Day 4: Thailand
Yesterday was our last day in Las Vegas shooting footage of the very surreal World Championships of Fantasy Football. I’ve spent a lot of time watching mostly overweight white men sit in semi circles and take turns saying the names of professional athletes. I definitely know what a LaDainian Tomlinson is now. But as you have probably guessed, for me— it’s all about the food. So far on the Las Vegas trip we had a great meal for Argentina and a miserable one for Spain. I was originally going to go to Bouchon next (Thomas Keller’s extremely well regarded restaurant in The Venetian) for a French bistro dinner, but the Vegas Strip is currently not my friend and I wanted to go for something that was a little more of what this blog is all about. It’s time to make up for what shall be called “The Disaster of Ba Ba Reeba!”. So Ultimate Manilow, Car Accidents Bernstein and I did something I should have known I’d do from the beginning.
Lotus of Siam. Famously referred to by Jonathan Gold as the “…single best Thai Restaurant in North America.” He is definitely more qualified than I am to make that claim and right now, I have no reason to disagree with him. The meal was, to put it simply, stunning. There is an energy to this place. A quiet confidence which comes very subtly from the staff, but more importantly from the diners themselves. Everyone inside knows they’re going to get a great meal and no one seems to take it for granted. We start off with a very refreshing lemongrass drink and a lime drink. Both slightly sweet, both getting our appetites happy. The heavy lunch from a football viewing party at the Las Vegas Hilton quickly shrinking away as our stomachs begin to ravenously crave the food we’re just beginning to smell. Our miraculously sweet and helpful waitress, upon realizing that we are putting ourselves in her very capable hands, starts to take over. “You must have this.” “This is very special. Off the menu.” “If you have this, you must have this.” Yes, yes, yes. We even got a patron at a nearby table who strongly urged us to order another dish. One she called “The dish that visits me in my dreams.” We ordered so much food that we figured we could snack on it on the drive back to Los Angeles. That decision proved irrelevant as we absolutely devoured every single course.
Our first appetizer came, the one from the woman’s dreams. Nam kao tod. To call it fried rice would do it a disservice. Can something be crispy all the way through and completely tender at the same time? The answer is yes. A textural revelation with flavor that just knocks your socks off. An unbelievable start to the meal. Then came the off-the-menu sea bass som tam. Wow. Wow. Wow. Life-alteringly good. The sea bass was one of the most perfectly cooked pieces of fish I’ve ever tasted in my life. Green papaya, cherry tomato, grape halves, crunchy nuts. Every flavor you could ever want in the world combined into something so vibrant and so invigorating that it grabs you by the stomach, slaps you in the face and says “Wake up. Your life begins now.” I could eat this dish every single day until the end of time. The first two courses did exactly what appetizers are supposed to do. They put your senses on alert. They prepare your body for a meal.
Now I have to take a very brief break from this segment to talk about Spicy. Ultimate Manilow started it. “I’m high. The Spicy is drugging me. The Spicy is making me wasted.” And he was right. Something about Spicy— particularly this kind of Spicy— just guides you ever so cafefully into this light-as-air state of being. I know I’m repeating myself, but we all just felt so damn alive.
We can now return to the meal. Crispy duck with panang. It’s like duck chicharrones with a great dipping sauce. Absolutely wonderful. Green chili dip served with steamed vegetables. Spicy, light, delicious. Khao soi with short ribs. They’re cruncy egg noodles tossed tableside in a sauce with what-has-to-be-braised shortrib meat until tender. The meat is perfect and the noodles delicious. The sauce is panang, which makes it a little redundant with the crispy duck, but who gives a crap? It’s all great. And I really can’t say enough about how wonderful the shortribs are. Italian restaurants everywhere just got kicked down a notch. Now comes the jackfruit curry with pork. A light, soup-y dish which is wonderful to pour over your rice. But this is my first jackfruit. The menu calls out artichoke lovers for this dish and it’s pretty clear why. The similarity to artichoke is alarming, but with the texture of canned mushrooms. I love it. Our final dish is charbroiled prawn with spicy sauce. Our wonderful server is so genuinely excited to serve us our food that she literally grabs one of these halved masterpieces, removes the shell, adds the garnish and sauce, hands it to Car Accidents Bernstein and stands there proudly until he tries it. Beautiful. Now keep in mind that we have had two spectacular seafood dishes in a small Las Vegas restaurant on a Sunday. I don’t know what these people do here, but God bless them.
“We are so full.”
“We have sticky rice with mango. Fried banana roll. Coconut ice cream. I make you a small plate, you can try all of it.”
“We are really full.”
“I make you a sample plate. You can try all of it. Just a little bit. Coconut ice cream has no milk. Just coconut milk.”
…Like we have a choice. She brings the plate out and prepares Car Accidents Bernstein yet another bite and waits for him to try it. This is the perfect desert. Light, refreshing, not too sweet, a tiny bit salty. A holy balance. A balance that got Ultimate Manilow talking about his longstanding belief that “Cake is immature.” For me, eating desert usually just makes me crave the food that preceeded it. Not this time. This was perfect. Everything was perfect. The food, the people, the ambiance, the service. All of it. I think I kind of like Las Vegas. I like any place where something like this can happen. The world is a good place today.
Lotus of Siam
953 E Sahara Ave, Las Vegas, NV
Food Breakdown: 6 beers, 4 non-alcoholic beverages, 3 appetizers, 4 entrees, 1 mixed dessert plate.
Distance From My House: 279 miles