Dave made us do it.

He put us all in the car and drove down Las Vegas Boulevard, banged a right on Sahara Avenue and then a left into some strip mall that is best described as "reminiscent of the dirt mall in 'Mallrats.' '"

Something just didn't seem right about this dinner trip. I mean, this is Las Vegas, right? Wouldn't the best Thai food this side of Thailand be closer to the Strip? Maybe even on the Strip?

Dave insisted he knew what he was talking about. Bill, the bachelor, backed him up. This was my first time in Vegas -- May of 1999 -- so what did I know? I went along for the ride.

And so went my introduction to Lotus of Siam.

We walked into the restaurant, a quiet unassuming place. No Vegas glitz. No Vegas glam. Nothing even remotely to suggest that this gourmand experience would be something worth talking about, let alone writing about. We could have been in Cleveland or Boise or Ft. Lauderdale and we wouldn't have known the difference.

Dave pointed to a few magazine articles framed on the wall. Big deal. Every restaurant has those.

We sat down and ordered some appetizers. Our waitress corrected us. "You don't want that, you want this," she said, pointing to the Nam Kao Tod, minced sour sausage mixed with green onion, fresh chili, ginger, peanuts, crispy rice and lime juice.

Never seen a waitress do that in a restaurant. Right there, I thought Dave knew what he was talking about. After two spoons of Nam Kao Tod, I knew Dave knew what he was talking about.

The chicken pad thai, a basic staple in Thai restaurants, was hug-the-waiter amazing. The Issan sausage. Um, excuse me, is the chef available because I'd like to give her the deed to my house? The drunked noodle seafood. Hello, dear 'oltaste buds, you're in for a treat tonight!

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Everything we ate that night was insane. So insane, I made a bold proclamation that night: "I will not eat Thai food ever again unless it's at Lotus of Siam." Eating anywhere else seemed offensive to the chef. It would be like going to Wo Hop in New York's Chinatown and eating upstairs. It's just not right.

For a good five years, I held true to that decree. Then I discovered Sea in the Willamsburgh section of Brooklyn. The commute is much easier. Cheaper, too. The payoff isn't the same, but Sea is nice East Coast way to cure any Thai jonesing. (It's not like Kanye West is going to show up at the airport and give me a lift in his plane like in "Entourage.")

Nearly every trip to Vegas since 1999 (and there have been way too many to accurately count) is accompanied by a trip to Lotus of Siam. It never disappoints.

Perhaps those articles -- and Dave and Bill -- were right. Lotus of Siam may indeed be the best Thai food ever.

If you go

Lotus of Siam 953 E. Sahara Ave. Las Vegas, NV 89104 702-735-3033 saipinchutima.com