Last month when I was in Vegas I caught a cab straight away from the airport. I had been planning to come straight here. So I had the driver take me well beyond the strip to a strip mall that’s home to many ethnic restaurants a few miles away from the major action of the city, where Lotus of Siam can be found. I had a wonderful dinner here a couple of years, and for many years it’s been highly touted as the best Thai restaurant in North America. The chef has won all sorts of awards. And they’re sure to let you know that, with the walls of the entrance filled with their accolades. I was eager to return, especially after a less than stellar meal at their new New York location. I wanted them to redeem themselves. I walked in shortly before noon, and was seated straight away. They brought me the menu, which is very very extensive, and I began to peruse. What I hadn’t noticed on the way in was that there was a lunch buffet set up. All you can eat for $9. I took a look, though that wasn’t what I was there for. It looked ‘ok’, like any small Chinese lunch buffet that could be found anywhere in the country, at least any one that gets a pretty good volume of business such that things are fresh rather than sitting out, I saw them refilling the buffet frequently. And therein lies the problem, perhaps. Everyone else in the restaurant was eating from the buffet. I ordered off of the menu. And I wonder whether they just weren’t really equipped to pay attention to a single dish when they were busy cooking en masse. I started with the Nam Prik Ong (Northern red chili dip) which was good, but the last time I had it was in Chiang Rai so it’s unlikely it was going to measure up. I also ordered the Salmon Penang. With so many things on the menu, I ordered based on what I felt like eating and what sounded good rather than giving the restaurant a fare shake in a controlled experiment. I should always order their spicy soup or coconut soup, it’s such a basic dish and I believe you can tell a lot about a Thai restaurant from the way they prepare their soups. I didn’t do that this time. Really I was missing out because I was dining alone, how many dishes would I order? It was lunch, I was only so hungry, so I stuck with the two. They asked me how spicy I like my food, I told them that I wanted it to be as spicy as it’s supposed to be. That I visit Thailand each year, that I am not afraid of spice. And the Nam Prik Ong had some flavor to it, so we were off to a reasonable start. The salmon in penang curry though was a mistake. It was completely flat. There wasn’t much flavor, almost strictly coconut milk. The piece of salmon was a bit underdone. A fine enough piece of fish I suppose but one that could have been eaten in any restaurant of any kind, if it hadn’t been placed on a bed of coconut curry. Thoroughly disappointing. And so I walked away unhappy, I can’t really say whether the place has gone downhill or whether it’s just not a good idea to come for lunch, that all of the good work comes at dinner. Perhaps the lunch buffet killed it. Perhaps the last two years’ economy in Vegas killed it. I suppose I’ll give it one more try, and definitely at dinner, also of course with more people to try more things. But I’m not in a terrible rush to do so.