Restaurant: Lotus of Siam
Location: 953 E Sahara Ave A5, Las Vegas, NV 89104. (702) 735-3033
Date: April 16, 2013
Many people consider Lotus of Siam to be the best Thai restaurant in the United States. While I love Thai food, I can’t claim any authoritative sampling, and really, who has dined at every Thai eatery in the country? Regardless, it’s clear that this is some darn fine cooking, with a vast menu full of delights, particularly specialties of Northern Thailand.
To that effect, my Hedonist dining club drove (or flew) from California to Vegas for the express purpose of eating here — for the second time this year! Plus, to spice it up, we brought not only our usual bevy of wines but a bunch of exotic meats as well, shot by our esteemed and well armed leader, Yarom.
The frontage is hardly Vegas glam.
Particularly when you turn around and take in the off strip mall location. A bevy of slimy businesses, like a particularly sleezy-looking strip club, grace the location.
But inside, Lotus features a huge wine cellar, filled with a world class selection of Riesling. Oddly, or perhaps because they offer such great examples, we didn’t bring any.
And a good sized interior. Most Vegas restaurants are style over substance. Lotus is exactly the opposite. The menu contains over a 100 dishes, and from my sampling, I have to imagine almost all of them are awesome. Fortunately for us, the Hedonists are long time regulars and daughter Penny (who’s birthday we recently celebrated) is a member. The owners took care of us and we didn’t really have to choose at all.
1999 Kistler Chardonnay Vine Hill Road Vineyard. Parker 94-97. An awesome effort is the 1999 Chardonnay Vine Hill Vineyard. There are 2,000 cases produced from this Russian River vineyard surrounding the Kistler winery. It exhibits tell-tale minerality as well as a gorgeous nose of white fruits, citrus oils, nuts, minerals, smoke, and butter. With fabulous intensity, purity, and an expansive, multi-layered mid-palate, this powerful, impeccably-balanced, restrained Chardonnay unfolds on the palate. This wine will have a long and compelling evolution.
Alas, this was heavily oxidized and not terribly pleasant, with strong vanilla and sherry notes.
Nam Kao Tod. Crispy rice mixed with minced sour sausage, green onion, fresh chili, ginger, peanuts, and lime juice.
Special spiced elk tartar. The elk was provided by Yarom earlier in the day and Lotus prepped it. This was meat, spicy, with some real kick. Addictive.
Instead of the Rieslings, we brought a series of fantastic white Hermitages.
1994 Chave Hermitage Blanc. Parker 94. The 1994 white Hermitage is one of the most seductive, perfumed, multi-layered, and profoundly textured white Hermitages I have tasted from Chave. The unctuous texture, and superb nose of honeyed white flowers, and minerals are followed by a wine of exceptional depth, richness, and balance. It should drink splendidly well for 4-5 years, then close completely, not to re-emerge for a decade.
Ground antelope larb. The meat is mixed with onion, green chili, and lime juice and served with fresh cabbage. Yarom brought the antelope itself.
FRIED CHICKEN DUMPLINGS. Deep fried wonton skins stuffed with ground chicken and vegetables, served with homemade sweet and sour sauce. Yum! I had about 5 of these, being a dumpling fiend.
Also, I have to comment, that half the restaurants I eat at have this watered-down “shell pattern” restaurant grade flatware. In fact, we have a large set in our garage we use for parties.
From my cellar, 1991 Chapoutier Ermitage Cuvee de l’Oree. Parker 96. This firm makes outstanding white Hermitage. Readers lucky enough to have access to any of the 300-500 cases of the luxury cuvee called Hermitage Cuvee de l’Orvee should use whatever contact they have to latch onto a bottle or two of the 1993, 1992, or 1991. Made from Chapoutier’s oldest vines on the Hermitage Hill (average age of 75 years), these are closed, mineral-dominated, honeyed wines that are completely dry but fabulously rich with an intensity and breadth of flavor that would embarrass many of Burgundy’s Le Montrachets.
SOM THUM (Thai Papaya Salad). This classic dish from Thailand consists of green papaya, chili, tomato, crushed peanuts mixed with lime juice, fish sauce and sugar.
1996 Domaine Christian Clerget Echezeaux. Burghound 89. Slight toast notes frame black fruit aromas followed by delicious, complex, quite fine and delineated flavors plus solid if not spectacular length. This is approachable now though will be better in 3 to 5 years. Quite good and entirely promising.
Not bad, but a little unbalanced with some brett.
STUFFED CHICKEN WINGS. Chicken wings stuffed with ground pork, deep fried, served with homemade sweet and sour sauce. Yummy, if very fried.
