taken our order, I think my experience would have been much more to my expectations.

            I haven't given up just yet!!!

            1. re: Michael
              r
              Rubee RE: Michael Aug 16, 2001 01:17 PM

              Good luck and keep us all posted on your next dining experience :) By the way, from other posts, "using" Dave Feldman's name as he suggested seems to go a long way in showing how serious you are about LOS and their specialties. He knows his stuff and is well respected!!

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