Sunday, May 10, 2015

A healthy Chinese seafood dinner any mother would be proud to serve

A whole fresh striped bass wasn't happy about being butterflied and steamed at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack, but we couldn't have been more pleased the fish ended up as our dinner centerpiece on the eve of Mother's Day.

Editor's note: Today, I relate further adventures in dining out or ordering takeout in Hackensack, and report on the closing of a Maywood restaurant.


Eating out on Mother's Day is an ordeal I try to avoid, and that's why we made a dinner reservation on the eve of the holiday.

We chose Lotus Cafe, a favorite Chinese BYO in Hackensack where everyone knows my name, after being served two overly salted meals at Lan Sheng, a much-ballyhooed Szechuan restaurant in Wallington.

On Saturday night, I was hosting my wife and mother-in-law, and we ordered a delicious dinner of fresh whole fish, vegetables and brown rice, washed down with the house tea and ice water.

Crunchy Chinese Broccoli sauteed with fresh garlic was one of the two vegetables we ordered.

Whole steamed fish

We started with Seafood Soup for 3 ($11.25) -- squid, scallops, shrimp, sliced fishcake, carrot and pea pods poached in broth until tender.

For our entree, we chose a whole striped bass over a whole flounder, and asked for it steamed with ginger and scallion rather than fried.

The fish, which looked to be 1.5 pounds or more, was $26.95. Just perfect, and the deliciously light sauce can be spooned over your rice.

Our two vegetables were Sauteed Chinese Star Squash and Chinese Broccoli ($9.95 each).

The restaurant offers the broccoli sauteed with brown sauce, steamed with oyster sauce or stir-fried with fresh garlic, the last being the low-sodium choice.

Good food, good service and reasonable prices. Why go anywhere else for Chinese food?

Lotus Cafe hasn't missed a beat since owner Philip Su retired last Aug. 31. He and wife Tracy opened the restaurant in a Hackensack Avenue shopping center in 1993.

There is no extra charge for brown rice, even if you ask for two bowls, as I did.

Like spicy food? This chili paste will set any Lotus Cafe dish on fire. I mixed a little into my seafood soup.

Lotus Cafe is a BYO with plenty of free parking.


Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., in Home Depot Shopping Center, Hackensack; 201-488-7070. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner.

BYO, free parking in large lot. Reservations recommended on weekends. 

If you are 4 or more, ask for the Special Dinner and Banquet Menu, which offers price-fixed, multi-course meals for up to 12 people.

First, they salt it. Then, they burn it. Grilled Codfsh with Potatoes, Peppers and Onions delivered to our home on May 1 by Fire Pit Barbecue, a Portuguese restaurant at 357 Essex St., Hackensack.

A tray of Fire Pit's whole Barbecued Chicken with rice, black beans and vegetables ($14).

Why burn salted cod?

At home, we eat a lot of salted cod and pollock, which are ready to boil and eat when you buy them.

That's why I don't understand why Fire Pit Barbecue in Hackensack usually burns the Grilled Codfish with Potatoes, Peppers and Onions that is one of our favorite takeout dishes. 

Looking at the menu, I see the Portuguese restaurant also offers Boiled Codfish with Potatoes and Vegetables, also for $19.

That may be the key to getting codfish that isn't burnt.

Salted fish needs to be boiled to reduce the sodium content, not to cook it.

There is nothing wrong with grill marks on the skin side, but on May 1 and on previous occasions when we ordered it for delivery, the skin was burnt black and inedible.

Session Bistro

Session Bistro on Maywood Avenue, near the old Maywood train station, has closed.

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