Between the 200 lanterns that soar overhead, the gorgeously knobbed tree boughs that bend down from the ceiling, and the hand-placed bricks that cover the walls, the new Lotus of Siam restaurant at Red Rock Resort and Casino marks a stunning evolution for the beloved Las Vegas Thai restaurant. The Chutima family opened the original Lotus on East Sahara Avenue in 1999. Since then, the family and its restaurant have braved changes such as expansions to new locations, a pandemic, and temporary closures.
“We’re very proud,” says Penny Chutima, the 34-year-old managing partner of Lotus of Siam, “and here, we want people to be able to see something different.” The new restaurant opens on Friday, November 11, and while the menu remains the same at all locations, the decor is anything but. “We’re so used to seeing cliched Thai restaurants, where it’s super bright red or gold foil on the walls,” says Chutima. “It has literally a copy-and-paste style of decor. Thai culture is so much more than that.”
Visitors to the new location will enter the restaurant through a south-facing 11-foot-tall wooden door. The grandeur of the entryway immediately gives way to a warmly lit dining room, where paper lanterns trail all the way to the back of the restaurant. Suspended above the lanterns are corrugated aluminum panels. “The ugly in Thailand is also beautiful,” says Chutima of the rustic-looking aluminum. “A long time ago, that’s where my mother started. If you had no money, that was how your home looked.” By contrast, the red brick walls are meant to evoke those of temple walls.
There’s also the bamboo canopy that extends over the bar — Chutima emphasizes the abundance of bamboo in Thailand — and several traditional statues of protectors tucked away on decorative shelving throughout the 8,000-square-foot restaurant. Inside a smaller dining room is a display of squat richly colored pots that loom over teal banquettes and rattan chandeliers.
While excited by the new restaurant, Chutima is still recovering from the impacts the pandemic had on Lotus. “Before the pandemic, I had 125 staff. Even right now, I probably have about 106 left,” says Chutima. “And it was one of those things that I felt I was responsible for everyone’s life.” The Red Rock Lotus opens while its other locations are in flux. Both the original location in the Commercial Center on Sahara and the location at 620 East Flamingo Road experienced temporary closures in recent years due to water damage and pandemic-triggered shutdown. Currently, the original Lotus is temporarily closed for renovations but plans to reopen within the next couple of months. The currently open Flamingo location will then undergo renovations. By this time next year, the restaurant will grow from one restaurant to three with all locations fully operational.
Lotus of Siam is famous for its dishes like drunken noodles and garlic prawns with shells. But it’s the northern Thai dishes at the back of the menu that really dazzle. There’s the vibrant orange khao soi with curry and egg noodles, kang hung lay pork curry with fresh spices, and the sai oua northern-style sausage with notes of salt and lemongrass.
At an advanced opening party on November 9, the restaurant was filled with friends, family, and performers who demonstrated traditional dances and music. Outside at the resort’s pool, Chutima guided guests in placing candles in the water, a celebration of the Lantern Festival in Thailand that occured earlier this week. “I don’t want people to see our culture as a cliche,” says Chutima. “And there’s so many beautiful, different things we have that people don’t even know existed.”
Starting November 11, Lotus of Siam will be open at 11011 West Charleston Blvd from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday.