I have never been to Lotus of Siam Las Vegas though my brother and his lovely Singaporean Chinese wife have been many times. Thanks to them, I have refused to eat at most of New York City's Thai restaurants with the exception of Woodside, Queens' Sripraphai, the Di Fara's of Thai restaurants, which has dominated the New York rankings for more years than I can remember.
I also recently dined at Arun's in Chicago, a James Beard award winning Thai that has long laid claim to being at least tied with Sripraphai for being top Thai in the US. My brother and sister-in-law, frequent visitors to Thailand, have taunted me with stories of LOS Las Vegas being in a class by itself. So when I was lucky enough to be invited to the friends and family opening of Lotus of Siam New York, like a detective for CSI NY, I had to investigate.
The chef/owners, Bill and Saipin Chutima, have aspirations of revolutionizing New York's Thai cuisine with their Northern Thai roots (a much neglected regional cuisine in this country). They even dare to pair wines with Thai chiles thereby carrying on the tradition of the old Cru space on Fifth and 9th recently transformed from leather and velvet to bamboo and cane. A dry Riesling matched perfectly with tuna koi soy-a tuna tartare with cilantro, mint and kaffir lime redolent with Thai spices.
Baw Pied Tod-vegetable spring rolls, were the first of several vegetable dishes, in addition to a wonderful salad and a bok choy dish, which would win over even the most voracious carnivore. Pik Kai Yao Sai-billed as a boneless fried vegetable stuffed chicken wing, was like a meatless chicken cordon bleu. Crunchy rice with Thai sausage was textural genius.
The spicy coconut milk soup-Tom Kha Hed- with a variety of exotic Asian mushrooms was the apotheosis of Thai mild creaminess contrasted with de rigueur spiciness. The proteins then proceeded to the front of the line. Scallop Krathiam Prik Thai had almost an Italian accent with garlic, cilantro and peppers. The soft shell crab yum provided the opportunity to go one-on-one with the reigning champ, Sripraphai, as this is my favorite dish to order at the NYC Zagat's #1 Thai. Decision: Lotus of Siam in a first round knock-out with the addition of apples to the traditional green papaya salad. Drunken Noodle Seabass Pad Kra-Pao- batter fried Chilean seabass, was so light that it was almost fluffy. The deep fried filet of pork was reminiscent of Japanese tonkatsu with a pickled pepper salad that reminded me of Italian giardineria.
Mrs. Gutter Gourmet and my sister-in-law thought that the vegetarian Pad Thai was a little too sweet but the green curry chicken with Thai eggplant and basil was just right. Not too sweet sticky rice coconut custard left us all sad only because it signified the end of the meal and, like the lotus eaters of Homer's Odyssey, after eating at Lotus of Siam, we no longer wished to return home again.