The Seafood Potato Nest pairs a charming presentation with vegetable and seafood stir-fry. Siblings Kimberly Lam and Victor Bach, pictured below, along with brother Bernard Bach, helped out Saturday night at Lotus, their parents’ restaurant on Summer...
Feeling glum from the winter weather? Here’s an upbeat and delicious antidote: Head to Lotus Vietnamese Restaurant to celebrate the Year of the Goat with a special New Year’s menu.
Served through Sunday, the dinner menu of distinctive dishes shapes a four-night tradition at Lotus on Summer Avenue, operated by Joe and Hanh Bach since 1982. Regular customers return every year for the festivities, crowding inside the small restaurant like a large happy family.
“On Thursday, it was crazy in here,” said Victor Bach, Joe and Hanh’s son. “We’ve got six or seven people working in the kitchen, and it was still a 45-minute wait for a table.”
On Friday evening, customers didn’t have to wait for tables, courtesy of the evening’s winter weather threat. The kitchen, however, was still rocking, preparing seafood-centric entrees, crab-meat soup, and appetizers not on the restaurant’s regular menu.
Let’s start with Bo La Lot, a remarkably good appetizer made with seasoned minced beef and wrapped in grilled betel leaves. Betel is a popular herb in Asia typically chewed as a stimulant or as a breath freshener. For cooking, the leaves provide a leafy wrapper for what’s stuffed inside, and when grilled, the leaves get crispy and take on a pleasing peppery taste.
Eating the rolls, served on a pretty doily of vermicelli, is aromatic and fun. Drop a roll inside leafy green lettuce; add a piece of vermicelli (just break it off!), slices of pickled carrot and daikon, and a bit of nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce); roll the lettuce up like a taco; and polish it off in two scrumptious bites. Now quickly grab another roll before tablemates get it first.
The menu’s entrees, fresh and prepared to order, are equally good. We tried four of the eight offered, eating with relish and appreciating the stand-out moments of each dish: shredded potatoes, molded into the shape of a bowl, deep fried, and filled with scallops, shrimp, and crab; steamed fish, marinated in black bean sauce and served with its tail curled off the plate; stuffed baby squid, forming a delectable patchwork quilt with chopped iceberg lettuce and lime slices; and a trio of plump fried bananas circling a mound of vanilla ice cream like a toddler’s carnival ride.
We ate for almost three hours, drinking wine we brought from home and admiring with a little envy the other entrees that floated by: baked boneless duck filled with ground chicken, kidney beans, garlic, onions, and olives and a whole sweet-and-sour fish, mammoth and crispy. What little food we had left we bagged up to go, a tempting suggestion to skip the Oscars Sunday night for one more New Year’s dinner at Lotus.
Lotus Vietnamese Restaurant, 4970 Summer Ave. (901-682-1151) $$
Easily separated from its delicate bone, the steamed whole fish at Lotus is marinated in black bean sauce and served with julienne daikon, carrots, and bean sprouts and garnished with fresh cilantro.
Banh Cuon are hearty and satisfying dumplings, stuffed with ground pork and Chinese fungi, wrapped in rice paper pastry, and topped with fried onions, cucumbers and chopped basil.