Lotus of Siam – Las Vegas, NV

Food Adventures, Las Vegas

Martin and I are huge fans of Anthony Bourdain. His books Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw speak to my lifestyle as a line cook, while his shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown have enabled us to vicariously explore the food and cultures of far-off places that we could only dream of visiting, all from the comfort of our couch. But when we watched his episode of Parts Unknown: Las Vegas, we knew that an accessible opportunity to follow his advice had finally come. On our most recent trip to Sin City, we went to Lotus of Siam.

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LoS is tucked away off the Strip in an unassuming commercial district a few blocks away from the shiny new SLS Hotel (it replaced the Sahara). The parking lot is HUGE and believe it or not, one of the country’s best Thai restaurants is flanked by a mish-mash of establishments including other restaurants like Korean barbecue and small businesses like a billiards parlor and a beauty school. From what we hear, this place always has a line out the door at any given time during their hours of operation, so it seemed that luck was on our side then when we were seated right away on that Monday afternoon. (Protip: lunch is served on weekdays only.)

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The single most important piece of advice I can give (and Bourdain has said this himself) is to order from the last four pages of the menu — Northern Thai specialties. My eyes widened at every menu description and it was hard to pick just a few to try on this visit but we chose the crispy garlic prawns, crispy duck in panang curry, and soft shell crab over drunken noodles. I had to convince Martin to get the three dishes to share between us (I wanted to throw in the khao soi as well but that will have to wait for another time); it was way too much food for just two people but I regret nothing. As I stared sadly at the leftovers that we would be unable to bring with us on the desert drive home, Martin couldn’t help but give me his “I told you so” look. I guess that is my only regret: not having the leftover panang curry sauce over rice the next day for lunch.

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We started with Thai iced tea. The tea mixture, we learned, is pre-sweetened (and quite sweet) so we got ours with extra ice and half-and-half to mellow it out. Still a bit sweet for my taste but I usually consider it to be more of a special treat than a regular beverage anyway. Then the feast arrived at our table like a grand procession.

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First came the garlic prawns. The prawns themselves were giant, and each one was delicately peeled so that the shell remained attached but exposed the body to its own layer of batter and seasoning. The shells were crispy, flaky, and completely edible — the menu description called them “almost like potato chips!” The prawns were juicy and perfectly cooked. It was reminiscent of a Chinese-Vietnamese dish (salt & pepper shrimp, or tôm rang muối) but solved the ever-present problem of seasoning only the outside (and often inedible) parts of the shrimp while leaving the meat inside bland. (Flavored sunflower seeds frustrate me for the same reasons.)

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I’m a noodle fiend so one of our dishes just had to feature the flat steamed rice noodles. We got the drunken noodles with soft shell crab; the crab was crispy, deep fried, and drenched in the fragrant pad kee mao sauce. Tossed in with the pan-fried noodles were julienned bell pepper and plenty of Thai basil, my favorite! We got the most mild option so Martin could comfortably partake, but I’d love to try this again with a higher spice level.

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Perhaps the most talked-about dish here is the crispy duck in panang curry — crispy duck gently laid atop a pool of red curry cream sauce bearing a hint of cognac. The duck was incredible — the fat rendered perfectly so that the skin crisped up while the meat remained tender and succulent, almost like a confit. The sauce of coconut milk and red curry was so aromatic that I could eat just that drizzled over plain rice for weeks. Again, we ordered this at the lowest spice level but I will have to try it again with more kick.

Chef Saipin Chutima was awarded Best Chef: Southwest by the James Beard Foundation in 2011. She is an incredible woman and I am so glad that she was recognized for the amazing food she creates. The next time you find yourself in Sin City, be sure to venture off the Strip for an epicurean experience you won’t soon forget.


Check out Lotus of Siam: lotusofsiamlv.com

953 East Sahara Avenue, Suite A5
Las Vegas, NV 89104

See their Yelp reviews here!

About Food Blogging

Blogging Community

It’s been a while since our last post, and although the writing has become less frequent, the presence of great food in our lives is constant. Want proof? Just follow my personal account on Instagram!

But can I be honest for just a moment? It’s no secret that I am now working in a professional kitchen, and I have to admit that, in my line of work, I don’t openly advertise that I am a food blogger. I made the “mistake” of mentioning it once and was immediately barraged by rants about the food blog scene as a whole and its double-edged effects on the restaurant industry. So, in all honesty, it’s been difficult to motivate myself to sit down and write.

I love food and I love people who love food. Julia Child once said, “People who love to eat are always the best people” and I wholeheartedly agree. Sadly, gone is the era of the prestigious food writers and critics whose insightful articles were respected the world over; now it is all about smartphone-wielding online reviewers and everyone seems to have an opinion… often not the most educated or informed one.

