Lotus Blossom

2008.Apr.16 Wednesday · 5 comments

in Restaurants

 I can’t just take someone’s word for it. I am a skeptic. I am also skeptical about crop circles, alien abductions, Nostradamus, and psychic surgery. I haven’t believed in a six day creation in a very long time. But it is tough to be a skeptic these days.”

– Margaret C. Douma, Surfing for Skeptics

Buenos Aires – Every now and again I realize that I’ve done something that I think of as “out of character” – in particular, taking someone’s word for something. I tend to be skeptical about opinions. They’re like mushrooms after a rainstorm, they’re everywhere, and everyone has one, and some of them are good for you and some of them will kill you, and it’s the rare person who can tell the difference at a glance. So I usually just accept that the mushrooms, the opinions, are there, and go on about my business as if no one had told me their opinion. Sort of… I mean, if a bunch of people have recommended a place to eat, I’ll go check it out. Usually, I don’t follow the other direction – if a bunch of people have recommended against a place, I’ll still go check it out. It’s more simply that the place has been called attention to. And I have this blog in which to sprout my own mushrooms afterwards.

So it was that after nearly three years of being in Buenos Aires, and, as regular readers know, having a penchant for Asian cuisine, I found myself for the first time actually at Lotus Neo Thai, Ortega y Gasset 1782, Las Cañitas, 4771-4449, Arribeños 2265, Belgrano, 4783-7993 [Haven’t tried the new location yet.]. I say actually at, because I’ve headed there before… twice. Both times to meet a friend, the first time to meet one there at lunch only to discover it isn’t open at lunch time, which she’d been sure it was; the second time to meet a friend who assured me that it was open for dinner on Sundays and closed on Mondays, but it turned out to be the reverse. This time I called and made a reservation. And, I’d heard stories – the owners of Lotus Neo Thai were the original owners of Empire Thai and had run the place into the ground, skipped out on paying bills and employees, left their new partner, an expat whom I know, holding the bag, so to speak. I’d heard that they did a mediocre job at Thai food – barely authentic and nothing spicy were common descriptions. And, I realized recently, that I’d just simply accepted all that at face value at some point and taken it off my radar. So back it went onto the list of places to check out, and the other evening, a friend and I met up to check out the food.

Right off the bat, it’s nothing like what I expected visually. Somehow, I’d got it in my head a sort of loungy scene, with low level lights and hipper than thou waiters in black, and bright colored cocktails and pseudo-thai… you know the sort of place I’m talking about. As we climbed the staircase to the upper floor (and it’s a climb, that ground floor must house a double height ceiling) it became clear that it just didn’t have that vibe. And stepping into the room it was even clearer – the walls are all painted in a cheery light blue and green with lots of big painted flowers – honestly, it looked like a kindergarden classroom. The tables almost seem out of place – they’re setup very beautifully, with a clear Asian aesthetic, and we were immediately offered our choice of either a regular table or a “more traditional” low table with pillows to sit on. We opted for the latter, though in retrospect, I think I’d go for a regular table next time – maybe just because we lingered over our meal and talking, but I was uncomfortable after about the first hour or so…

Lotus Neo Thai - springrolls and satay

Shrimp crackers were dropped on the table, along with a sweet and sour sauce and a hot sauce that was mildly spicy – both quite good. We ordered a few appetizers – some springrolls – crispy on the outside, juicy and flavorful on the inside, a trio of dipping sauces on the table for them; a mixed satay platter – beef, lamb, chicken – a bit salty, and the peanut sauce had no heat whatsoever; and some coconut shrimp, which were light and delicate in a crisp batter, and then sprinkled with lots of coconut – slightly odd, since normally the coconut gets cooked into the batter, but very good. And, we tried a green curry chicken and a laap gai, which is a cold chicken salad spiced with lime and chilies. The curry was definitely on the spicy side – we’d asked for the “Thai spicy version” not the “Argentine mild”, and been told they could do that – they hadn’t on the appetizers, so we weren’t hopeful – and the laap gai was reasonably spicy, though not particularly – focusing more on the lime and some mint.

