Evening restaurant review
If you’re like me, every week you receive a deluge of flyers, coupons, and special offers in the mail. Typically anything related to dining is of the chain restaurant variety at best. But, over the last few weeks, our mail man has been kind. A couple of weeks back, a “buy one get one free” offer (in the Home Town Values mailer) led us to the enjoyable Braza Grill. In the same flyer this week, we found Thai Lotus with the same offer.
Wendi quickly googled Thai Lotus and all the indicators looked good. The restaurant had glowing reviews from professional and amateur reviewers alike. I confess to not having heard of Thai Lotus before last weekend. With the abundance of Thai eateries in Utah, it is hard to keep up to speed, especially given the similar naming schemes (Thai Garden, Thai Siam, Thai Orchid etc). We rounded up a couple of friends (a Thai-food newbie and veteran for good measure) and hit the road.
You’d be hard pressed to spot Thai Lotus unless actively looking. The restaurant doesn’t seem to make any great efforts to stand out, especially at night. Indeed one of our dining companions, who works in the area, commented he also previously knew nothing of Thai Lotus.
Once through the door, we were instantly hit by the distinctive Thai aromas. As we were greeted and seated, everyone was eager to dig in. The restaurant space is relatively small and exudes a quirky familial feel. Interesting Thai objects and art decorate the room. At first glance, it seems a little chaotic, but once seated and relaxed, the atmosphere comes together well and was casual and comfortable.
The homey nature of the restaurant is exemplified by the liquor menu. Handwritten and laminated, the list was small but perfectly suited. Wines seem to have a set price of $20 by the bottle and $5 by the glass, which is more than fine by me. We opted for a bottle of the Terraza Malbec and started to peruse the menu.
While looking over the menu, an order of Fried Wonton Skins appeared:
These came served with a thick peanut-flavored sauce. A pleasant touch, albeit the sauce was slightly odd, not the traditional peanut sauce, but more of a gelatinous texture. After some deliberation, we decided on a selection of appetizers and entrees to share amongst ourselves.
The appetizers arrived relatively speedily, and even better, at virtually the same time. One of my small annoyances is mistimed delivery of plates, especially for larger groups. No such problem here. Up first was the Tow Hu Tawt, a selection made by the two ex-vegetarian members of our group ($4.95):
The deep-fried tofu seemed well executed, crispy exterior and soft interior. It also came with a sweet tamarind sauce. The menu claims peanuts as well, but these were missing. I’m no great fan of tofu at the best of times, so I left it to the former veggies to comment. They both agreed this was a good example of the dish.
Hoi Jal ($6.95)
We all expected these “Shrimp, Crab, and Pork Rolls” to be akin to simple fried spring rolls. They turned out to be something quite different, more like Chinese prawn toast. The Hoi Jal came with a side of plum sauce and was a surprisingly welcome change to the more recognizable Thai appetizers.
Our third and final appetizer was the Goong Chub Pang Tawt ($6.95):
The menu describes these as “tiger shrimp battered with shaved coconut, deep fried, and served with a sweet chilli sauce.” That sums them up fairly succinctly, nothing exceptional, but not bad.
With the appetizers cleared away, it wasn’t much more of a wait before our entrees were delivered to the table. The first was a Pork Gaeng Dange ($8.95):
This was a fine example of the Thai red curry, received by all the table (especially our Thai-food newbie friend) exceptionally well. Most of us would have liked to see more heat in the dish, as it stood the heat level was a little mild for our preference. That said, none of us could complain with the flavor, which was rich and perfectly balanced.
Next the Pla Tod Sam Rod ($12.95):
This “Three Flavour Salmon” came deep-fried and with topped with a sweet and sour chilli sauce. This was Wendi’s selection for the table and she was very enthused by the dish. Indeed everyone else concurred this was another great dish. (Wendi’s note – I’ve ordered this dish elsewhere and had it virtually flavor free or at the other extreme, bathed in sickly sweet sauce with hardly any heat. Thai Lotus’ version is definitely a new favorite. It was flavorful and just hot enough. I’m definitely going back for lunch sometime soon.)
Our third entree was Pad Gra Thiam ($8.95):
Another pork dish, this time stir-fried with garlic, black pepper, and copious amounts of onion. The flavors of the Pad Gra Thiam were almost Chinese and the dish proved to be another big hit with our table. By the end of the meal, not a bite was left on the plate. I really enjoyed this, I don’t recall seeing anything similar elsewhere in our recent Thai-restaurant travels.
Chicken Pad Prick Khing ($8.95):
Finally my choice, chicken stir-fried with red curry paste and green beans. I had to ensure we had something with a fiery kick, and the dish seemed to offer this. It did not disappoint, providing a gradually building heat that required equal measures of wine and water to keep it under control. The beans were fresh and crunchy as both myself and Wendi prefer. (Wendi’s note 2 – This was so so so good! I’m craving it now. But, our dear writer made his own version at home a couple of nights later, and it was equally good, if not just ever so slightly better.)
We received a complementary side salad with our selections:
Our waitress brought this over and didn’t really explain the salad, except for it being free of charge. That was fine by us, but a little more explanation would have been welcome. Wendi was the most interested and tried a few bites. It was a standard green salad mixed with fruit such as mango and apple. It also came topped with a peanut-based sauce.
With our bellies full and plates cleaned empty, our waitress arrived with yet another small complementary dish, one for each of us. This time dessert:
If memory serves correctly, this was a a little piece of coconut custard, topped with “lotus seeds”. A welcome final treat for everyone except me, the texture wasn’t really my cup of tea (soft and squishy).
The only real gripe we encountered was when it came time to pay the bill. Regular readers will know how irate I get at the tardy presentation of the bill. I’m afraid to say Thai Lotus dropped the ball here. After what seemed like hours of staring intently at passing staff it took one of our group walking to the bar area and asking for the check. Even after this, the bill still took a while longer to surface. More infuriating was the fact that the restaurant was now quite quiet and it wasn’t as if the wait staff was rushing around helping other diners.
Thankfully, this late lapse in service didn’t take the glow of what was otherwise a very enjoyable meal. The appetizers were certainly decent and the entrees were very good indeed. Service was prompt throughout the meal until the incident at the end.
With our “buy one get one free” coupon, three appetizers, four entrees, and a bottle of wine came to a little over $75. We all agreed this was a steal for the quality of the food. If you happen to be in the area, we all certainly recommend checking out Thai Lotus. Great food, great prices, and a charming atmosphere.
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC and The Utah Review; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with other local publications from Utah Stories through to Salt Lake Magazine and Visit Salt Lake. I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for more than a decade. I’m largely fueled by a critical obsession with rice, alliteration and the use of too many big words I don’t understand. What they’re saying about me: “Not inaccurate”, “I thought he was older”, “I don’t share his feelings”.
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