Among the numerous Vietnamese eateries in Marrickville, but away from the main road, Lotus Asian Restaurant stands out – not only for its pan-Southeast Asian approach, but for its well-appointed, zen-inspired décor.
The warm orange and red hues are especially welcome on a fiercely cold night, and with its communal table and well-spaced seats, one could easily mistake it for a postcode 2010 venue.
|Inside Lotus Asian Restaurant, Illawarra Road, Marrickville|
Having previously eaten at nearby casual Thai restaurant Let’s Eat – and loving that gem of a place – I was lucky and pleased to have Lotus Asian Restaurant brought to my attention.
|The dining area|
Having worked at Balmain’s Blue Ginger as well as restaurants in Chinatown, owner and chef Danh Cao’s menu works its way through Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore as well as China.
They pride themselves on quality ingredients, highlighting the fact that everything is made from scratch: from the Thai fish cakes to the spice pastes that form the bases of their numerous curries.
|Steamed pork with shiitake mushrooms & water chestnut dumplings|
|The wonton pastry-wrapped dumplings|
We’re also treated to a McGuigans Pinot Grigio which is full bodied and fruity, while matching the often big flavours of Asian cuisine well (the restaurant is BYO wine at $3 per person).
|Char grilled lemongrass prawn on skewers|
|Braised pork belly with green papaya salad|
‘Crunchy braised pork belly’ is a winner in most books, and is certainly here – a key part of the well-balanced salad of green papaya strips, fresh mint and coriander leaves, onion and chilli.
|Salt & pepper soft-shell crab with nam jin|
Here, the batter is neither too thick nor thin and deep fried to an impressive crunch; although perhaps it’s just a little darker and oilier than I’d prefer. I think delicate Japanese tempura still wins out here.
|Malaysian-style chili sambal beef|
|Malaysian Rendang chicken - someone's already attacked it!|
|Crispy skin chicken with chili, basil & black vinegar dressing|
The black vinegar dressing was simply divine with the white meat, and it’s quite the generous dish too; gorgeously plated as all the dishes are in a modern style not really typical of your local Asian eatery.
|Banana fritter with palm sugar syrup & coconut ice cream|
In any case, the simply plated banana fritter across the table looks and smells the pick of the bunch. The battered and deep-fried banana coupled with coconut ice cream is a match made in tropical Asia. We later find out that the ice creams are sourced from Paddington’s Nice Cream.
|Black sticky rice pudding with coconut sauce|
The rice is sweet but lacks the big kick of coconut that I’m used to, and even the white blob of coconut sauce on top is not quite adequate. I do enjoy the toasted white and black sesame seeds sprinkled over though, adding a nutty smokiness to the sweetness.
|Fried coconut ice cream with passionfruit sauce|
I manage to steal but a bite of this, and confirmed that the golden-fried batter over the scoop of coconut ice cream is as good as any childhood dessert memory, while the slight tartness of the passionfruit makes for an ideal finish to the dessert.
Like many neighbourhood eateries, Lotus Asian Restaurant appears popular with the locals who eat in as well as order takeaway. But unlike your average local eatery, it’s a real dining-out experience – and for the Marrickville locals, it looks like a pretty good position to be in.
Food, booze and shoes dined as a guest of Lotus Asian Restaurant with thanks to Charlotte Foot Public Relations.