Sunday, October 08, 2006

off the strip

By our third day in Vegas, I was getting tired of the meals on the strip. They were expensive and luckluster. I did a bit of research on chowhound while I was there and found that Vegas offers very good Chinese and Thai food; one just has to go off the strip. I was ready, but I wasn't sure how my companions felt. Fortunately, everyone was game, and we were off to Lotus of Siam.

Lotus of Siam generates a lot of buzz on places such as Chowhound. It's alledgedly one of the best Thai restaurants in the US. Those are some lofty claims, but we didn't have anything to lose. When we walked in, there were awards and articles plastered all over the wall. I never know if this is a good sign or not because a lot of restaurants can't live up to the hype. I was still hopeful. The restaurant definitely lacks in the area of ambiance and the location is shady. However, often times, I prefer places such as this.

We opted to order family style. I asked the server for some recommendations for appetizers and he suggested the crispy rice and sour sausage (nam kao tod).

This was one of the highlight dishes for me. It was a very unusual dish which was also the reason why I went with the server's recommendation. I can't say I've ever had anything like it before. The sausage was indeed sour, but it mixed very well with the crispy rice and cilantro. I'm guessing the crispy rice was fried, but I really loved the texture. Soo thought the dish was too sour, but Mr. Cupcake liked it a lot because of the sourness. I'd recommend it if you can find it.

The papaya salad was lifeless. This is one of the few dishes I could have done without.

The fried wontons were about what I expected. The wontons were stuffed with ground chicken and came with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. I can't say I'm ever disappointed with fried food unless it's overly greasy. This version was just fine.

Chrisi ordered the Tom Kah Kai soup. It had chicken, coconut milk, straw mushrooms, lemon grass, galangal, and lime. The soup was fairly spicy and the coconut flavor wasn't as strong as I was hoping for. It's not something I'd order again, and I recall most of our group deeming it as one of the loser dishes.

We ordered two noodle dishes. One was awesome, and the other not so much. This is the latter. The lad na (I think) noodles came in a gravy that was lacking in the flavor department. The noodles themselves had a nice texture, but that's about all it had going for it.

Delia ordered the pad sw-ew, and it was among the winners. I can't exactly tell you why; I just remember the dish was probably the best version of pad sw-ew I've ever had. This is why I need write reviews sooner rather than later because I forget all the details. I'll never make it as a food writer due to my need for procrastination.

I decided we needed a curry. This was Thai food afterall. I liked the panang quite a bit. It was spicy and rich in coconut flavor. This was a less popular dish among the crowd because it was one of the few dishes with leftovers.

Here we have the nua sao renu which is described as sliced charbroiled beef served on a bed of cabbage, topped with tamarind sauce and fried dried chili. This dish wasn't popular with the group either. I honestly don't remember the details about this dish other than it was only so-so.

Finally, for dessert, we ordered a sampler. The platter included mango with sticky rice, coconut ice cream and fried bananas. I liked everything on this plate, especially, the mangos. The mangos were slightly under ripe, but our server told us that was intentional. It wasn't overly sweet, but it complimented the sticky rice perfectly. I'd also like to mention that the sticky rice was excellent. It had perfect texture and a wonderful coconut flavor. The coconut ice cream was similar to ice milk. It wasn't extremely rich or creamy, but I prefer ice cream this way. It's far less overwhelming. The bananas were wrapped in a wonton wrapper and deep fried. Some pieces were better than others because some were cooked more. It made for a gooey center. Some pieces were like eating a raw banana. There was a bit of variance there, but overall, dessert was my favorite.

Dinner including 6 beers, 2 teas, soda, tax and tip was $138. I should also include the $40+ worth of cab fare for two cabs to and from the hotel. Vegas only allows 5 people in a cab and we had 6 people. However, it was still probably cheaper than all of us eating on the strip somewhere.

The meal had its ups and downs, and I wouldn't call it the best Thai food in the US, but it was still a lovely evening. We watched Chrisi make it past level 10 on Delia's cell phone which was intense. And it was great to be away from all the craziness of the strip. Looking back, I'd probably say this was my favorite meal in Vegas. It didn't have the glamour of a celebrity chef's name, but the food was good as was the company.

This wraps up my Vegas report. We visited other places, but since it's taken me this long to write three reviews, I've decided to nix them. The other restaurants we went to weren't all that great and I prefer to avoid trashing them in this blog.


mrcupcake said...

My impressions:

Yep, the sour rice was awesome. The mix of lime and cilantro complimented each other well in a savory dish that was almost tooth achingly sour. It was one of the most unique culinary experiences in recent memory.

The nua sao renu (sliced charbroiled beef served on a bed of cabbage) was just okay. It reminded me of sliced beef with bbq sauce on it. Nothing to write home about.

The desserts were excellent all around. I had one good bannana and one bad one, but other than that the dessert sampler is the way to go. We should've ordered 2 of them.

Amy said...

Hey, I'm Sarah K's friend. Your blog makes me hungry. Anyway, if you had any suggestions for good S.F. restaurants, or wanted to meet up for a meal, I'd really appreciate it!

sooiepoo said...

It was Tetris on Delia's phone by the way, which was the gaming event that almost made me pee from laughing so hard. I agree that Delia's choice of noodle dish and the desserts were among the best part of this meal. I also really enjoyed our *fried* appetizer. ;) However, I cannot say this was the "best" thai food I've EVER had (as some foodies considered). Let's try some in SEattle and the cupcakes can be the true judge of greatness.