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Lotus of Siam serves up excellence at new location

Lotus of Siam has a new look in its new location — not to mention a full bar — but the top-notch food, atmosphere and service that earned a national reputation for the original restaurant on East Sahara Avenue haven’t changed.

As renovations go on at the 19-year-old Lotus in the venerable Commercial Center, the slightly smaller East Flamingo Road restaurant continues to serve exceptional Thai fare.

Khao Soi ($18.95) is one of Lotus of Siam’s most popular dishes, and to taste it is to understand why. Lush strips of roasted duck bordered by crispy skin are bathed in a mild but soul-enriching curry sauce atop a tangle of delicate Thai noodles and sprinkled with shredded scallions.

“Crispy” also is the key word for another Lotus favorite, the garlic prawns ($29.95), because the shells are left on; the menu likens them to potato chips, although they were more akin to the exterior of soft-shelled crabs. The prawns — some had shells, some didn’t — were firm and sweet, suffused with a generous dose of garlic and graced with ground black pepper.

Food lovers already wearying of our warmer weather will find refreshing coolness in the Koi Soi ($18.95). Beef in this dish is similar to tartare but in the style of the Issan region of Thailand, heritage of many of Lotus of Siam’s flavors. The meat was seasoned heavily with chili, lime juice and herbs including cilantro and tossed with lots of sliced red onion. Cabbage leaves, herbs and artfully cut cucumbers on the side provided an opportunity for wrapping, cup-style.

In a playful nod to fusion, a starter special of deep-fried baby back ribs ($15.95) offered an appealing mix of textures, tender meat and crunchy fried garlic with cilantro, the distinctive, springlike flavor balancing the richness of the meat. The bowl of vinegar-based sauce with onions, peppers and cilantro provided further contrast.

For old time’s sake you might try a cup of tom kah kai ($6.95), the traditional chicken soup flavored with coconut, galanga, lemongrass and an abundance of straw mushrooms. The soup was deeply flavorful and indulgent, a “medium” level of heat bringing tears to the eyes.

A dessert of bananas wrapped in rice paper ($8.50), fried and dusted with powdered sugar provided a sweet ending.

The atmosphere of the new place seems more elegant than the old, with printed fabrics and papers imported from Thailand completing the paprika-hued decor. (A re-opening date for the original spot isn’t certain, but the owners, the Chutima family, are hoping for June.) Service was remarkably efficient, considering how packed the place was on a weekday evening. That’s the caveat that comes with dining at Lotus of Siam: Expect a crowd, because its reputation and dedication to excellence have extended far beyond our environs.

Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella onTwitter.

Lotus of Siam, 620 E. Flamingo Road; 702-735-3033

The essence: Attention to detail, commitment to excellence that has earned a national reputation.