If you are looking for the best Thai restaurant in Las Vegas, you go to one place, Lotus of Siam. Even Gourmet magazine called it “the best Thai restaurant in the United States.” Everybody who loves Thai food knows of Lotus of Siam. This includes locals, tourists, magazine writers, food bloggers, and celebrity chefs such as Anthony Bourdain. Since opening in 1999, the restaurant has become well known for their Northern Thai cuisine inspired by Chef Saipin Chutima. In 2011, Chef Chutima won a James Beard award for Best Chefs in the Southwest.
Lotus of Siam currently has two locations in the Las Vegas area. The original Lotus of Siam location can be found in an unassuming strip mall off Sahara Ave, just east of the Las Vegas Strip. It was at this hole-in-the-wall restaurant where I was first introduced to the unfamiliar flavors of Northern Thai cuisine. It was like nothing I had experienced before. I knew then what the hype was all about.
In September 2017, the original location was heavily damaged during a rainstorm, causing the roof to partially collapse. Only a few months later, a second location was opened just to the south on Flamingo Road. Fortunately, the food and flavors remained unchanged.
This review will focus on my visit to the new location. For those who are wondering, the original Lotus of Siam on Sahara Ave reopened in May 2020 after years of repair.
Interior of the Restaurant
The new location, much larger and open than the original location, featured a beautiful and modern décor. The interior was cozy and intimate yet inviting and open with colorful walls and paintings. The tall ceilings, white tablecloths, and light purple walls made the dining room feel spacious.
To the left of the entrance was a bar and lounge area. To the right was a narrow dining room which led to a larger back room. For how busy it was, the restaurant was not as loud as I would have expected.
What I enjoyed about Lotus of Siam was it felt upscale but was casual and relaxing without being pretentious. Sure there were white tablecloths, but there was no need to dress fancy, unless you wanted to.
If you arrive without a reservation, or don’t feel like waiting over an hour, then you have another option: the bar and lounge. All seats in and around the bar and lounge were first come, first serve. Even better, these seats had access to the full menu.
This area was much larger than I thought at first glance. There were couches and tables in front of the bar along with counter seats near the hostess stand. This whole area was considered part of the bar. On my visit, there were multiple seats open at the bar and in the lounge.
Lotus of Siam Menu
The menu at Lotus of Siam was massive. It was so large that there was no way I could take photos of each and every page of the menu. On the menu you had Appetizers, Soups, Salads, B.B.Q., Specials, A La Carte, Seafood, Noodles, Fried Rice, Curries, Northern Dishes, and Chef’s Choice.
As Anthony Bourdain once said, you “don’t do Pad Thai here.” Some of the more popular items on the menu included dishes from Northern Thailand along with the Garlic Prawns and Crispy Duck. To be honest, no matter what you choose, it will be good.
You can view the menus for both locations at https://lotusofsiamlv.com/mobile-menu/.
Complimentary Condiments and Sauces
For extra flavor and heat, accompanying the dishes was a complimentary assortment of colorful condiments. You had a smoky Thai hot pepper powder, a basic spicy chili sauce, pickled jalapeños, and fish sauce with chilies. While I knew the dishes would be great on their own, it never hurts to add a little chili sauce.
First up was Som Thum ($11.00). You might be asking yourself, what is som thum? This classic dish from Thailand was made with green papaya, cabbage, chili, tomato, and crushed peanuts in a sauce of lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. Even though the portion looked small, it was perfect for sharing.
My favorite component of this dish might have been the sauce of lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. The sauce was funky and salty from the fish sauce, acidic and sour from the lime juice, and sweet from the sugar. All the strong flavors that made up the sauce complemented each other without overpowering itself or drowning out the fresh flavors of the salad.
