We have had a memorable food adventure in Las Vegas, but alas it had to draw to a close. We were flying back to Vancouver that evening and were looking for a quick place to eat. We have made no reservations that evening, so we began to poll our friends for recommendations. One place that was recommended to us by both Chef Angus An of Maenam and food blogger Russell of the Hungry Slif was the Lotus of Siam. Rumours were that this was the best Thai restaurant in the United Stated of America. After a quick call to the restaurant, we headed on our way. Or so we thought. SEMA being one the largest conventions in Las Vegas made it extremely difficult to hail a taxi. So we decided to take transit.
This became an adventure on its own, first we hopped aboard the monorail and headed north until the end of the line, just short of the Stratosphere Hotel and Tower known for their breath-taking outdoor rides on top of its tower. This landed us in a less than desirable area of Las Vegas. We waited for an eastbound bus people watching; it was definitely an interesting crowd at the bus stop. After about 20 minutes we boarded the bus and were on our way. Lotus of Siam is located in the Village Square Commercial Center, which has quite the collection of tenants. Of note there were a few other restaurants and lounges, but also included other establishments such as the Fantasy Swinger Club, Entourage Gay Vegas Bathhouse and Alcoholics Anonymous. When we arrived at huge and incredibly dim lit parking lot of the center, we hunted high and low for the restaurant. Luckily, we eventually found it.
On the door of the entrance to the restaurant, there was a disclaimer notice, that this evening there would be recording something and that by entering we consent to being on camera. Without paying too much attention to the details we entered. We were seated promptly and watched, as a camera crew was busy setting up for the scene. We researched what the restaurant was known for and placed our order. We asked a misinformed waiter as to what they were filming that evening and he responded that they were shooting a commercial. That didn’t matter to us and we were set to enjoy the final dinner of our adventure. Lotus of Siam is an interestingly appointed restaurant, not fancy, definitely family-style, with attempts to appear fancy with the use of several chandeliers. But along the front was a large, well-stocked, glass-walled wine cellar.
As I was looking around observing the people at the restaurant, I noticed someone familiar standing by the bar, but I couldn’t recall who he was and how I perchance would know him. If you know me, you realize that this happens to me quite frequently. After a trip to the washroom, I decided to find out who he was, and went up to exchange some pleasantries with him. I asked him if he has ever been to Vancouver before to which he replied with a resounding “No”. This baffled me and I resolved that by the end of the evening I would figure out who he was.
Our dinner selections began to arrive and the food is really good with decent sized portions. As one would expect from a family style restaurant, with visual presentation taking a back seat to the taste of the food. But the use of colourful ingredients made the dishes interesting and visually stimulating enough. Their Nam Kao Tod, a mildly spicy crispy rice dish with minced pork sausages was delicious. The mixture of textures accentuated the assortment of spicy, sour, and savoury flavours. This dish was a unique one for me and I would say that this would have to be my favourite.
The other two dishes I really enjoyed would be the Garlic Prawns and the Crispy Duck with Penang. The Garlic Prawn dish was prepared in an interesting way, the prawn in split down the back and deveined, but the shell is peeled back but not completely removed. With the shell still attached, the prawn is first deep-fried, then sautéed with their special garlic sauce. The result? Prawn meat that is lightly crisp while still tender and a crispy shell that you can each much like a potato chip! This one is also a must order.
The Crispy Duck with Penang is also a delight to the palate, both in texture and flavour. The perfectly crisp duck sits in a pool of Penang sauce, a red curry, made creamy with coconut cream and flavoured with a little cognac. A perfect mild, curry dish.
As the restaurant began to fill up with eager patrons, we noticed one man enter. This man I recognized right away, it was Anthony Bourdain! Anthony Bourdain is a retired chef who is now one of the most recognizable food personalities with appearances on Top Chef and hosting shows such as No Reservations on the Travel Channel and currently, Parts Unknown on CNN. He talked with the man I recognized earlier, and together were introduced to Saipin Chutima, the owner and chef of Lotus of Siam. Soon they sat down and began ordering and eating, conversing while the cameras filmed their every action.
Then it dawned on me, the man I recognized earlier was Chef Jet Tila, who I recently saw judging an episode of Cutthroat Kitchen. Jet is quite the accomplished chef and media personality, appearing on television shows as a judge on Chopped, competing on Iron Chef America, and many others. It turns out that Jet and Anthony were filming an upcoming episode for the third season of Parts Unknown. This Emmy Award winning travel show, showcases areas that are not places that tourists would visit. The areas are either remote or considered to be the underbelly or underground. Staying true to his roots, the show always features food.
I can’t wait for this episode to air. Why? For one, I couldn’t hear their conversation from our table and it would be interesting to listen in. And two, the cameras were pointed in our direction for most of the filming and I would like to see how well we performed as a background prop. Lotus of Siam is worth the visit, even with the incredible journey it took us to get there, luckily after engaging is a short conversation with Anthony and Jet after filming, we were able to catch a taxi for the ride to the hotel and airport. This was truly a great ending to my Las Vegas food adventure with Peter. I am definitely looking forward to our next one!
NAM KAO TOD
Crisy rice mixed with sour minced pork sausages, green onions,
fresh chilis, ginger, peanuts and lime juice.
TOM KAH KAI
A distinctive soup of sliced chicken with coconut milk, straw mushrooms,
galanga, lemon grass and a touch of lime juice.
Deep fried prawns with shells (almost like potato chips), sautéed
with our special garlic sauce, topped with ground black pepper.
SEA BASS with GINGER
Steamed sea bass topped with our special ginger gravy.
Served on top of steamed vegetables.
CRISPY DUCK with PENANG
Crispy duck topped with Thai style red cream curry sauce with cognac.
DEEP FRIED BANANAS with COCONUT ICE CREAM
Bananas wrapped in spring roll wrappers then deep fried. Served with cocnut ice cream.
Thai Ice Tea
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Executive Chef: Saipin Chutima