Only in Vegas would the terms "Thai" and "Wine" automatically make you think of this new genre of restaurants: relatively inexpensive Thai restaurants with impressive wine collections offering wine at ridiculously reasonable prices with hardly a mark-up.
For years Lotus of Siam was the flagship restaurant. It was known for its excellent Thai food, considered by some - like Jonathan Gold of Gourmet Magazine - to be the best in America. It had an amazing selection of wine, especially rieslings, and it hardly marked up the wine prices. It was one of the few off-strip places that we would regularly visit.
Pad Hed $8 - Shitake and shimeji mushroom stir fried with Brussels sprouts and lotus root
In 2012, the general manager and sommelier of Lotus of Siam, Bank Atcharawan, decided to leave to open his own restaurant, Chada Thai and Wine. Chada Thai and Wine adopts a similar concept: great Thai food + excellent wines.
So far, it's been a hit. Bon Appetit included Chada Thai and Wine in its Top 50 New Restaurants list in 2013. Sommelier (and chef!) Bank Atcharawan was crowned one of ten "Top Sommeliers" by Food & Wine Magazine.
We decided to visit after a restorative and beautiful day of hiking in Valley of Fire State Park.
Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodle) with hot chili, garlic, basil
The menu focuses on food from Southern Thailand (including Bangkok). Prices are very reasonable, with most appetizers, soups, and curries hovering in the $8 - $12 range; and main dishes range anywhere from $8 to $23. The wine list is excellent, with a focus on rieslings (but really, great wines from all over the map). Bryan is a red wine fan, so we went with a 2004 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Oenotheque ($155).
We tried a number of dishes, and they were very good. Try the Yum Kai Nok Kata ($6), a flavorful appetizer of fried quail eggs topped with dried shrimp, cilantro, and red onion tossed in a spicy lime dressing. The Pad Kee Mao, or Drunken Noodle ($8 - $25 depending on what kind of protein) also had nice flavor, though it was missing the "wok hei" (smokiness from wok fire) that we still dream about from the best pad kee mao we'd ever had in our lives (in Thailand, of course).
We enjoyed the Duck Panang ($18), crispy roasted duck with Panang sauce and kaffir lime leaves. Another interesting appetizer we tried was the Lo-Ba ($8), a trio of braised and lightly fried offal including pig's ear, tongue and heart. Served with fresh cucumber and a special sauce, this dish was flavorful but certain parts (most noticeably the heart) definitely had that gamey, "offal-y" taste. Bryan thought it was good, but I wasn't the biggest fan.
All in all, though, we enjoyed our meal at Chada Thai and Wine. One of my dining companions commented that some of the dishes reminded her of Chinese food, and I agree (though I couldn't tell you why). Based on just this single experience, I think I prefer the food at Lotus of Siam (which focuses more on Northern Thai cuisine), though other reviewers have expressed the opposite. All in all, both places offer very enjoyable Thai food, phenomenal wine, and very reasonable prices. You really can't go wrong.
Now can the rest of the country adopt this "Thai and Wine" model?
Chada Thai and Wine
3400 S. Jones Blvd. #11A
Las Vegas, Nevada 89146
Open 5pm-3am daily