the hullabaloo on lotus of siam nyc

i was supposed to wait another 2 weeks to before going to lotus of siam with G, but i just couldn’t wait.  hubs and i, well mostly me, have been salivating since the nytimes article came out a few weeks ago celebrating the imminent arrival of what Jonathan Gold regarded a decade ago as the best thai food in the united states.

we didn’t have a reservation but wandered by the restaurant, half thinking that we wouldn’t get a seat.  (i didn’t even bring a camera, but relied on the lens of my mobile phone. apologies in advance for the graininess of the photos).  the maitr’d worked his magic with the reservation system and managed to find us a table.  the main dining room appeared to be 1/3 full.  many more tables filled up after we left around 8:30pm.  it was the 2nd day they started to offer the full a la carte menu, and i think they kept the restaurant at less than full capacity to ease the staff into things.

the configuration of the benches, tables and chairs is comfortable enough.  for once, i didn’t feel like i was being squeezed into a cubby hole.  as a new restaurant, it was pretty clean as well.  that said, the more i looked around the place, the more i got the feeling that the decor was not as well contemplated as it could have been.  they had these strange reddish-orange things on the wall and in vases that looked a bit like feather dusters.  the rest of the furniture was a mix between french brasserie and zen minimalistic japanese design.  i suppose it’s a step-up from the bare boned strip-mall original in vegas.  still, they’ve got stiff stylistic competition from kittichai and  spice market; moreover, with the prices they’re charging, i would have expected them to invest a bit more in transforming the dining room into a real experience.

but enough on the visual elements.  who really cares if the food is amazing? hubs and i started with 3 appetizers:  the crispy rice salad, a green papaya salad, and nam prik hed.  the appetizers were in general outstanding.  i found the green papaya salad to be incredibly flavorful with a great balance between the crunch of the tasted sesame seeds, sweetness of the cherry tomatoes, and the fragrance of fish sauce and fermented shrimp instilled in the papaya shreds.  the crispy rice salad is fantastic as well.  it’s got a great blend of tiny rice crunchies with the savoriness of shallots and freshness of mints.  hubs ordered the nam prik hed — a mushroom dip and northern thai specialty — expressly because the menu warned that it was very spicy.  and indeed it was very spicy, not so spicy that we couldn’t handle it, but a bit too spicy for us to taste anything aside from spiciness.   we were warned . . . after a bit of a wait, our mains finally arrived.  to get straight to the point, the mains were a bit of a let down (or maybe we just haven’t found the right things to order as yet.  there were some curries that looked quite interesting, and i would have liked to try their pad thai as well).  i got the soft shell crab dish over drunken noodles for ~$25. the entree was appetizer sized.  it was one soft shell crab, fried, done up with some herbs and placed over a small handful of flat rice noodles. i think i might have been better off ordering the $15 soft shell crab appetizer instead.  the dish itself was rather tasty, but soft shell crab is one of those ingredients that is difficult to mess up. i dunno, i expected to get more bang for my buck, i suppose.

hubs orders a pork pad krapow — as he does in virtually every thai restaurant we venture into.  the pork slices were a bit tough and there wasn’t nearly enough basil herby goodness.  at $17, i thought it was also a bit over-priced.

i had really high hopes for lotus of siam.  some of which were met (their flavors are spot on), and some of elements i hope they’ll continue to tweak.  who knows, maybe hubs and i just managed to order the wrong items. for now, i think i’ll hop on over to queens to get my thai fix at either srip, chao thai, or ayada…at the very least, i know that if spend $50/person there, i’ll be stuffed silly

Lotus of Siam
24 Fifth Avenue at Ninth Street
Tel: (212) 529-1700
Mon – Thu: 5p- 10:30p
Fri – Sat: 5p – 11p



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