When people think Las Vegas thai food, it’s usually Lotus of Siam. It’s a Vegas off-the-strip institution, once called the best Thai restaurant in the United States, and I’ve eaten well there although a couple of years back I had a pretty mediocre lunch.
They tried to open up a New York outpost, it was pretty bad, and the place folded rather quickly.
Fortunately I’ve found a Thai restaurant in Las Vegas, that’s been around for many years, that’s actually meaningfully better than Lotus of Siam, at least if you order correctly.
I had lunch at Komol which is in the same strip mall as Lotus of Siam (score one for competition!).
And to be clear I have not eaten at every Thai restaurant in Las Vegas, so in declaring Komol best I am saying it is ‘better than Lotus of Siam’.
I had read reviews saying the place was quite good, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to focus on. When the waitress came over I asked her, “What do you like best here?”
Now, that’s a dangerous question and she initially interpreted it incorrectly. She started talking about ‘what most people order’ which isn’t at all what I was looking for. I didn’t want pad thai.
I want to know what you like the best here, what are the very best dishes the restaurant can do? I’ve been to Thailand many times, I don’t mind Thai spicy, but I’ve never been here and want to know what you would order, if you only had one meal to sample the real highlights of the restaurant?
Following the advice of Tyler Cowen it was important to establish that I knew what I was talking about, knew about Thai food, because otherwise she was going to assume I was just like any other customer coming in.
Most people go to a Thai restaurant basically wanting or expecting Chinese food, but a little more exotic. And if the question is seen as “what should I order?” she would try to answer it as “what should someone who doesn’t know anything about Thai food order, so that they don’t complain and hassle me after I drop off the food?”
It turns out this was the exact right way to approach the restaurant, as I got great recommendations for food that turned out to be outstanding.
I picked the Nam Sod with Crispy Rice because nam sod is a great staple and ever since eating lunch at this Laotian restaurant “they had me at crispy rice.”
The next three dishes were all staff suggestions.
The whole Tilapia with Tamarind Sauce was truly outstanding.
The Stewed duck was also spectacular, though simple.
I liked the Chef’s Special Curry and would absolutely order it again, but it was the weakest of the three.
Between these four dishes it was a fantastic lunch though I did decide to give their dessert a try. Dessert was a disappointment.
First was the mango with sticky rice, the mango was fine although not perfect and the sticky rice didn’t seem fresh. Not bad, but not a highlight.
I was they had taro balls and so decided to ask about bua loy, but they didn’t have that (Few outside Thailand do). That’s fine, I figured I would give this a try though it was much different than what I was expecting, way too thick almost like a heavy sauce rather than taro balls in coconut milk I thought they’d serve.
I’d go back in an instant, I’d return here instead of Lotus of Siam next door, but I’d finish my entrees next time instead of ordering dessert.