In 1994, when chef Saipin Chutima took over at Renu Nakorn—located in a strip mall 20 minutes south of downtown L.A.—it was already one of the best-regarded Thai restaurants in Southern California. Responding to its spicy Isaan cooking, Jonathan Gold noted enthusiastically that "a trip to Renu Nakorn can be a little like taking your tongue to the Leather Castle," referring to a notorious s/m bordello. Surprising everyone, Chutima left L.A. for Las Vegas in 1999 to found Lotus of Siam in a plebian commercial space remote from the... More >>>