Sunday, February 13, 2011

A happy family goes out to dinner

Chinese New YearImage by yewenyi via Flickr
Chinese New Year Parade in Sydney, Australia.

We returned to Lotus Cafe in Hackensack on Saturday night to try two more of the dishes from the Year of the Rabbit menu we sampled a week before. The six Chinese New Year's specials will be served through today, Feb. 13.

We had another good meal, but it was preceded by an argument with my 13-year-old son, who wanted to order the same lobster dish we had last time, Dragon & Phoenix, which has boneless fried chicken on the side.

I wanted to order two of the four dishes we hadn't sampled -- either Tangerine Braised Duck, with steamed buns, or Happy Family Meat Ball Casserole for my wife and son to share, and Walnut Scallops for me.

Happy family, indeed. I am not eating meat, but my son and wife are. I felt two entrees with the soup and two stir-fried greens we planned to order would have been enough.  

But my son didn't want duck and buns. He also didn't want the pork meatballs, cellophane noodles, fish tempura and quail eggs in the casserole, either. He wanted lobster. My wife stayed out of the argument, and wouldn't express a preference.

Finally, I ordered: sea scallops and walnuts in a sweet-and-sour sauce for me ($18) and X.O. Shrimp & Steak Kew ($25) for them -- cubes of filet mignon and jumbo shrimp in a sauce made with dried scallops, shrimp roe and anchovies.

I tried a couple of the shrimp, and they tasted really fresh, as good as any I've had before. The scallops in my dish were cooked perfectly and were a nice foil to the sweet, crunchy walnuts.

From the regular menu, we ordered stir-fried water spinach ($8.95) and snow pea leaves ($10.95), both with fresh garlic slices; and a seafood soup for two, but the waiter forgot to bring us the soup. 

Still, we had plenty to eat, and took home leftovers.

I was flooded with memories of meals in Manhattan's Chinatown when I noticed one of the waiters cleaning a bare tabletop with leftover tea and a cloth. Lotus Cafe uses white tablecloths after 5 p.m.

And the waiters know that when you open the top of your teapot, you want hot tea. They'll whisk it away and refill it, and when it's set down, you can thank them by tapping two fingers on the table two or three times.

Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack,
in the Home Depot Shopping Center; 201-488-7070. 

BYO. Open seven days. Reservations recommended on weekends.


  1. I love that trick with the teapot, which I managed to go so many years without knowing! Hope your son had enough to eat? I am on a Chinese food bent right now, can't get enough!

  2. Hi:

    I'm always ready to meet you at Lotus Cafe, which also serves a non-New Year's banquet menu for four or more, or just come up for lunch.

    My son is a human vacuum cleaner.


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