No one has summed up my feelings about online review sites better than Anton Ego from the Pixar film Ratatouille.


Luckily, the purpose of Nom Nom Cat has always been simply to share our love for food, by inviting you to visit our favorite local restaurants or by inspiring you to try our moms’ classic recipes in your own kitchens. I enjoy writing about food, with no pretension, no judgment, and I hope to continue providing content of which we can all be proud.

Thanks for letting me rant, and stay tuned for some new posts coming soon!

Scratch Bar – Beverly Hills, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Last month, Chef Phillip Frankland Lee caused a positive stir in my industry by announcing that he would offer any back of house (BOH) employee a free six-course tasting menu throughout the month of February and 50% off for any accompanying guest or additional food ordered. This meant a lot to line cooks like me who make little money (or took a severe pay cut) in order to pursue their passion in the culinary field. He called it Back of House Appreciation Month and boy did I feel appreciated!

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Our romantic date night started off with drinks: Martin had the Piraat Belgian ale, which reminded him of his favorite Trappist ale, Chimay. I selected the Supplies! – a cocktail of unfiltered sake, pineapple, and lemon. It was so good that I had two. It was so refreshing and reminiscent of something I’d want in my hand as I lay out tanning by a pool.

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Scratch|Board – smoked goat cheese, gravlax, air dry cured beef, pork pate, beet dijon, prunes, pickled onions, house sourdough. The pork “pate” was SO GOOD. It was not a country pate but rather bore more resemblance to the headcheese terrine i made during my time at Waterloo & City. And the beet dijon? Our server Mark phrased it profoundly accurately — “The beet dijon is money!” Get this.

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Course 1: Green Mussel and Sea Urchin Sake Shooter – I usually don’t like being told how to eat my food, but this shooter was a fun exception. First, eat the pick with ceviche green mussel, pickled onion, and serrano. Then, shoot the unfiltered (nigori) sake and lemon. Finally, spoon out the uni and avocado mousse at the bottom. Delicious!

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Course 2: Pork Belly & Raw Oyster – braised (?) pork belly topped with raw oyster and coconut-chamomile foam with chamomile dust. This single bite was a surprisingly hearty rendition of surf & turf.

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Course 3: Roasted yet Raw Prawns – raw prawns topped with a lime and fish sauce (?) vinaigrette, toasted nuts, and shaved smoked white onion. It tasted exactly like the meat served in the Vietnamese vermicelli bowls (bun thit nuong) that I grew up eating. The super charred nuts gave the dish a pleasant “roasted” flavor even though the shrimp themselves had not been cooked at all.

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Course 4: Blackened Cauliflower – cauliflower puree, roasted cauliflower, lemon, chip made from cauliflower stems. This dish is 100% vegan which is unbelievable because the puree tasted so rich and silky that I thought it had to be mounted with obscene amounts of butter and/or cream. Martin loves cauliflower so this homage was perfect for him. We were pleasantly surprised to find bits of romanesco in there as well.

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Course 5: Prime Hangar Steak – mashed potato puree, roasted asparagus and mushrooms, sugar blistered cherry tomatoes. OMG THE TOMATOES. So freaking sweet and juicy. This puree was smooth and decadent as well, though with the help of animal fat, and the steak was a perfect medium rare.

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Course 6: Dark Chocolate & Cayenne Candy Bar – sugar cookie, cayenne-infused dark chocolate, raspberry jam, house made whipped cream, chia seeds. The cayenne aroma was intoxicating and I was worried it would be too spicy for Martin, but the spice was barely perceivable on the palate. Beautifully composed.

At this point, Mark came back to our table to see if we wanted to order any additional supplements. “Didn’t we just have our dessert?” I teased. As if he had read our minds, that’s when he pointed out the savory-but-sweet foie gras s’mores.  Why not?

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Foie Gras S’mores – cinnamon-nut “graham cracker,” seared foie gras, house made marshmallows, tangerines, tangerine vinaigrette (?), chives. Sweet, savory, sour, bitter, plus just the right amount of fatty (I know that’s not one of the “tastes”). Sure it’s not a conventional dessert but it was still a worthy way to end our meal.

Thank you again to Chef Phillip Frankland Lee for this opportunity to spend $100 on a dinner that would have easily cost (and rightfully so) $200-300. It was a dinner that we will not soon forget.



Check out Scratch|Bar: scratchbarla.com

111 North La Cienega Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

See their Yelp reviews here!

