Sunday, September 28, 2014

After years of pleasing diners, Lotus Cafe's congenial host retires

Leafy, crunchy and bright green, Chinese Broccoli with Fresh Garlic at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack may be the perfect vegetable dish.


Philip Su, who greeted us, seated us and satisfied us with wonderful Chinese dishes at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack for more than 15 years, has retired.

Mr. Su, who was born in Taiwan, and wife Tracy opened Lotus Cafe in a Hackensack Avenue shopping center in 1993.

On Saturday night, we had dinner at the restaurant, and I expected to see the congenial, well-dressed host in his usual place, standing at the front counter to welcome us. 

We had a nice meal of soup, noodles, shrimp and a vegetable, and on the way out, I asked about him, only to learn he had retired on Aug. 31.

Prawns in Chili Sauce is marked on the menu as spicy ($16.95), but don't expect the fire of Korean or Thai dishes.

Instead of white or brown rice, we ordered Chow Fun with Vegetables ($8.95), a dish made with broad rice noodles.

Make it 'light'

Chinese food can be very salty, because of the heavy reliance on soy sauce.

We return repeatedly to Lotus Cafe, where we know the owners and most of the waiters, who suggest dishes new to us and customize our order.

I ordered Chinese Broccoli with "fresh garlic" to avoid the sodium in oyster sauce, and our waiter agreed to ask the kitchen to make us a "light" version of Prawns in Chili Sauce.

We had plenty to eat, and took home leftover shrimp, broccoli and noodles.

Price-fixed and banquet menu

In addition to an extensive a la carte menu, Lotus Cafe serves price-fixed dinner for four to eight people, and banquets for 10 to 12 diners -- all excellent values.

On Saturday night, I saw four Japanese couples with two six-packs of beer ordering Dinner for Eight, a 10-course meal for $160, plus tax and tip.

The meal includes soup; beef, pork, chicken and seafood entrees; a vegetable, noodles and dessert.

Seafood Soup for Two has tender squid, scallop, shrimp, fish cake and crisp vegetables swimming in a tasty broth ($7.50), above and below.

The tastefully furnished dining room of the BYO, above and below.

Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., Home Depot Shopping Center, Hackensack; 201-488-7070. Open 7 days, BYO, large parking lot.

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