Lotus of Siam, the legendary Las Vegas Thai standout, has opened in Greenwich Village, in the former Cru space. Gourmet critic Jonathan Gold called the original LoS “the single best Thai restaurant in North America.” I’m always skeptical of best — really, how could you know? — but the place has racked up accolades by the score.
Their decision to take the Cru space came quite suddenly. Eater.com posted the first rumors on October 21, and by October 27 eGullet’s Fat Guy was there for a media preview meal. In a city where most restaurants are announced months before they open, and often much longer, this was exceptionally speedy.
It’s practically a pop-up restaurant. Most of the Cru décor remains, although there are no longer any tablecloths, and it looks like the chairs have been replaced. I am pretty sure the flatware and serving pices are Cru’s (I remember them distinctly). Cru’s collection of high-end wine decanters lounges on a table-top, unused. The brief wine list consists of a few sheets of plain white paper, stuffed into laminated plastic sleeves.
New York is historically unkind to imported restaurants, especially when the chef does not move here permanently. Saipan Chutima, the chef and owner of the original (which will continue to be her home base), said that it took three years to train her Vegas staff. With most of the reviews likely to appear within two months, she will not have that luxury.
The à la carte menu of about fifty dishes debuted late last week. We tried four items, none of any great distinction. Four silver dollar-sized fish cakes were a bit lumpy. Fried rice with shrimp and pineapple tasted like take-out you could get anywhere. It was marked on the menu with an asterisk (spicy), but it had no heat at all. Had it not been for little cubes of pineapple, it wouldn’t have had much flavor, either.
Braised short rib (above left), in a mild coconut sauce, was the more enjoyable of the two entrées. Crispy duck (above right) was dull and dry.
Service — although I’m sure they mean well — was comically inept. I tried to get a glass of wine, but the server interrupted me: “Let me send over the sommelier.” Fair enough, but no sommelier came. We drank water all evening, and no one noticed.
I ordered food for both of us, from which a wise server might have inferred that we intended to share. The first two dishes arrived without sharing plates. To get them, it took about five minutes, and requests to two different runners, while we looked longingly at our food, which was getting cold. When the entrées were set down, the same drama was repeated.
It would be piling on to complain about the silverware, but I don’t think fish knives were meant to be used as the serving spoons for fried rice. I’ll leave it at that.
The dessert menu consists of just one item, which the server recited. (We were full, and didn’t order it.) “We’re still in a soft opening right now,” he said. Soft or not, they’re charging full price, but in respect of their alleged status I’ll withhold judgment. But I think they have their work cut out for them.
Lotus of Siam (24 Fifth Avenue at E. 10th Street, Greenwich Village)