Lotus of Siam, Take 2

I have been to Lotus of Siam before.

I have waxed poetic about the juicy stuffed chicken wings and sweet, sticky mee krob. I have talked about the large dining room that is so comfy that you might think you are in your grandma’s homestyle restaurant. I have talked about its many accolades and its legions of fans (This visit, Jim Belushi dined there the night that we did, this time).

What I might not have mentioned is that the menu has seemingly thousands of options. It’s a little intimidating and requires some research and multiple visits to try all the dishes for which the eatery is famous.

So consider this review number two in a series of posts that are sure to come about this truly astonishing restaurant.

Nam Kao Todd –  Crispy rice mixed with sour minced pork sausages, green onions, fresh chilis, ginger, peanuts and lime juice

Thank you, Serious Eats, for pointing me in this direction. The rice is fried until it puffs and pops like salty Rice Krispies cereal beneath your teeth. The sausage is in tiny, ham-like dices; bright and acidic. Tiny peanuts echo the slightly fatty taste of the sausage and the whole thing is liberally sprinkled with dried and fresh chiles. The dried chiles are smoky with a back-of-the-throat burn and the fresh chiles have a high, almost electric lip-singeing quality. They each play their part, and that’s the takeaway from this dish. Every ingredient plays its part to create one cohesive, multi-layered taste. This dish’s report card would read: “plays well with others”

Nam Prik Ong – Red chili dip

Described like a spaghetti meat sauce on the menu, this was a fan favorite. The dip isn’t spicy at all, just zesty and aromatic with ginger, onions, and garlic. It is thick enough to scoop up with the raw veggies of a handful of delightfully glutinous sticky rice and the sweet tomatoes contrast nicely with the grassy coriander and ground pork. Speaking of pork, these pork cracklings are the first ones I have ever had that I actually like. They are not overtly “barnyard-y” or brittle, they are just insanely light and crispy – almost like a Pop chip, but with no salty, chemical-y aftertaste.

Thum Ka Noon – Shredded and pounded young jackfruit

This was the one dish that divided our table. Half of them hated it – called it mushy and tasteless, with the texture of cat food and an insipid flavor. The rest of us (myself included) LOVED this dish – it was my second favorite dish of the night. It is soft and homogeneous  but I didn’t find it mushy or cottony. It reminds me of pulled chicken or pork tempered with fresh cilantro, tomatoes, and the hit of diced chiles. The jackfruit was, for me, totally textural with no real taste of its own – it was ideal to pump up the volume of the dish without distracting form the pork’s flavor. I loved this with crunchy cabbage and sticky rice, and I hope that you do, too!

Penang Curry with chicken

`I love massaman curry as much as the next gal, but every now and then you have to branch out, right? This is massaman gone Wall Street (the original movie) – fast paced, high end, and a little dangerous. It is creamy from coconut milk and has a burnished color from the dried and fresh chiles, bu that is where the similarities between the two curries end. Whereas massaman is zesty and comforting, like a ginger tinged creamy chicken soup, the penang is lively and downright aggressive with its spices. If you like spicy food this won’t set you on fire, but if you aren’t used to it, this will probably build up a sweat on your brow. The fresh slices of jalapeno have a vaguely grassy, lemony taste that they pick up from the creamy and smoky chile gravy. The chicken itself is juicy and tender, filled with aromatics and sweet, spicy flavors that I can’t even begin to dissect. This had even the most spice-phobic people at that table clamoring for more, pouring the sauce over sticky and jasmine rices, swiping the bowl with fingers. If you like massaman then you may LOVE this – just be prepared for a bit more heat.

This ain’t the last Lotus of Siam review. I am going to go there every time that I visit Vegas until I get through the entire menu. Or at least until I faint from too much sticky rice. Hey, it’s the best Thai restaurant in America (some say int he world), it’s reasonably priced, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the fabulous menu options.

Don’t worry, next time I go, I promise to say hi to Jim* for you.

*Jim Belushi, remember?!