When you order an off-menu Dinner for Six at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack, one of the seven courses is South Pacific Prawns -- large shrimp pan fried in the shell with shallots, garlic, ginger, scallion and peppercorn.
Editor's note: There are many reasons I seem to be eating out mainly at Asian restaurants. Most are BYOs, so I don't have to worry about getting gouged for a $12 glass of wine, the chef isn't sneaking butter into my food, and the abundance of seafood and vegetables is good for me.
By VICTOR E. SASSON
The kitchen at Lotus Cafe, a Chinese BYO in Hackensack, really shines when you ask for a separate Special Prix Fixe Dinner and Banquet Menu.
The single sheet of paper offers multi-course dinners for four to 12 people -- five to 10 courses, plus dessert ($79 t0 $358 before tax and tip).
The price-fixed menu, which includes bigger portions of some chef's specialties and other a la carte dishes from the regular menu, offers especially good value.
On Tuesday night, six of us paid $26 each, including tax and a 20% tip, for a seven-course dinner, plus dessert.
Adding a small bowl of brown rice, I was pleasantly full, even though I didn't eat three courses with beef or poultry.
We drank our own prosecco, beer or red wine, plus a couple of pots of tea.
Working on Banquet for 12
I'm still working on assembling enough people to order one of the two 10-course banquets listed on the special menu.
No pre-ordering is necessary beyond a reservation, and you'd have no problem working with the friendly staff on a multi-course dinner without meat, if others in your group are amenable.
Also, don't worry about the red pepper that designates spicy dishes on the regular menu:
You'd have to ask the kitchen to turn up the heat, if you want food that approaches the spiciness of Korean or Thai dishes.
Lotus Cafe, which opened in 1993, uses 100% vegetable oil and no MSG, and the regular menu offers steamed dishes without oil, salt or cornstarch.
Dinner for Six also includes Three Cup Chicken Casserole. Chunks of poultry are braised in a cup of rice wine, a cup of sesame oil and a cup of brown sauce with ginger, basil and chili pepper.
Filet of Sole with White Chive was one of the most popular dishes at our dinner.
|One of my friends said the Crispy Aromatique Duck was good, but dry.|
Our Dinner for Six started with Seafood and Tofu Chowder, which isn't on the regular menu.
|Our fifth course was Beef with Chili Pepper & Mustard Green.|
We had a choice of vegetables and went with flavorful Snow Pea Leaves.
After our meal, I only had room for fresh orange wedges, but my friends enjoyed spoonfuls of green tea and other ice creams, below.
Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., in the Home Depot Shopping Center, Hackensack; 201-488-7070.
BYO, large parking lot.
Free delivery within 3 miles ($12 minimum).