Tuesday, November 24, 2009


4970 Summer Avenue

Ok, I'll just say it. You can't take your kids to Lotus. Not unless they are at least 13. It's just too slow.

And frankly, I'm not sure it is worth the wait.

Now, I am sure someone out there is a big Lotus fan and is not going to like hearing this, but I'm sorry, it's true.

Warren and I went to Lotus not too long ago--maybe a year or so--and we didn't have the kids. I used to go all the time in college, so I talked him into going. Well we sat down and no one ever took our order or said hello or anything. In fact, we never even saw anyone working there. So we left.

My good friend, who I used to actually go there with in college, recently convinced me to give it another try. She told me about the gigantic and delicious Banh Xeo and the shrimp in lobster sauce. In fact, she said if I didn't order them both we couldn't be friends anymore.

So on Friday night, after taking the monkeys to the econo hour over at the Ajay Cinema, we went back to Lotus. (Now, I know going at 7:00 on Friday is probably the worst time ever to go, but we did.) The parking lot was absolutely packed, but inside there were two or three open tables. (There are only about ten tables in the whole restaurant.) It took about 5 minutes, but a man did finally acknowledge us and point us to a table. We sat down and about ten minutes later a young man came over to give us a menu and take our drink orders.

That's already 15 minutes, people.

The only reason we didn't leave was because the kids had eaten before the movie and were not going to starve if we had to wait and the aforementioned friendship threat. I looked around at the other tables to see if any of them had food and to gauge whether we stood a chance. The problem seemed to be a table of nine. They were obviously celebrating something and had done a LOT of ordering. There was also a table of six. I could only hope that they weren't as hungry as the table of nine.

My friend was busy texting me to be patient, to wait, it was worth it, etc. She said the man and his wife do all of the cooking and everything is made to order. Ok, whatever, I'm fine with that. I pulled out my notebooks and pens and let the monkeys draw so that they wouldn't get too rowdy.

Lotus is definitely too small for any sort of rowdiness. Another reason I'd advise never bringing kids.

When we finally ordered we went with hot and sour soup, two spring rolls, the Banh Xeo, shrimp in lobster sauce, and pork fried rice. Jiro really wanted chicken wings, but they didn't have any. Satchel wanted beef curry, but I was worried that we'd already ordered too much. Surprisingly, neither one of them wanted any egg drop soup.

There was lots of drawing and talking and we did a pretty good job of being patient. Everything that came out of the kitchen went to the nine top. They seriously ordered a TON of food.

Our spring rolls and soup came out after ten or fifteen minutes, so we had a little to eat. "We" being me and Warren. The kids were not interested in either. I thought the soup was just okay. (It didn't come with "crunchies" which was a shame, since they would have appeased the monkeys.) The spring rolls were awesome. Soon after we finished our appetizers the kids got bored with drawing, so we let them play games on our iPhones. Normally I would not let them play games at dinner, but we were desperate. The table of six next to us had requested a plate of white rice for one of the dudes to eat, so I knew we still had a loooooooong wait!

Our Banh Xeo came out after awhile and it was okay. Described as an Asian Taco, it was a fried shell with bean sprouts and grilled shrimp inside. Maybe some cabbage? It was pretty good. My friend said to order it with lettuce and hot sauce but we never quite figured out what to do with either. Again the kids had no interest in eating any of this.

After the Banh Xeo was gone we had about an hour's stretch with nothing. NOTHING. Satchel was getting really hungry and whiney, my iPhone battery was dying, and things were generally not looking good. Again, had it not been for the friendship threat, I would have left.

Finally, I took a cue from our neighbors and asked the man for some white rice. I told him the kids were getting too hungry. Then, like magic, our fried rice came out, white rice came out, and the shrimp in lobster sauce came out. (I should have complained sooner!)

Now, let's talk about the pork fried rice. I am not very picky about pork fried rice, but I have to say that this one was awful. First off, it smelled like it was rancid. I took one bite and that was it. (The giant carrot chunks did not help the taste.) I kept my disdain to myself, lest I put the kids off. (I don't think it was really rancid, but I do think that the "pork" may have been pig parts I don't usually eat.) Warren tasted it and said it was fine. Satchel was open to eating some, but Jiro refused. Poor Jiro only ended up with a plate of white rice after behaving for almost two hours!

