Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing, until you’re missing it. And I never knew just how hard it was to get vegan options until I actually went to lunch with a vegan.
And I mean real options. Not like “yeah you can order the side salad” options.
So when the menu at Lotus offered up plenty of delicious sounding tofu and mushroom dishes, I thought, “Maybe there’s hope after all!”
Steamed shiitake mushroom dumplings, $12
Crispy tofu with salt and wildfire dukkah, $17
Steamed seasonal vegetable with sesame oil and soy, $16
The food was quite lovely, with a Mr Wong-esque slant to it.
We started off with the Steamed Shiitake Mushroom Dumplings, $12, filled with a mushroom and chopped greens mixture (asparagus, I think?) and encased in a translucent potato starch skin that’s notoriously hard to handle. It was a light bite, and the flavour of the mushrooms really came through, almost for a lack of flavour from anything else. The chilli that came with it really helped, though – there was a tomatoey sweetness that prevented it from being too spicy (not that it’s ever really a problem for me) and overpower the dumplings.
My favourite, though? The Crispy tofu with salt and wildfire dukkah, $17. Soft, fluffy tofu is dusted with a tangy, peppery mixture, and served alongside a thick, sesame and black vinegar
pouring dipping sauce. The tofu actually carried a light crunch on the outside, that soaked up all the sauce without turning into mush, and then crumbled satisfyingly into my rice.
The Steamed Seasonal Vegetable with sesame oil and soy, $16, was, well, Bak Choy with soy. Not groundbreaking, but we didn’t order it expecting the wheel to be reinvented. So…*shrugs* eh.
The service at Lotus was a bit of a mixed bag for me. They were efficient and polite enough most of the time, but they didnt go out of their way to make me feel like I was in safe hands. For example, beyond what was written in the menu, I didn’t get much more information about the dishes set down in front of me. There was no forthcoming explanation, for example, about the sauce that went with the tofu, and I had to ask them twice before I got an answer.
Also, towards the end (you know when they set down a dessert menu purposefully in front of you?), I had the distinct feeling of being rushed off. I mean, I totally understand that restaurants have to turn tables over in order to make money, but it’s usually a little bit more subtle. We had taken a pause to Instagram (talk about #FirstWorldProblems, huh), and the waitress came back to enquire about our choices for dessert, even though it hadn’t been enough time for me to finish typing my Instagram caption.
Not a good look.
Value for money:
I know I have to take into account the CBD location, and the fancy interior and all that, but the only thing that justified the price was the dumplings. Everything felt just that little bit overpriced, and there is no parallel universe where $16 for steamed Bok Choy tossed in soy sauce and sesame oil is justifiable. Well, maybe if there was gold leaf.
BUT STILL. My Asian ancestors would disown me if they found out I paid that much.
It was classy, in a “non-Asians were drinking wine with their Asian lunch” sorta say. (Where is the damned tea, people?!) The decor screamed pan-Asian chic, and it was fairly busy for a weekday lunch. Otherwise it felt pretty sterile, which is good or bad depending on how you look at it: I completely understand if dilapidated Asian restaurant with a single old man in the kitchen is not always your thing.
As far as the vegan options go, Lotus performed pretty well. They gave us more options than your average eatery in the CBD, even if that came at a price. If you’re not with a vegan crowd, however, Lotus might not be your first choice: there are just that many more authentic and delicious options in the city that are easier on the wallet to drop by for lunch.
Unless, you know, you really want that wine with your meal. In that case, go for it, you lush. I won’t judge. 😉