Las Vegas was low on my list of places to visit until I discovered Lotus of Siam which serves the best Thai food I have eaten outside of a private home. Now I make excuses to head for the hedonistic city in the desert.
Lotus of Siam offers a full Thai menu but specializes in authentic Issan (northern) Thai food. Located in a run-down strip mall in an out of the way neighborhood in Las Vegas, the restaurant surprises diners by serving delicious dishes prepared with quality ingredients. Don't let the outward appearance scare you off! This is fabulous food at amazingly reasonable prices.
It's important to order properly to get the most from the dining experience. I first always ask if the owner, Bill, is present. He is a charming gentleman who will gladly pull up a chair and chat with you about the food which he is deservingly proud of. If Bill isn't present we ask for Tony, our favorite waiter. We just ask for them to bring us what is best that day, always including some of the Issan specialties. What follows is a fabulous feast.
Some of the "don't miss" dishes:
Nam Kao Tod consists of minced sour sausage mixed with green onion, chile, ginger, peanuts, crispy rice, lime, nasturtium and mint. This is one of the best dishes I have ever tasted anywhere. The crispy rice, which is deep-fried, has an incredible texture and nutty taste that stands up well to the strong spicing. The combination of flavors is awesome. The last time we ate there we actually ordered two plates for 3 of us so we wouldn't have to fight over it. That is how good it is!
Nua Dad Deaw is another must have. Described on the menu as Beef Jerky Issan Style it consists of deep fried marinated slices of beef with a home-made sauce. The texture of the meat is much more tender than actual beef jerky but it does possess a certain reminiscent chewiness. The sauce is deep and smoky in flavor. Together they make for a very unique dining experience.
Those are the two dishes we always order though everything else we have tried has been excellent.
Pork satay was tender and luscious.
Koon Tenn consists of grilled shrimp with spicy sauce served on a bed of cabbage. Delicious and fiery hot!
Fried Chicken Dumplings with sweet and sour sauce.
Dessert at Lotus of Siam is a treat. The house made coconut ice cream with warm sticky rice and fresh mango is lovely and addictive. No picture.
Pictured above, the coconut ice cream with fried banana roll. Yum.
Another bit of advice: most of the entrees are under $10 except for the Charbroiled Fresh Water Prawns. The prawns are offered in 3 different sauces, each costs $28.95. During our first meal at LOS we gave them free rein and they served us the Prawns in a spicy sauce. The menu specifies 2 prawns but they served us 3 (there were 3 of us) for the same price. We were quite shocked when we saw the bill but if price is no object for you, I encourage you to order them. This was an outstanding dish. The prawns are actually flown in from a river in Thailand and they are huge, the size of a small lobster tail. I love lobster but I have to admit these were sweeter than any lobster I have eaten and more tender. The sauce was marvelous and I ate every last bit of it with a spoon directly from the serving dish. But it's very expensive compared to the rest of the menu.
The restaurant has a very nice, well-priced wine list specializing in German wines that go well with the spicy food. Speaking of spicy, diners can specify the heat level they prefer on a scale of one to ten. We usually go for 6.
I just can't rave enough about Lotus of Siam, both the food and service. We have eaten there 4 times now, most recently in late October, and only once were we disappointed and that was on 4th of July when they were clearly short-staffed. A multi-coursed dinner for two with a bottle of wine runs less than $100.