The shrimp in lobster sauce was thankfully pretty good. Satchel agreed to eat one shrimp, but the sauce was too daunting and it stayed on his plate. We ran out of white rice before we could put a dent in the shrimp, so we just decided to take it home. And we had a shit ton of pork fried rice to take home too. (Warren insisted he would eat it. He doesn't like to waste.)

The man came by and I asked for some boxes and the check. He brought both over and I handed him my credit card. He showed me the bill and asked me to add the tip in first, which I have never ever been asked to do, but I did. Then he walked over to the register where I assumed he'd ring it up. Well, just then the table of nine got up and apparently they all had separate checks. Instead of ringing mine real quick, he rang up every single one of them.


So we sat there another 20 minutes while this went on. Did I mention it was 9:15 and I was supposed to meet someone at 8:30? Or that we got to the restaurant at 7:00?

Luckily Warren's battery had more juice than mine and he downloaded a really fun marble run game for the kids to play.

Once the nine people left, the man went back to waiting tables. I walked over to ask about my check and then he remembered my card. He rang it up ($34 + $6 tip) and then handed me the slip to sign. The slip had a place for a tip, which I thought was strange since he had asked me to add it in before. I just drew a line and totaled it out, signed my name, and we were off. Finally!

As we drove home, we listed all of the other Vietnamese places we know that were faster, cheaper, and had better food.

The family that owns Lotus is really nice and I do appreciate that they make everything themselves. Obviously they have a loyal following or they wouldn't have made it all of these years. I wish them the best. Team Oster will be dining elsewhere.

Vietnamese Lotus on Urbanspoon


Steve Steffens said...

While I have no children of my own, I have long avoided this place, despite the fact that I love the food, just for this reason.

Because it is family-run, there are never enough servers for their crowds. The first time I went in there (around 1989), a nine-year-old child took my order. I kid you not.

I miss the place, but it's just not worth the hassle.

Anonymous said...

I have never seen more than 9 people in Lotus at one time, let alone a 9 and a 6 top. That's crazy.

It takes so long because everything is made to order fresh. I had a conversation with the owner about this fact since I pulled all the mushrooms out of my hot and sour soup (soooo good there), apparently there are eagles trained to fetch these mushrooms from trees and if I don't want them ask for it without which I do now.

There are NO servers. It's the owner and a cook or two. The few people know about this gem realize it takes awhile to get something. I've been frustrated myself a few times, but it's worth the wait.

The night you went was a complete rare occurrence, the food might've been hurried because of the HUGE crowd.

I've never been disappointed with the food or price and neither have the people who I've introduced it to.

Stacey Greenberg said...

"apparently there are eagles trained to fetch these mushrooms from trees"


janiam said...

I love Lotus & hate to hear something negative, about it but I can totally understand. I rarely go because of the wait. I've ordered food to go, waited over an hour to pick it up & still had to wait once I got there.

Hassan Suboh said...

I believe there is NO asian in town that compares in flavor to Lotus. The service I recieved the first time was impeccable. The owner kept talking to us...well mostly to my wife and her sister (who are Vietnamese) and gave us..ahem them...special attention. However, after that I went one or 2 other times and never been since because of the slow slow service.

To eat Banh Xeo you break off a bit of the crepe with some filling and wrap it in lettuce and then dip that into the tangy fish+chili sauce mixture.

New Que Hong (Collierville) and Shanghai (Midtown) both have good Banh Xeo.

Phoebe said...

I love love love their food - especially the Lotus Chicken and the vegetarian fried rice. However, I completely understand your frustration. One of the times we went in the past year there was a large party like the one you mentioned. It turns out that they had all called ahead with their orders so that it wouldn't take as long (for them). We waited FOREVER. I am treating it like I do Do Sushi now...I will only get take out.

Courtney said...

Lotus was probably our worst Memphis restaurant experience. We had always heard such great things and live nearby but what a disaster! There were 8 of us I think, plus 2 babies. We sat there for 2 HOURS before we got food. By then we were all mad and wanted to leave more than we wanted the food. Waited another 20-30 minutes for boxes. The other couple with a baby left even earlier. The long back table was full and 2 other tables had customers, so maybe 10 other patrons. People who arrived after we did were served sooner. It was horrible. We didn't even want to eat it once we got home, just on principle. I don't think we will ever go again. It's the one place that was so bad we tell people not to go.

Foodies in the Bible Belt said...

Love the Lotus! It's always a toss up though over how long we will have to wait and...if there will be heat or air! Mr. Joe is a great guy and the Tender Butter Beef is to die for!


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