When it comes to Thai food, Lotus of Siam has always been the most lauded of Vegas’s small offstrip restaurants but it has always had a bunch of problems with it. It’s usually slammed with tourists making it hard to get reservations, it has steadily grown more expensive as time goes on, the menu is MASSIVE and impossible for first time patrons to navigate, (OXFORD COMMA UP IN THIS SHIT) and in a city known for 24/7 grub, you can never get a seating past 10 PM. Lotus needed an upgrade, and thanks to one of its sommeliers (wine nerd) deciding to open up his own place, we now have Chada Thai.
AND WHAT AN UPGRADE IT WAS.
I’m not going to pretend this is my first time here. It might be closer to my 50th time here.
Chada Thai is king of Vegas strip mall food. It’s next to a bunch of other Asian restaurants on the western side of what they call Chinatown but what is closer to Asiatown. Every complaint I have with Lotus is fixed with Chada. It’s a small, intimate space. It’s open late, with a small and easy to master menu. And even if you have a tendency to over order (not saying I do but oh dear god yes I do), it is very hard to ever spend more than $35 apiece on food alone. My particular menu choices at this point are almost set in stone, choosing between a few dishes depending on the size of our party. These are some of my staples.
I was never huge on oysters. They seem to be a lot like cheese and wine, something with a huge range and it takes a very particular palate to be able to distinguish great from bad. The snobbish eschew toppings in favor of tasting the oyster as it is, but Chada tops theirs with chili paste and fried garlic amongst other things. It’s hard not to say it’s an improvement over the base model. At $2/oyster, it’s certainly not something you could go broke over.
Their Tom Kha Kai is the best I’ve ever tasted. Large pieces of mushroom, chicken and thai basil in an extremely tangy broth. This is the perfect soup to nurse you back to health when you’re sick (mostly because it’s spicy enough to get your nose running almost instantly). If I had a terrible day, coming here and sipping on a bowl of this soup would do a good job of making the world a little better.
The Pad Kra Pow is likely my favorite dish. For a long time, I was unaware of its existence until a friend of mine told me you could make an off menu meat choice for it. When combined with the roasted and then fried pork belly, this dish hits an absolute home run. It’s a slightly spicy, thai basil infused sauce with meat with texture unlike anything you’ve ever had before. It took me probably three or four trips before I truly fell in love with it, but I cannot imagine ever showing up and not ordering it. 10/10 would pork again.
The duck Panang is probably the dish that most people fall in love with their first time. Panang is a kind of curry, but instead of the usual coconut milk, Chada uses coconut cream instead which makes a much thicker sauce which works well with such a small portion. The duck is done the same way the crispy pork is, first roasted and then fried. The result is crispness bordering on tempura. One of the most expensive dishes on the menu at $18, but it is typically the first dish in a large group to order multiple of. If you go here, do NOT leave without trying this dish.
Last but not least is the Moo Khum Waan. Among my friends, it generally remains in the middle of the pack in terms of preference but don’t let that make you think it’s anything but great. Pork loin grilled with a garlic and mint chili sauce, this is the perfect way to cool down your mouth after the more spicy dishes you’ve had before it. If you have someone with you who refuses to eat spicy food, this would be the dish to serve them. It’s also interesting to see the two drastically different ways to serve pork between this and the Pad Kra Pow.
This is just the start of the menu. There are many other dishes that I’ve left out that are worth of being spoken of. I may seem like a shill for them but they truly do represent the best of what Vegas offstrip cuisine has to offer. I’m not going to do a rating scale, but on a scale of “Don’t go there” to “Go there,” I give them a “Why aren’t you there yet?”
Address: 3400 S Jones Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89146
Phone: (702) 641-1345
Hours: Open Tuesday – Sunday · 5:00 pm – 3:00 am