Authentic Thai Cuisine in Downtown SD

Lotus Thai
San Diego, CA

It was a Wednesday night when my Mom and I decided to have a much needed girls night out in downtown San Diego. We felt like trying something unique and I recommended the first thing that popped into my head: Thai food!

Three things come to mind when I think of Thai food: tasty lean chicken, delicious peanut sauce and Pad Thai. Although I am not an expert on Thai food, I have always loved the spices and flavors associated with their dishes. Located on 10th & Market sits the absolute best Thai cuisine in San Diego: Lotus Thai. It had great reviews on Yelp and I was determined to check it out for myself. (Voted best Thai in San Diego for the past five years-this is the real deal!)

As we walked in, our attention was drawn to the décor of an authentic Thai eatery. In front of us stood a large wooden Buddha panel showcased on the wall exported from Thailand. Its large presence was highlighted by softly lit lights, changing from blue to pink to white. It is a great place to have dinner and one on one conversations. The restaurant struck me as much more serene, complete with calming fountains, wood interior and a pagoda-shaped bar. At night, the lighting of the restaurant is subtle and dimly lit, which sets the tone for a nice romantic evening. (Valentine’s Day is coming up fellas….!)

I learned a lot about the restaurant and its passion for delivering the best dining experience (and delicious cocktails), when I talked the owner Ton Sangkapong. After moving to San Diego in 1999, Ton opened Lotus Thai and due to its success, he opened a second location in Hillcrest in 2004. He is constantly crafting new menu items while ensuring they can be successfully duplicated by their chefs in bulk in order to please customers taste buds. I don’t know about you, but after hearing his story of dedication and hard work, I liked and respected Lotus Thai even more.

Ton and myself

Ton and myself

From 5-7pm, Lotus Thai has a great happy hour, which consists of a selection of $5 appetizers and cocktails. I tried the Pink Lady cocktail (what good is a girls night out if no cocktails are involved?). Because we couldn’t decide on a single appetizer, we started off with the sampler platter called the “Lotus Platter,” which was more than enough for us and consisted of the top five specialty appetizers on their menu. I won’t go into detail about all of them, but I will tell you about our favorite two. The chicken satay was paired with my favorite, deliciously sweet peanut sauce, and was the only item I had ever tried before (and loved). If I could, I would put peanut sauce on everything. Mom and I both loved the Lotus cup appetizer, which was a shell filled with a delicious combination of curried chicken and potatoes. It was a perfect balance of spicy and flavorful and we highly recommend them to anyone who is looking to try a great Thai appetizer!

Now to the main attraction: the entrees! My Mom ordered the drunken noodles with plump shrimp, which was really tasty and was such a large portion! (She would order it again). I usually order my favorite, Pad Thai, which had very high reviews on Yelp, but decided to branch out and try something new. I asked Ton and our waiter Justin what their favorite dish was, (I like doing this, because I rarely ever am disappointed with what the house recommends) and collectively they recommended the Panang Salmon. I was very impressed. Another first for me: red curry. Once I tasted it, I wanted to put it on everything! It complemented the salmon really well. Their plates were very reasonable: noodle and rice dishes range in price between $10-14, depending on the type of meat you order.

The next item I am demanding you to try when you go to Lotus Thai: the mango sticky rice. (You MUST reserve room for this—if you don’t, don’t say I didn’t warn you!). We were persuaded to try this classic Thai dish and I am so glad we did. When I first heard of having rice for dessert, I wasn’t enthused. (How could rice be a dessert?!) This was yet another first for us and with dessert being my favorite thing in the world… I was in heaven! It was the perfect end to a great meal and wish I could have had more, despite how uncomfortably full I was. (That is turning into a bad habit of mine.)

We wanted to try something unique and sure enough we picked the perfect place to converse, have a great meal and enjoy a calming and pleasant ambience. The servers are extremely attentive, and we had a great time trying new dishes. If you need more reassurance about how great the food is, check out their website and San Diego Magazine, who has given the restaurant raving reviews and awards for their cuisine. Let me know your thoughts about the restaurant!

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