Lotus of Siam: The Tao of Thai With an Amazing Wine List

By Glen Frederiksen

Living in Las Vegas is a gastronome’s paradise. Every three-starred chef in America (and beyond), it seems, has opened a restaurant (or three) here.

What cuisine suits your fancy? We have French, Italian, German, Austrian, Japanese, Chinese, Argentinean, Mexican, Cajun, Tex-Mex, barbecue, Peruvian, Indian and more — all at the highest levels.

High-end street food? Yup, we have it… in spades. Haute cuisine food trucks number in the dozens.

But each of us has that special craving. You know, the type of food that brings us inner peace. We seek it out and, when found, it completes us.

For me, the gustatory Holy Grail is Thai food. Exotic Asian spices, often at a heat level that will take your breath away, with meats and vegetables that cross the line from familiarity into the Thai-light zone on a regular basis — I find myself drawn back time and again.

One recent spring evening, the Happy Cooker and I were joined for dinner by friends who share the same affinity for Thai food. Our destination: Lotus of Siam.

Located in a disheveled, well-off-the-Strip mini-mall that takes up a square city block and looks more like a fortress than a dining destination, Lotus of Siam would be easy to overlook. But then you do an internet search for “Best Thai restaurants in the United States,” and up it pops. Since 1999, Lotus of Siam has been recognized as the Mount Everest of Thai restaurants in the U.S.

Check Michelin. Or Zagat. Or Frommer.

Jonathan Gold of Gourmet magazine has called it “the best Thai restaurant I’ve tried in this country.”

The restaurant, and the food, is the inspiration of Saipin Chutima, the owner and chef. Born in the north of Thailand, she was taught to cook at the age of 5 by her grandmother. After coming to the United States, she and husband Suchay opened their first restaurant in 1994 in Norwalk, Calif. Seeing greater opportunity in Las Vegas, they opened the doors to Lotus of Siam in 1999.

I won’t bore you with a recapitulation of the meal; suffice it to say that every dish was perfection.

The Happy Cooker and I tied the knot 37 years ago, in 1976 — which happens to be one of the best vintages of the last 50 years in Germany. And even though they represent two very different continents, the food of Thailand and the wines of Germany are a culinary pairing made in heaven.

Well, Suchay and Saipin Chutima understand this, which is why Lotus of Siam stocks numerous German Rieslings. Would you believe more than a dozen? Maybe even two dozen? Nope — that’s just the number of bottlings from 1976. The wine list itself is 40 pages long, almost exclusively German Rieslings.

I have yet to see a more complete selection of German Rieslings on one restaurant wine list… anywhere.

On this particular evening, the sommelier recommended a bottle to us that he had recently tried (lucky dog!) and enjoyed. Hard to believe, but it was from the 1976 vintage!

At that age, most wines are lucky to still be “alive.” But this wine wasn’t merely alive; it was still vibrant. My tasting notes are here.

We also brought a bottle of Bordeaux with us to enjoy with the meal, and you can read about that wine here.

Coming to Las Vegas? Don’t miss this spectacular restaurant. Dinner (not including wine) will be a reasonable $30-40 per person. Even better, the restaurant offers a luncheon buffet Monday through Friday for only $10. Call for reservations. Dress is dinner casual.

LOTUS OF SIAM
953 East Sahara Ave. #A5
Las Vegas, NV 89104
702-735-3033
www.saipinchutima.com

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