it is unfair that las vegas has two of the country's best thai restaurants, and more unfair still that both of them also have lovingly assembled wine lists that allow the rare pleasure of eating great thai food while drinking something other than beer or a thai iced tea. lotus of siam you already know about. the other one is a new spot across town located, as many good vegas restaurants are, in a stripmall shoebox way off the strip. chada thai and wine is the new project by the guy who used to be lotus's wine director. his wine list at chada is smaller but filled with tantalising and fairly priced prospects, none of which i got to try.
he's also cooking the food, and the food was wonderful while being less expensive than a mediocre takeout thai restaurant. intensely flavoured, beautifully balanced stuff in small portions. many elements reminded me of the cooking of southern china and the malay archipelago: less sour, more sweet, more not-chili spice, less heat, more coconut, the use of sweetly acid fruit like plums instead of acidly sweet fruit like tamarind, a different fermentary flavour profile. we were on our way to the airport and only had time to try a few things, but each was a marvel. a dry crab, roasted coconut, and ginger salad portioned into romaine cups; the dipping sauce was unnecessary. fine rice noodles, soaked, wound into skeins, steamed, then served next to a small bowl of turmeric-filled crab red curry. and a spice-heavy kua kling that was a textbook example of how to fry-render ground meat.