"Lotus of Siam...Lotus of Siam...Lotus of Siam." I swear, in terms of "hot new restaurants" on NYC's ever evolving food landscape, Lotus of Siam, a Las Vegas Thai transplant, was all I seemed to be hearing about. Gourmet Magazine even went as far as to coin LoS's (Lotus of Siam) Las Vegas flagship as the "single best Thai restaurant in Northern America." Really?
The reviews for LoS's brand new NYC location, on the other hand, were much more mixed. From "what happened in Vegas should stay there," to "suddenly you don't need to catch a Queens-bound 7 train to reach transcendent Thai food," I decided that I needed to check this place out for myself.
Can an overly-hyped younger sibling live up to the incredibly high expectations put forth by its perfect older sister? Read on to find out...
LoS's 24 5th Avenue address stands right in the heart of Greenwich Village. As far as location is concerned, you simply can't beat it. With that being said, the restaurant naturally attracts a healthy mix of foodies, key power players, and the stereotypical "ladies who lunch." Having arrived on the early side of my 7:30pm reservation, I decided to have a glass of French red at the bar. Between sending text messages and perusing the restaurant's dinner menu, I overheard a well-healed older gentleman order a vodka-based cocktail from the bar tendress. "What kind of vodka do you pour?" She reached under her post to reveal a brand that the fellow, quite obviously, had never seen or heard of in his life. "It's called 'Tito's,'" she said, while showing the bottle to the customer, "a vodka made in Texas." The gentleman looked over at his wife, and they both burst out laughing. It was quite the sight.
Just before 7:30, Brette & Shelley arrived. The three of us were led to our four-top by an incredibly kind host (wish I had gotten his name!). Brette and I sat on the banquette side of the table, while Shelley faced us in a chair. As we began perusing the dinner menu, our server filled our water glasses. Suddenly, I became distracted by the party that was approaching. I quickly scooted my oversized handbag and puffer jacket closer, as two gentleman, one of whom was in the restaurant's bar area at the same time as me, were being led to the table to my left.
That shaggy blonde hair - that chiseled face - those tight blue jeans that hugged his legs in all of the right places. Jon Bon Jovi, the legend himself, plopped down along the same banquette, within inches of my left arm. The three of us girls looked at one other with eyes agaze. Shelley burst out in a nervous laugh. Brette jabbed me in my ribs. And one of them kicked me from under the table. "Good choice, Linds!" Shelley blurted in reference to the restaurant.
After being star struck to the core - yet trying to remain cool, calm, and collected - our server returned to take our meal orders. Each of us chose to begin with an appetizer, followed by an entree.
My starter, "Tuna Koi Soy," was the Thai equivalent of traditional tuna tartare, or Hawaiian poke. Freshly-sliced cubes of raw tuna, the color of red-grapefruit segments, were dressed with chopped cilantro, mint, scallions, red onions, and kaffir lime. Roasted spices, including a heavy hand of salt, crowned the top of the colorful mound.
I found this dish too fragrant and overly seasoned. All of the components added to the tuna stripped the fish of its inherent, delicate flavor. In a sense, the tartare reminded me of the offensive blend of perfumes that my late grandmother used to wear.
For my entree, I enlisted the counsel of our server to help me choose between the scallops or the beef short ribs. He suggested that I order the latter.
"Shortribs braised with cinnamon & star anise in a Penang curry sauce," is what the description for the Braised Shortribs Penang read on the menu. Sounds pretty damn good, if I may say so myself. However, what I was served could not have been more underwhelming. Laden in a heavy curry sauce were two gristly wedges of short rib that were topped with slices of fat-laden brisket. Brisket? Wait a minute. The menu *never* said anything about brisket. I was fully aware that short ribs aren't the leanest cut of beef, but I didn't foresee having such a difficult time trying to find any edible meat on my plate. Plus, what would Jon Bon Jovi think each time I politely spit gristle in to my napkin? Thank god for the gratis basket of steamed white rice. Whew! This proved to be the perfect accompaniment to the rich Penang curry sauce that surrounded the mounds of cow gristle on my plate. Otherwise, I would have had to make a late-night pit stop at Gray's Papaya to cure my ravenous hunger.
On the bright side, I was satisfied in knowing that Shelley & Brette enjoyed their steamed sea bass entrees.
After our plates had been cleared, we decided that we were deserving of a dessert. Or two. Plus, we wanted to prolong our experience of sitting next to Jon Bon Jovi.
Sweet sticky-rice proves to be the perfect dessert for anyone who doesn't take their sweets overly sweet. Sticky white rice was delicately formed in to a cake, of sorts, and topped with, what tasted like, moist slices of bread pudding.
LoS's version of tapioca pudding is another suitable dessert for those who don't particulary like their sweets overly sweet. Creamy and cool, yet incredibly light and delicate, the pudding was topped with a melange of exotic fruits, one of which tasted akin to a sweetened water chestnut. Very unique and delightful!
Conclusion: I'll be the first to admit that I'm no Thai food expert, but LoS did not blow my tastebuds away. If anything, I found most of the dishes I ordered to be rather unpleasant. This wasn't one of the worst meals I've had, by any means, but I don't see myself sprinting back to LoS any time soon. Aside from the great service we received all evening, the highlight of the meal was, most definitely, being seated next to Jon Bon Jovi.