The first time the staff at ELV tried to find The V Thai Cuisine, it couldn’t. The address did them no good because 4750 W. Sahara is a gargantuan shopping center occupying the entire northeast corner of Sahara and Decatur. The V Thai Cuisine (odd name that) is deep within its bowels, and not easily spotted from the road or the parking lot. If the good folks who recommended it had just told us it occupies the space of the old Mayflower, finding it would’ve been a snap.
So they gave up and went to Food Express Chinese Cuisine aka Chinese Food Express just down the street. Obviously, eventually, (insert additional adverbs here) we found it. The good news is, because V Thai inherited Mayflower’s upscale space, it’s now one of the snappier looking Siamese places in town. Even better, ELV was pleasantly surprised to discover the food (so far) is doing the decor justice.
ELV hesitates to go out too far on his critic’s limb with this, because one meal does not a proper judgment (or review) make — a common failing among print media here and elsewhere. But our brief weeknight dinner was so well-crafted, we thought a shout out was in order. We kept it simple, and ordered Thai food standards, knowing that’s the best way to take the measure of a chef in any cuisine. A cautionary note: one shouldn’t venture into the deep waters of Thai cooking too quickly, unless you’re used to spelling words like this.
There’s nothing more classic (and too-often, poorly deep-fried) than angel wings: boneless, stuffed chicken legs or wings. They’re on every Thai restaurant menu in the world, and are usually leaden, poorly-stuffed and greasy, with nary a hint of what makes them special. Here, they’re huge, crispy, seasoned well, tightly-packed, and addictive. One order will feed four as an appetizer and is a steal at $9. Likewise, the duck with basil shamed all the mediocre versions we’ve endured over the years.
The beef larb was good, but standard issue (although ELV wonders if, as with most minced foodstuffs (tuna tartare, meatloaf, etc…), the difference between the mediocre, and the superb, is negligible. (Feel free to challenge ELV on this assumption, because despite acting, sounding, gesturing, bloviating and writing like he’s the last word in food; occasionally, but rarely, actually, extremely rarely…ELV has been known to…er….uh…not get something exactly right*)
What was right this night was terrific tom yum, a soup that took no prisoners, and held nothing back in the spice department; representing Thai food at its best. The Food Gal marveled at its clean, balanced flavors, punctuated by distinctive Thai chile heat, and noticed how strong, yet nuanced, the chiles were. Instead of attacking the front of the palate like a capsaicin hammer, this heat captured all taste sensations; leaving a compelling afterglow. ELV suspects there is a fine art to seasoning with chiles in Thailand — far beyond simply tossing various amounts into the pot. But in America, most Thai food tastes like it comes from a single, industrial Thai kitchen located somewhere in the Midwest (Must…make…more…pad thai….), then delivered overnight (with identical menus), to every Thai restaurant from sea to shining sea — the kitchen’s only responsibility: throwing in the prik chi fa — on a scale from one to ten**– for the customer’s satisfaction.
Because we couldn’t make up our minds about dessert, the owner/waitress/sommelier/daughter of the chef*** brought us three: a folded over, flattened and fried bread that was basically a sweet, whole wheat tortilla, good vanilla ice cream, and an inch or so thick, green tea, rice custard “flan” that was so light it could’ve left the plate.
Prices are more than reasonable. The meal described above came to around $60, including a couple of beers.
Be forewarned, however, many times over the years ELV has prematurely sung the praises of a restaurant only to have it under perform (or worse) on subsequent visits. That’s why ELV is wary of single-visit reviews, even his own! **** But if the first duty of a restaurant is to make its customers want to return — whether it’s their first visit or their fiftieth — then V Thai succeeded.
THE V THAI CUISINE
4750 West Sahara Ave. Suite #27
Las Vegas, NV 89102
* ELV loves politically correct euphemisms, and shamelessly uses them to avoid taking responsibility for his errors. The staff at ELV, when sober, is instructed to always characterize mistakes as “unfortunate circumstances,” “lapses of judgment,” “miscues,” or “miscalculations;” as in: Napoleon’s loss of 470,000 of his 500,000 troops in Russia is widely held to be his greatest military miscue.
** ELV realizes he is being unfair to hard-working Thai cooks, but the boring predictability of Thai food (over here) is both a blessing and a curse — and one of the reasons Lotus of Siam is so renowned. Saipin and Bill Chutima dared to break the same old, same old mold by featuring regional Thai dishes, and have been handsomely rewarded for it. Besides, Thai people, aside from having great food, are some of the friendliest folks on earth, so any (inadvertent) unfairness or insults from ELV probably won’t annoy or distress them any more than having to deal with this at rush hour. To be that cheerful all the time (without relying on some know-nothing, brain-deadening, cult religion to keep you lobotomized), must give Thais hides as tough as their pets.
*** Proving that Thais and Greeks (in the restaurant business anyway) share more than just their love of elephants and dressing like this.
**** The converse rarely occurs, i.e. good places can get worse, but the bad ones never improve. If ELV (or one of his rakishly charming alter-egos) tells you a place blows after one visit, he can practically guarantee it’ll bite even worse after his third. But in the spirit of journalistic integrity for which he is known, ELV trudges into the breach, swimming against the slings and arrows of food effrontery (and mixing metaphors along the way), going multiple times (particularly to places that disappoint, c.f. Sushi Samba), so you can be assured of well-researched opinions from The World’s Greatest Restaurant Critic.*****
***** Self-proclaimed, but also endorsed as such by Anthony Robert Curtas (DOB 10-25-75), of Vienna, Virginia, The Official Number One Son of ELV — and Web designer and Web master of www.eatinglv.com.