Nam-Prik-Ong (Red Chili Dip)
This dish off the Northern Thai menu is mild, flavorful, and suitable for even Thai food newbies. "Tastes somewhat similar to tomato sauce," says the menu, but we find it closer in nature to a tomato chutney. The crudité accompaniments include a few crunchy pork rinds thrown in. A great way to start a meal with friends.
Som Thum (Thai Papaya Salad)
This salad is full of surprises, the first being the level of spice. Whatever level you choose for the rest of your meal, you might consider knocking this one down a few notches. The main ingredient is green (or young/unripe) papaya, and the fish sauce, lime juice, and chili make for a punch of flavor. This is a salad that wakes you up.
Nam Kao Tod (Crispy Rice with Sausage)
Each individual grain of rice in this appetizer has a crisp lightness without losing moisture or becoming clumpy. It has a pleasing variety of textures: tender bits of sausage, crunchy peanuts, and wispy slices of green onion. The lime and herbs are ever-present but not overwhelming.
Koong Char Num Plar (Raw Prawns)
Look for this on the Specials menu. The chef marinates the prawns in seasoned fish sauce and serves them with a spicier fish sauce, fresh garlic, and a paste of roasted chili and tamarind. The paste is deeply savory and earthy with just a hint of sweetness, and the raw prawns stand up to all the flavors. This was one of our favorites.
This classic appetizer is a great introductory dish for first-timers. Reliably mild without lacking flavor, it's a comforting combo of chicken and peanuts. While it's a staple on Thai menus everywhere, Lotus of Siam does it best. The peanut sauce is never too sweet, peanuty without being overwhelming, and smooth without being oily. The chicken is impeccably seasoned and moist. Simple dishes like this showcase the delicacy with which the Lotus of Siam chefs handle each ingredient.
Tom Kha Kai (Bangkok Style Soup)
Order a hot pot for the table and you are rewarded with this crowd-pleasing spectacle of metal and flames. Coconut milk lends creaminess without heaviness, the spice adds warmth, and the lime and lemongrass cuts through it all. Upgrade to shrimp from the standard chicken.
Rad Na (Yellow Curry Noodle)
Looks can be deceiving, so please do not be deterred by the somewhat lackluster appearance in the photo (or in person). This is comfort food at its finest, with a gravy-like sauce made interesting with the addition of curry, smooth wide noodles that are never too chewy, and a mouth-pleasing balance of fats. The inclusion of ground beef, tomato, bell pepper, and celery hearken to Mom’s casseroles (if your mother were a homey Thai chef and not a chicken-roasting Jewish waif like mine). Note: there are several Rad Na items on the menu; this one is specifically #106.
Musaman Curry Chicken
This curry is distinct from other Thai varieties in that it actually has Muslim roots. The flavor is creamier and richer than many curries, with familiar Thai flavors and additional exotic overtones. It is not excessively spicy, although as with most things at Lotus of Siam, they are more than happy to burn your mouth off if you'd like.
Roasted Duck Curry
Tender pieces of moist duck meat swim in a red curry base with pineapple and grapes, which add bursts of welcome sweetness (even to me, and I usually hate fruit with meat). The duck flavor stands up well to everything without being overly gamey. This is almost more of a curried duck stew than chunks of meat in a sauce. Exceptional.
Sea Bass on Drunken Noodle
Sitting atop pan fried flat rice noodles are huge chunks of lightly fried sea bass, cooked just until moist and quivering. This dish is not oily at all; it's hearty and satisfying. The portion is generous and could easily be shared. The fall-apart tender fish and chewy, thick noodles are glazed with a savory sauce punctuated with fried Thai basil.
Crispy Duck with Chili Mint Leaves
The skin on this duck is what all mallard should strive for: crispy, savory, moist but not greasy. The meat underneath is tender, cooked perfectly, and flavorful without being gamey, and the mint is pervasive but not overpowering.
Thum-Ka-Noon (Pounded Young Jack Fruit Shredded)
This is one of those dishes that catches you off guard. It's nothing like what you expected and so much better than you were even hoping. Found on the Northern Thai menu, Thum-Ka-Noon is primarily pork, with jackfruit, tomato, and spices seamlessly blended in. The texture is reminiscent of pulled pork but the moistness comes from the meat itself, not a gloppy sauce. It is juicy, heavily spiced without being hot, and immensely satisfying. You'll want to stuff tacos, sandwiches, and arepas with this pork.