Monday, September 22, 2008

Looking forward to the Mecca in the Desert: Lotus of Siam

As I said in my previous post, it has been a rough week. Every day last week was spent working, either at my new job, selling wine on the street, to restaurants, wine stores, grocery stores, you name it, or at my old job, selling wine in the beloved retail store. Every day was busy in its own way. And today, Monday, I start again.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Yes, yes, there is the light that I will learn the new job better and everything will flow easier and smoother, but an even brighter light, from a future not so far away is that I'll be in Vegas this coming weekend. Yes! Leaving Thursday evening at 9:30 pm, after I do a wine dinner at Long Beach's premier Vietnamese fusion restaurant, Benley, I will be whisked away by my hubby and his friend and we will make the 5 hour drive through the dark valley and into the dessert of many sins.

And in this dessert sits a cult restaurant whose name is so known among the wine-loving and foodie world, that it is abbreviated to simply LOS. Lotus of Siam - a bastian of authentic, mouth-searing, flavor-exploding Thai cuisine paired with fine wines, many of them German Rieslings.

I first heard about this restaurant when I was working and hosting my first wine dinner more than 2 years ago at a great Long Beach sushi restaurant called Yen. A few customers walked in and started telling me about Lotus of Siam and even gave me a business card for the place. Raved about how great it was, and since I didn't know of it, I didn't think much of it - after all, the name is much like any other Thai restaurant - sounds just like King of Siam, The Lotus Restaurant, etc. The customers did regail me of stories of how the walls of the restaurant were adorned with the sommelier's pictures that he had taken with various famous German winemakers.

Later, Rudi Wiest, who was at this wine dinner, saw the card on my table and asked me if I had been there - I told him no - and he said this was a must-go-to place. Later, more evidence - some archived newsletters from The Wine Country told the story of a former employee who had gone to Germany with Lotus of Siam's sommelier, Bank. The story grew in my head.

Slowly, more evidence of this LOS' special aura - talks of it on many of bulletin board, with members talking about making special trips there. A coworker even attended a huge dinner there with fellow parker board members, and posted a video of it on You-Tube.

I met Bank this year, in Vienna of all places. He was quiet, humble. I expected him to be extroverted, exuberant, jubilant. His reputation preceded him, and was bigger than him. To be so famous and yet in real life so quiet. Wow! We exchanged a few words and he was very kind. But after the short conversation, I didn't see him again. Many wine folks on the trip I was on knew him, and commented also that they saw Bank once and not again. He was certainly a celebrity who eluded us.

Who knows if when I am there this Friday if he will remember me. He probably will, since he seems a smart guy. I look forward to tasting his restaurant's fine dishes and pairing them with some great stuff off his wine list. Hopefully, I'll have enough to tell that I can write a decent post about that here.

The moral of this story is that when a restaurant does really well with wines of some obscurity, and by that I mean wines not sold by Southern Wine and Spirits or Youngs Market, the tales of this restaurant travel far and wide. Another one that comes to mind is The Slanted Door in San Francisco. Another restaurant with an Asian focus, tons of great wines (German Rieslings, Austrian Gruner Veltliner, French wines from the Loire) and another restaurant I have yet to visit, but have heard so many great things about.

May Benley of Long Beach become a restaurant like that, that will plough through palettes of German Riesling, Austrian Gruner Veltliner, and Loire whites. And become a destination for wine geeks and foodies alike.

1 comment:

Samantha Dugan said...

Oh I think you would LOVE the Slanted Door! Good luck on the Benley dinner and even more luck on the Lotus of Siam...have a blast lady, you deserve to let your hair down!