|Tasty Nam Kao Tod Crispy Rice at Lotus of Siam
New restaurant hype is such a double-edged sword. Expectations are built up so high and tolerance for error is so low. Take the debut of Vegas-based Lotus of Siam, billed as the "single best Thai restaurant in North America" in Gourmet magazine.Talk about setting the bar high. It opened last week, so, drum roll, please...
It’s a letdown in so many ways. Just knowing it came from Vegas, I expected at least some glamour and wow factor. On the contrary, the corner space on Fifth Ave. at 9th St. is so sedate, it looks leftover from former restaurant Cru. The walls are mostly bare, the Italian china is floral and the rice is served in traditional bamboo baskets. It just doesn’t really gel. Neither does the pared down menu.
The starters sounded really exciting on paper, but not on the plate. A som thum traditional green papaya salad ($9) lacked texture and layered flavors. Only heat and soggy papaya taste came through. The pik khai kra pao krob ($8), crispy fried chicken wings in chili garlic sauce, were bland. The only starter that delivered full ,complex flavor was the nam kao tod crispy rice ($9), with bits of Thai sausage mingling with hot chilies, crunchy rice, peanuts, and red onion, in a ginger lime dressing. Moving on to the main course, the kang dang with beef ($18), traditional red curry with chilies and bamboo shoots, tasted completely average. The fancy prices don’t fit the unmemorable fare or the lackluster service. Apparently, they still serve the 6-course $65 tasting menu promoted opening week, but you have to ask for it as it’s not on the menu. Probably for the best.
24 Fifth Ave. at 9th St. 212 529 1700