Ben Weinberg expressed amazement at Lotus of Siam’s wine list.
My old high school friend and enthusiastic wine writer was in town for a big Italian wine shindig called Vino 2011 and wanted to have dinner.
I missed Monday’s report in The New York Times that the Chutima family, who founded Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas and recently opened an outpost in New York, had given up on the Big Apple venture, apparently as suddenly as they announced they were opening it a few months back.
What can I say? I have to write about the whole country, so I miss a lot of local news.
Besides, it's a big-name Thai restaurant within easy walking distance of NRN's new offices on 17th and 8th. Surely it was worth checking out regardless of the ownership.
Ben had two fellow wine people and a bottle of Franciacorta in tow.
Franciacorta’s basically the Italian answer to Champagne, priced similarly, accorded nearly as much respect by many wine experts, but not remotely as well known.
That, of course, means Franciacorta’s much cooler to drink than Champagne, because only people in the know have the wisdom to drink it.
I hadn’t looked at much of what the critics and bloggers had said about Lotus of Siam, because as a general rule New Yorkers don’t have the faintest idea what they’re talking about when it comes to Thai food, so their opinions do not interest me.
I’ve since glimpsed some of the reviews and comments and don’t understand why people think they should be comparing what’s basically a fine dining restaurant in an elegant space on 5th Avenue with hole-in-the-wall food in Queens. They’re different.
People don’t drop $200 per person at Daniel and say, “well, I could have had a croque madame at La Bonne Soupe at a fraction of the price.”
Of course you could have, and indeed you might have enjoyed it more — it depends on your mood, the occasion, what you’re trying to get out of the experience.
Compare Lotus of Siam to Kittichai if you like — both are fine dining, both have lost their original chefs as Ian Chalermkittichai left the restaurant at 60 Thompson years ago, both offer fine-dining trappings — but comparing them to Sripraphai or Ploy Thai or Pam Real Thai Food or Won Dee Siam is silly.
If you’re with wine people, Lotus of Siam is appropriate.
Typically I drink beer with my Thai food, but I must say that my dining companions’ choices were excellent and made for a really fun evening — at eight or nine times the price of many other Thai meals I’ve had in New York, but wine can do that. It was money well spent.
Before I list what I ate and drank I will take a moment to comment on the very nice staff’s odd persistence in getting us to try the Koong Sarong, which they insisted was fantastic. It’s shrimp wrapped in bacon, rolled in a spring roll wrapper and deep-fried, and that’s exactly what it tastes like. It’s fine, but it’s not Thai.
What we ate and drank:
Pik kha kra pao krob — crispy fried chicken wings tossed with chile garlic sauce & fried Thai basil
Nam kao tod crispy rice — crispy rice tossed with Thai sausage, fresh chile, ginger, peanuts & lime
Nam prik hed — roasted chile, garlic & onion dip, pounded in a mortar (it was similar to nam phrik noom)
Northern larb — minced pork with spices and Thai herbs (without lime, unlike Issan laab).
Tenuta Mazzolino Oltrepo Pavese Cruase DOCG Franciacorta
Vincent Mothe Chablis, 2008
Kaeng khiao wan (green curry) with chicken
Moo krathiam prik thai — stir-fried pork with garlic and black pepper
Braised short rib penang
Julienas 'Clos du Fief,' Michel Tete 2009 (a fun and inspired choice by Doug Cook, creator of a wine search engine called able grape)
Koong Sarong (remember? the bacon-and-shrimp dish)
Sua rong hai (it literally means “crying tiger,” please let me know if you know why) — grilled, marinated rib eye with chile-kaffir lime dipping sauce
Pla koong — grilled shrimp salad with sliced red onion, lime, Thai herbs and lettuce
Donnhoff Riesling Spatlese ‘Norheimer Kirschneck’ 2002