From my cellar, 2003 Frédéric Magnien Chambertin-Clos de Bèze. Burghound 95. A dazzlingly complex nose of intense floral, red cherry liqueur-like notes and strong earth and sauvage aromas slam into rich, full, unbelievably powerful and huge, indeed massive flavors that sacrifice absolutely no precision at all, all wrapped in dense tannins and an explosive finish that goes on and on. I was knocked out by the sheer persistence and I could taste this 3 hours later. As good as the Bonnes Mares is, this is at another level.
Really drinking great for such a young Grand Cru.
Bison larb. The meat is mixed with onion, green chili, and lime juice and served with fresh cabbage. Yarom brought the meat itself.
2003 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 97. The 2003 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape (the # 2 wine in the Wine Spectator’s annual winefest) has long been one of the most profound wines of the vintage. It somehow manages to offer the vintage’s character in power, high glycerin, and huge volume, but retains remarkable elegance and finesse that is so much in keeping with the style of Clos des Papes. The wine has a dense ruby/purple-tinged color and a wonderfully sweet nose of framboise, blackberry, and kirsch liqueur intermixed with Chinese black tea and licorice. The wine is full-bodied and voluptuous, but once past all the glycerin and beautiful, dense fruit of this full-bodied wine, there is striking purity, elegance, finesse, and surprising freshness. Still primary, it looks set to have a long life of 20-25 or more years.
PLAR DOOK SA-MM ROD. Deep fried whole catfish, topped with sweet, sour and spicy sauce.
Yellow curry, vegetable. The mildest among all Thai curries made from curry powder, turmeric and spices with coconut cream, potatoes and carrots.
Garlic Prawn. Deep fried prawn with shell and sautéed with our special garlic sauce, topped with ground black pepper.
2004 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino. Parker 94. The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino is simply beautiful. Now that the wine is in bottle it is even better than when I tasted it from barrel. Firm but silky tannins frame a core of ripe dark fruit as this powerful yet elegant Brunello opens up in the glass. Smoke, cured meats, earthiness and graphite develop in the glass, adding further complexity. Sweet roses and spices linger on the long, refined finish. This is a big, structured Brunello, and like all of Abbruzzese’s wines, it needs at least a few years of bottle age before it offers its finest drinking.
ROASTED DUCK CURRY. The combination of roasted duck, pineapple, bell peppers and tomatoes in red curry base with a touch of coconut.
This was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. Really quite spectacular, particularly over rice.
A meat in dark spicy curry sauce, almost like a vindaloo.
Red curry with tofu. The beautiful red color from both fresh and dried chilis and spice make this curry hotter than yellow curry. Cooked with coconut cream, Thai basil and bamboo shoots.
Lobster (Garlic Pepper Sauce). Deep fried lobster, sautéed with our special garlic sauce.
Very Chinese, and not so different than several versions we’ve had recently. A little dry and hard to extract the meat.
Bison cooked up a different way. Same meat, different chilies, with some real heat.
SOFT SHELL CRAB SALAD. Thai delicious dish consists of deep fried soft shell crab, fresh chili, lime juice, peanuts, vegetable, served on bed of sliced cabbage.
Khao Soi. This typical Burmese influence Northern Thai egg noodle is served in curry sauce and coconut cream, garnished with sliced red onion, lime and pickled vegetables. The meat on top is beef short rib.
Another favorite. I love this red curry sauce.
1994 Chateau la Graviere Tirecul Vendange Tardive. Parker 92. The 1994 Vendange Tardive possesses a fabulous, intense perfume of exotic fruits and honey, as well as amazing richness, purity, and a level of concentration and balance that must be tasted to be believed. Already approachable, it is capable of lasting for 10-20 years. Sadly, only 50 cases were produced for the world. Monbazillac is well-known in French history, but my experience in tasting through the appellation’s wines has unearthed few gems. Leave it to Eric Solomon to discover this remarkable estate. The vineyard is planted with a high percentage of Muscadelle (50%), along with Semillon (45%), and Sauvignon (5%). There are two cuvees produced. The young vine cuvee (the vines are 45-years old) produced only 8.5 hectoliters per hectare in 1994 (less than one-quarter ton of fruit per acre). Additionally, these grapes are picked grape by grape (as they develop the noble rot), not by bunch. The proprietors, Claudia and Bruno Bilarcini, actually pass through the vineyard a minimum of four to five times a day. Given the fact that it is a manual harvest, the 1994 was harvested between October 20 and November 25. Fasten your seat belts, as these wines are remarkable.
Sticky rice and mango. The classic.
This was another fantastic Hedonist blow out, with some real great grub. At our request the kitchen kept the spice to a controllable level so as not to overwhelm the wines, and what we brought paired brilliantly. This was in contrast to at Jitlada (also great) where the ass-blasting heat destroyed anything but the Spatlese and Auslese Rieslings.
All in all, writing this review has me dreaming of more great Thai…
Check out all my Hedonist dinners here, or