Don't confuse Thai House Restaurant in Southeast Las
Vegas with another spot of the same name on Sunset Road
in Henderson. This airy, spacious room, decorated with
Thai artifacts and brightened further by cream-colored
walls, was built from the ground up by Saithong and
Marvin Tyner, who met in Thailand more than 30 years ago
when Marvin was in the military.
Part of the charm here is the design, a mock-up Thai
house facade over the register, and individual booths
framed by Thai woodcraft. A golden Buddha statue
presides over the center of the dining room. Food is
brought to the tables on rolling carts, grandiose
service for what is essentially a humble, neighborhood
Well, perhaps not all that humble. "We try to make
food here as close as possible to authentic Thai," says
Saithong, who doubles as hostess and executive chef. She
hails from the northeastern Thai province of I-sarn,
close to Laos and Cambodia. I-sarn has given the West
great authentic Thai dishes such as nuah dad deal, Thai
beef jerky; the raw green-papaya salad known as som tam;
and real Thai barbecue chicken on the bone.
Those three dishes make a good starting point for
meals here. Most Thai restaurants in Vegas do a poor
imitation of gai yang, the spice-crusted,
turmeric-yellow chicken that is a good enough reason
alone to visit Thailand. Saithong's meat is incredibly
tender, redolent of spice and perfect astride som tam
and sticky rice, served in a wrapped clump.
That meal is a drop in the bucket, though, as Thai
House Restaurant has a gigantic menu of some 100 dishes
spanning the entire Asian homeland. When you order, you
are asked how spicy you want the dishes, on a scale of 1
to 10. My advice would be to go easy. You can always ask
for prik nam pla—a hot, pepper-infused fish sauce—to
heat things up, but once the chilies are in, you can't
take them out.
A coworker told me about the menu's number N10, yai
kee ma-ow: pan-fried rice noodles tossed around with
mint and spicy chili, plus a choice of meats. The name
means "drunken noodles" in Thai, since the dish is often
made with rice wine—not the case here. Try the noodles
with chopped chicken, or roast pork. For me, it easily
surpasses pad Thai.
Thai beef jerky is really fried shards of beef, and
I'd wait for the days when the kitchen makes the pureed
green-pepper and tomato dipping sauce to accompany it.
Thai fried-fish cakes, or tod mun, are golden orbs of
boneless fish with a hefty dose of mint, served with a
sweet-sour cucumber peanut sauce. One more starter I
just can't do without are the stuffed fried chicken
wings, made with a dense ground pork and glass-noodle
Thai salads are justly famous, and among them, my
favorite is the northeast dish known as larb: chopped
meat mixed with rice powder, red onion, ginger and other
spices. Here it is made with chicken, pork or beef, an
ideal finger food typically eaten in hollow cabbage
leaves, although Thai House uses lettuce.
Hot and spicy beef salad is grilled beef,
surprisingly rare, mingling with red onion, lime and
mint on a bed of lettuce, shot through with chilies. Nam
thok, available upon request, is the I-sarn version of
Thai beef salad, made with peanuts and other surprise
additions. The aforementioned som tam is available
either Thai (sweet) or Laos (salty and spicy) style. It
is excellent either way.
Soups are another of the restaurant's strong suits.
Marvin's favorite is tom kha gai, a chicken and
lemon-grass soup enriched with coconut milk—Thailand's
version of comfort food. I prefer white cabbage soup, a
clear broth laced with ground pork, garlic and lots of
There are several standouts among the entrees.
Catfish can be had spicy deep-fried, or spicy pan-fried,
and both are worth a shout. Thai House pork hock—tender
meat in a sweet soy sauce with mustard greens and a
runny boiled egg—is the ideal companion to fragrant
jasmine rice. I'm also a fan of green beans in spicy
sauce, which I like to order with jumbo shrimp.
Generally speaking, I'm not big on Asian desserts,
but Thai House serves a few I like. One is the seasonal
mango over sticky rice: glutinous rice with coconut
cream, draped in strips of ripe mango. Another is young
coconut with ice cream, also dependent on the seasons.
Oh well, there is always coconut ice cream, but
Baskin-Robbins does that, too.
The restaurant offers a host of lunch specials at
$5.99, but beyond the well-traveled pad Thai and a spicy
chicken with mint, most of the dishes are Chinese. We
should count our blessings, anyway. Besides, there's