Sakura Japanese Restaurant – Del Rey, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

One of the best parts of living in LA is that there are just so many dining options it would be nearly impossible to eat at them all. In an effort to explore our immediate surrounding neighborhood (yes, we have lived here for over two years and still haven’t tried everything), we decided to have an impromptu date night at a local favorite – Sakura Japanese Restaurant.

A bit stunned by AP (analysis paralysis), we asked our sushi chef if he could arrange an omakase for us with a modest budget of $60. He said sure and put on his number-crunching thinking cap. Martin pointed out that he seemed relieved to see a change of pace from the many veggie rolls we had seen him assemble in just the short time we had been sitting at the counter. This is the progression he created:

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Yellowtail (hamachi) – A sushi staple, this piece of hamachi spoke volumes of the quality of the meal ahead. The neta (the slice of fish atop nigiri) was a generous portion in all its dimensions.

Blue fin tuna (maguro) – Far from the generic dull-red fish we find at cheap sushi places, the blue fin tuna here was gorgeous, tender, and just wonderful.

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Monkfish Liver (ankimo) – I love ankimo but every other time we have had it, it was served gunkanmaki-style (mashed into a paste and scooped atop a mound of rice that had been wrapped in seaweed to form an oval-shaped vessel, like uni or ikura nigiri). This was the first time we’ve ever tried it in its most pure form — large fatty morsels simply garnished with scallions and ponzu and served with a sunomono-style salad of cucumbers, seaweed, and strings of daikon. Decadent and a steal at $8!

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Albacore (shiro maguro) – Definitely not to be missed, this albacore was served in its typical style with ponzu, scallions, and a hint of garlic. The fish melted in our mouths!

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Halibut (hirame) – A mild white fish that has a firmer, slightly chewy texture, it is always interesting to have sashimi-grade versions of fish that are more frequently served cooked.

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Spanish Mackerel (aji) – The most mild mackerel I’ve ever had, not a single hint of oily fishiness that usually comes with aji or saba. Beautiful!

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Sea Urchin (uni) – Super creamy and smooth, this Santa Barbara delicacy was among the best we’ve had at any sushi restaurant.

As many others have mentioned before us, Sakura Japanese Restaurant is a hidden gem on the mini restaurant row of Centinela Avenue of our humble piece of the Westside and we’re happy to have finally tried it for ourselves.


Check out Sakura Japanese Restaurant:

4545 South Centinela Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90066

See their Yelp reviews here!

DineLA – Mistral Restaurant (Winter 2015)

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

So first, a quick update: I’m a bit sad to report that Cookie Con was a bust. The event itself was great, I’m sure. It was just such a highly sought-after event that the entry lines wove out into the surrounding neighborhood and the wait was hours-long. We did not miss out completely, however, as the event organizer Nancy was kind enough to send us a small swag package that included The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie from Call Me Cookie (cookies delivered to your door, what?!) and an adorable popsicle necklace from Bakery Charms (so freaking cute I want to collect them all!). Sweet!

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There was one happening that I just had to take part in last week and that’s dineLA Restaurant Week. I met up with a dear friend in her part of town, the Valley, to check out this quaint French bistro for lunch. Situated right on Ventura Boulevard (of course), Mistral has a classy, intimate vibe with warm, inviting service.

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We selected the same appetizer — baby kale and arugula salad, avocado, parmesan shavings, lemon-olive oil. It was a well-composed salad, and I’m an especially big fan of the combination of bitter arugula and fresh lemon. The parmesan added just the right touch of saltiness to season the greens.

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For my entrée, I was pleased to see that the printed menu included an option that I had not seen on the dineLA website — boeuf bourguignon, pearl onions, carrots, turnips, mixed rice. I love a hearty, classic beef stew. The meat was amazingly tender and the wafting aroma of red wine was intoxicating.

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My dining companion chose from the sea — crispy skin imported branzino, red grapes, heirloom cherry tomatoes, sweet basil. It was a beautifully plated dish and I could tell the fish was cooked perfectly.

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They say that great minds think alike, so it came as no surprise that we both selected the same dessert as well — miniature chocolate soufflé. The adorable ramekin arrived piping hot with a molten, airy middle and a nice rise of about one inch above the rim. A smaller ramekin carried its sidekick of creme chantilly. I generally dislike whipped cream so I was surprised to find that this was absolutely delicious, not too sweet, fragrant with vanilla, and certainly not from an aerosol can.

After a leisurely two hour lunch of chatting and catching up, we ate this course in silence, savoring our little moment of bliss accompanied by a cup of hot black coffee for me (green tea for her).

This is the life.


Check out Mistral Restaurant: mistralrestaurant.com

13422 Ventura Boulevard
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

See their Yelp reviews here!