Both the large chunks of fresh cabbage and thinly sliced green papaya added a refreshing and crunchy component. I was expecting the papaya to be sweet but this was not the case. Sprinkled over the salad were sweet and earthy crushed peanuts, adding more texture to each bite. The small chopped red chilies mixed into the salad had just the right amount of heat. I had the option of selecting a heat level between 1 and 10. I went with 8. If you aren’t a fan of spicy foods, you might want to ask for a lower heat level. Finally, you had simple wedges of tomatoes which added a fresh, tart flavor.
The fresh, crispy green papaya and cabbage complemented the spicy, sour, and sweet sauce while the heat from the chilies left a slow burn in my mouth. This som thum was refreshing, crunchy, and flavorful.
Next up were the Garlic Prawns ($32.00). This amazing dish featured shell-on deep-fried prawns which were sautéed in a special garlic sauce and topped with ground black pepper.
This was not your typical fried shrimp dish. What made this dish unique was how the shell and tail of each shrimp was not removed but peeled into one long piece of shrimp. The shrimp and its attached shell were then fried until golden brown. It might sound strange to eat the shells of the shrimp, but believe me when I tell you that this was the best part of the dish. The deep-fried shells were out of this world. They were crispy and crunchy, like I was eating a shrimp potato chip. While the crust was rich and salty, it was neither oily nor greasy which was impressive.
The meat of the shrimp, also deep-fried, was just as delicious. For how expensive this dish was, I was happy how large each piece of shrimp was. Each shrimp was meaty, fresh, and tender with a salty, sweet taste. After being fried, the shrimp was sautéed in a special garlic sauce and seasoned with coarse black pepper. The sauce had a hint of garlic and pepper, but it was also sweet, maybe from honey. The well balanced sauce was light enough that it didn’t mask the fresh flavors of the shrimp.
I now realize why the garlic prawns is one of the most popular items on the menu at Lotus of Siam.
Crispy Duck Panang
At the recommendation of my friend, I finished off my evening with the Crispy Duck Panang ($30.00). This beautiful dish featured crispy duck topped with a Thai style red cream curry sauce and garnished with Thai basil. As with the salad, I was asked how spicy I would like this dish from 1 to 10, and I chose 8.
It’s hard to describe just how delicious and colorful the red cream curry sauce was. It was sweet and buttery with a smoky and spicy chili flavor. While the sauce was spicy, the sweetness from coconut milk balanced everything out.
Outside of Asia, mainly China, I rarely eat duck. It’s a protein that is hard to prepare and cook. Even after trying the first two dishes, which were delicious, I had my doubts. Surprisingly, the crispy duck was perfect. Even covered in sauce, the skin of the duck remained crispy. When I took a bite of the skin, it melted in my mouth with a rich explosion of flavor. The dark meat of the duck, hidden under the crispy skin, was meaty and tender without being oily or greasy. This meat had a distinct smoky, salty flavor which complemented the sweetness and spiciness of the curry sauce.
The rich, creamy, sauce and smoky, crispy duck made the Crispy Duck Panang the highlight of my visit to Lotus of Siam.
From the moment I walked in, the service was outstanding, even on a busy Sunday night where every table in the dining room was taken. My server was attentive from the second I sat down until I left.
Even though I did not order drinks on my visit, my server constantly refilled my water. Even better, my food arrived quickly and correctly, one after another as requested.
I can say without any doubt that Lotus of Siam is the best Thai restaurant in Las Vegas. It might even be the best restaurant in Las Vegas. I really don’t know any Thai restaurants outside of Thailand that serve food as delicious and authentic as Lotus of Siam.
While the dishes can be expensive, you get your money’s worth. Each dish I tried was not only delicious but beautifully plated using both unique and fresh ingredients that kept me going back for more.
The food, service, and décor make Lotus of Siam a must eat restaurant in Las Vegas.
- Some of the best Northern Thai cuisine you will find anywhere in the country
- Efficient service
- Beautiful and colorful dining room
- Large bar and lounge area with open seating
- The wait for a table can often be over an hour
Monday-Sunday: 5:30 PM-10:00 PM
953 E Sahara Ave Ste A5, Las Vegas, NV 89104
GPS Coordinates: 36.11515,-115.14971