16 June 2011

Lotus Asian Restaurant: Asian, Marrickville (4 June 2011)

393 Illawarra Road,
Marrickville NSW 2204

Right food in the wrong location

Thanks to Charlotte Foot Public Relations and owners Chef Danh Cao and Kim Nguyen for having me as a guest of the nicely fitted-out Lotus Asian Restaurant. A 7 pm family booking on a Saturday night is met with an unusual empty restaurant while just down the road I noticed the cheap and cheerful looking Old Thang Huong Restaurant was packed. The atmosphere is thus a little quiet and eery and our thoughts wander to ‘I hope we’re not the only ones tonight’. Thankfully towards 8 pm more couples come in making it a bit more cosy and lively. With so many tempting dishes on the menu covering Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Chinese dishes it was hard to choose what to try but also a bit worrying that the restaurant was trying to cook too many cuisines and wouldn’t be good at any. Thankfully, with surprise, there were plenty of dishes I’d happily order again. The dish presentation actually reminded me of Banana Palm in Coogee.

I sometimes worry when I see tea cups with handles in an Asian restaurant although the Jasmine tea ($2 per person) is made with loose leaf tea and served in an iron teapot. Most of the entrees were as expected but I wish they came with more sauce and perhaps put in a shallower dish instead of Chinese tea cups (which I think should be used for the tea) would make it easier to dip into. I liked the presentation of the Sang Choy Bao of chicken ($8, 2 pieces) although a bit more meat filling would have been appreciated. The Malaysian-style grilled satay chicken ($7.50, 3 pieces) was perhaps not as smoky as hoped although nicely tender. Braised pork belly with green papaya salad ($12) and Grilled Thai beef salad ($12) were vibrantly fresh and tasty. The Special fried rice ($12) was a bit of a let down due to the absence of a noticeable amount of Chinese sausage and BBQ pork but the prawns were decently sized. Everyone enjoyed the M. B. S. ($12) of mushroom, bean curd and snow peas and the Massaman curry of beef with potato ($14.50) was tender and decently flavoured.

The Crispy braised duck with chili tamarind sauce & steamed wombok ($16.50) might be considered one of their signature dishes and was well liked for its flavour although I wished the meat was deboned and sliced up for easier sharing. I really liked the generous sized and crispy Salt & pepper soft-shell crab with Nam Jin ($18.50) but could have benefitted with more sauce. The Bo Luc Lac ($16.50) was well-flavoured and tender — would have been great wrapped in some lettuce with herbs. The Braised prawns with chili, pumpkin, lemongrass & coconut milk ($18.50) came with decent sized quality prawns which were properly deveined. Desserts are reasonably priced considering how well-presented and delicious they were. Fried coconut ice cream ($6.50) comes with a self-pour passionfruit sauce worthy of a fine dining experience. The Black sticky rice pudding ($6.50) had the right consistency and taste with its light texture although more coconut sauce would have been good. I wondered if the perfectly battered Banana fritter ($7) could have somehow been more elegantly presented but was still enjoyed with the yummy coconut ice cream.

Lotus definitely seems to hit the mark for decent quality dishes at a reasonable price in a nice restaurant setting but with only one chef in the kitchen I think fast service during busy times will be its biggest challenge to keep the customers happy. Being located so far away from the main eatery strip means it lacks exposure but I guess this will make it easier to get a table, for now. I could see a restaurant like this being very popular in Newtown, Randwick, Surry Hills or Coogee. I wish it was located closer to home for me. A few small details like keeping the kids toys out of sight and not having a kids DVD playing within ear shot of the dining room would go along way in making the whole customer experience even more pleasant and consistent with the look and feel of the restaurant.

PROS: Nice décor, Quality ingredients, Tasty dishes, Nice presentation, Reasonably priced considering the décor and quality, Extensive menu with tempting choices, Free street parking
CONS: Not much sauce provided with entrees, Kitchen service can be slow when busy due to only one chef, Located away from the main eatery strip, Kids toys in sight which doesn’t match the nice décor, One unisex toilet
WORTH TRYING: Braised pork belly with green papaya salad, Grilled Thai beef salad, M. B. S., Salt & pepper soft-shell crab with Nam Jin, Bo Luc Lac, Braised prawns with chili, pumpkin, lemongrass & coconut milk, Desserts

Jasmine tea ($2 per person) — different sized cups with handles.

Lemon Lime Bitters ($3)

Fresh Vietnamese rice paper rolls with chicken & fresh herbs ($7, 3 pieces)

Steamed pork with shiitake mushrooms & water chestnut dumplings ($9.50, 5 pieces)

Thai fish cakes with sweet chili ($9.50, 4 pieces)

Spring rolls ($7, 3 pieces)

Sang Choy Bao of chicken ($8, 2 pieces)

Braised pork belly with green papaya salad ($12)

Grilled Thai beef salad ($12)

Malaysian-style grilled satay chicken ($7.50, 3 pieces)

Special fried rice with Chinese sausage, prawns, BBQ pork, egg & shallots ($12)

M. B. S. (mushroom, bean curd & snow peas) ($12)

Massaman curry of beef with potato ($14.50)

Crispy braised duck with chili tamarind sauce & steamed wombok ($16.50)

Salt & pepper soft-shell crab with Nam Jin ($18.50)

Could have been more Nam Jin sauce — only a little bit served

Bo Luc Lac - French-Vietnamese wok fried beef with garlic & black pepper sauce ($16.50)

Braised prawns with chili, pumpkin, lemongrass & coconut milk ($18.50)

Steamed jasmine rice ($2 per person)

Fried coconut ice cream with passionfruit sauce ($6.50)

Black sticky rice pudding with coconut sauce ($6.50)

Banana fritter with palm sugar syrup & coconut ice cream ($7) — perhaps there's a more elegant way of presenting the banana fritter? I was thinking cut in half lengthways and then crisscross stacked.

Chef Danh Cao

Kim Nguyen

Menu — simple and easy to read although for some reason reminds me of an onboard Qantas menu

Cutlery kept slipping into the rounded bowl plates so watch out for this

Nice seating and decor

Clean unisex toilet

Back area to toilet was a bit messy with kids toys and prams which doesn't match the nice decor front of house

Back door open and closed. Much better look when closed and it stopped the cold breeze coming through too.

Outside street entrance

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Lotus Asian Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Cindy said...

Great post, very descriptive and thorough! I am looking forward to trying this place out!! Will order your recommended dish - I'll let you know what I think after :)


Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

Jinx! Though you got through a lot more of the menu than I did...!

Miss Piggy said...

I have to say all of the food looks really nice - I wish we had a place like ths closer to where I live.

john@heneedsfood said...

Soft shell crab is always a winner in my books and about the kids dvd playing within earshot, that's actually enough to make me not want to go.

OohLookBel said...

The food and decor both look good, which is important; hope they do well. I like your honest descriptions, too =)

Jasmin said...

Hmm. Was the dvd for the proprietor's kids?

That's awfully strange - on the other hand, if it's some form of child entertainment then this might be a nice place for families?

Either way the food does look good.

fromblank said...

i've wanted to try this place forever, looks great!

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Asian Dishes said...

Yes, building your own business must be in the right area.They have great foods, I love it.

Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said...

wow what speed, definitely missed out by not making it to the dinner! The dishes look great Simon, a welcome addition to marrickville!

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