Thursday, May 27, 2010

Vegas Journal: (Slightly) Off-Strip

While staying on the Las Vegas strip, we took a one-night jaunt off strip, back to the real world for Thai food and custard.

Lotus of Siam

There may be no more universally heralded restaurant in Vegas than Lotus of Siam. Praised by Jonathan Gold as the best Thai restaurant in North America as well as the best restaurant between the coasts, this Sahara Avenue strip mall Thai spot is a regular pilgrimage for visiting foodies.

Lotus of Siam is only slightly off strip. If you take the Las Vegas Monorail to the last stop, you get off right at Sahara and it's just about a mile walk east to Lotus of Siam.

If you frequent LA's great Thai restaurants in Thaitown or North Hollywood, you will immediately see a couple of differences from what you are used to. First, Lotus of Siam is the first Thai restaurant I've been to in a while that is mostly patronized by non-Thai people, or at least that was the case the night I was there. Second, they have an extensive wine list, focusing on German Rieslings. The crisp, sweetness of Rieslings, it turns out, are perfect for the spicy Thai flavors.

Now, I am sorry to disappoint, but I don't feel I can do justice to Lotus of Siam. Usually, to review a Thai restaurant, I would order at least five or six dishes, but our party was two people without a refrigerator in our hotel room to take food back to, so we were limited in our ordering.

Because of our limitations around quantity, we opened the extensive menu and skipped directly to the Northern Thai section, reputed to be home to the best dishes. The two dishes we picked from that menu were very good. The Northern Larb, a pork larb, similar to other larb's I've had but without lime, was excellent. The sourness of a traditional pork larb was replaced by a deeply, rich, meaty flavor, the type of flavor that appeals to your most basic flesh-eating instincts; I sopped up the juice with my sticky rice. The second main dish was a red curry with vermicelli and coagulated pork blood. It was very good, with deep, earthy flavors of pork and blood and some good spice. We also got a fried catfish salad from the regular menu; there were nice bites of fried catfish, but the salad was less interesting than the other dishes and didn't really come together as a whole.

While all the dishes were very good, I wasn't struck by lightening, as I sort of expected since this is the best Thai restaurant in the world, etc., etc. But as I said, I don't want to judge on this limited exposure to the menu; mostly, I want to go back and try more, especially some of the sausage dishes.

Lotus of Siam
953 E. Sahara Ave. Suite A5
Las Vegas, NV 89104

Luv-It Frozen Custard

For dessert, we meandered northeast to Luv-It Frozen Custard, a little stand just off Las Vegas Boulevard in the seedy area north of the strip. Luv-It has a variety of custard flavors and toppings. I ordered a Western: vanilla custard with hot fudge, caramel and pecans. This was good custard. Creamy without being slick, a nice vanilla flavor with no chemical aftertaste. Good frozen custard is hard to find in Southern California, so I was very happy to have this treat. Both the smooth, luscious flavor and the stand-around-eating-it ambiance brought me back to my days of eating Ted Drew's in St. Louis. Good times, good custard, and a perfect off-strip dessert after the spicy Thai food.

Luv-It Frozen Custard
505 E. Oakey Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89104
(702) 384-6452


stuffycheaks said...

Yeah seems loads of people recommended this, but I didn't try it because I wasn't sure if it was really THAT good, or if it's just the best thai around Vegas. that pork blood noodle does sounds delicious, not sure if i can stomach that though

SinoSoul said...

We made a meek attempt at LoS on Memorial Day, only to be prodded back towards the Strip (Aureole... no comments please).

I've only eaten there twice, but it ain't LA. It ain't Pailin, and it definitely doesn't even touch what Cancoon serves, wine list be damned.

oddlyme said...

Years ago, I hit LOS with my dad - who had done massive, massive research and knew what to order. We did the lunch buffet with a few other things. And wine. And we were thrilled.

By that time I'd hit many great LA thai restaurants on my own. But LOS was different. They made their own curry pastes, fresh, every day and their food was well, Brighter.

Was everything on the menu perfect? Probably not.

But was it really REALLY good, and a yardstick that I would come to measure other places by? Yes. And not just for the wig store nearby!