Situated in a seedy strip mall near a massage parlour and a swingers club, Lotus of Siam has been serving authentic Thai food since 1999 (a New York branch opened in 2010) after moving from an earlier venue in Norwalk, California. Bill Chutima is the owner and his wife Saipin is in charge of the cooking. The menu was vast, covering all the familiar Thai dishes but also with a section on dishes from the Isan region in northern Thailand, which is where the chef is from.
The restaurant is very large, with perhaps 150 seats, and the dining room is well lit, with green carpet and matching upholstery. I was not expecting to see a 73 page wine list with 600 different choices, including a remarkable 33 close typed pages of German Riesling, at very fair mark-up levels. Few top restaurants in Germany have a selection like this. Examples included Dr Fischer Ockfener Bockstein 2003 at $45 for a wine you can buy in a shop for about $20, Egon Muller Scharzhofberger at a seemingly pricy $125 for a wine that retails at around $28, and Vina Almaviva Puente Alto 2003 at a very fair $125 compared to a retail price of $110. I usually drink beer with Thai food, but could not resist a JJ Prum 2004 Kabinett at $55 for a wine that retails for at least $25.
Som tam (spelt "som thum" on the menu here at $7.95) is spicy papaya salad, with unripe papaya shredded into strips, perhaps with a little tomato, and with a spicy dressing. The papaya was just right, though I made the mistake of assuming that the spicing levels were toned down to local tastes, so when I was asked whether I wanted a mild version I declined. What arrived was a level of chilli that I have only encountered in Thailand, searingly hot. Unless your tastes run to to the masochistic I recommend taking the wimpy option. Still 13/20, as this was a proper som tam, though the papaya was shredded a little thick, so a fairly rustic version. This being America, it was also served as about twice the portion size that Europeans will be used to.
My main course sea bass ($28.95) with assorted fried vegetables (including bean sprouts and celery) was cooked properly, but oddly in this case could have done with a bit more spice to ginger things up (there was a little advertised ginger in the dish, but not much). Also, the bass itself was fairly tasteless (12/20). Better was the classic pad Thai ($8.95) noodles, the noodles having nice texture though cooked right at the edge of verging into overcooked territory, the prawns with it tender (just about 13/20). These three dishes were already more than I could eat, so this is clearly a place to come with a few friends to share dishes. It would have been interesting to try a wider range of dishes than I was able to as a single diner, though overall I thought the food good but hardly dazzling. This has been described in the US press as the "best Thai food in America", and this would seem to me to set expectations at too high a level. It was very pleasant, above average, but not genuinely exceptional Thai cooking.
Service was good, the dishes coming out at a measured pace, and with no trouble getting attention. The bill came to $115 (£71) for one, but this included a bottle of excellent wine, and more food than I could finish. It would be easy to eat here for around half this price.