All in all, quite good food, not as spicy as we would have liked, but certainly far more than I’d been expecting given those pesky opinions I’d heard. The service was friendly, cheerful, and even reasonably attentive, and by two young waitresses in casual garb, nothing black and trendy and loungy going on here. I can’t speak for all the things I’d heard about the owners, they weren’t present as far as I know. And, while the place wasn’t particularly busy, there were people there who seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as we did. It was moderately pricey, but not particularly so for Las Cañitas – three, well really four appetizers, since the laap gai that I had as a main course was really an appetizer on the menu, and one curry, a couple of imported beers and waters, and I think we ended up paying 80 pesos apiece, with tip.

This seems a moment to compare to other southeast Asian options here that I’ve been to and reviewed – a sort of revisit if you will…

Empire Thai – hit and miss spiciness, and the kitchen (or maybe the waiter) doesn’t always pay attention when you ask for things to be kicked up a notch – actually, I think I’d lay that on the waiters, because that’s Empire’s biggest problem – waiters who simply pay no attention to what’s going on around them. The food, however, even when not spicy, is very good, though I find the portions small – not so here at Lotus, where we actually had enough that we both took home part of our main courses.

Tuk-Tuk Restorán Thai – I didn’t enjoy this place – the atmosphere was fine until the students from the attached massage school piled in after class and just made the whole thing a noisy, unpleasant experience – until that point, however, the staff and owner and the room had been great – you just have to time things well I guess. But the problem for me was really the food – all of which seemed to have been pre-cooked and simply reheated in microwaves to order.

Sudestada – Creative, pan-South Asian cooking, sort of mixing a variety of different cuisines together, sometimes on the same plate, sometimes on separate ones. The room, for my tastes, a little too trendy, modern, cold, and the waitstaff not far behind – and the latter also tending to be topped up with attitude and a bit condescending. The food, good, and spicy without having to ask for it to be that way. And they had rules, like certain things on the menu are only available at certain times of the day, and the way you’re supposed to eat certain things. It’s telling that while I liked the food, I’ve not been back.

Green Bamboo – Our only real Vietnamese option here, and once I discovered the fine print that says they’ll make stuff spicy on request, I really like the food. I like the room too. I like the service. I don’t like the noise level, which is primarily the result of the blaring hip-hop music that seems to be the regular listening fare. Again, it’s a place that the atmosphere, for me, makes it hard to go back, much as I like the food.

Buddha BA – Mixed Chinese and southeast Asian cuisine, and not on the same plate, just a good number of options. Great service, delicious food, beautiful, tranquil atmosphere. This spot is still my favorite. You won’t be able to have a complete Thai, or Vietnamese, or other meal with a couple of dozen different choices from one cuisine, but you will be able to pick and choose and suit a variety of palates. The one thing lacking, there’s not a single truly spicy dish on the menu – not as if a dish that should be is lacking in spice, they simply don’t offer anything that would typically be a very spicy plate.

So, all in all, Lotus does pretty well – they manage to get some spice into the dishes, not as much as some places, but more than others. The service is friendly and attentive. The room, I have mixed feelings about – well, maybe not mixed feelings, really, after first noting it, I just ignored the seemingly fingerpainted walls. The atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable. The pricing is on par with the others. I’m happy with our visit there, and its definitely added to the list of places to dine when I’m in the mood for that sort of food.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

David A April 19, 2008 at 12:44

Great write up, but is there only 5 asian restaurants in Buenos Aires?

dan April 19, 2008 at 13:36

I was specifically looking at Southeast Asian style restaurants, and in regard to those – yes, as far as I know, there are only six I have listed above.

There are, however, lots of Chinese and Japanese restaurants, a good number of Korean, and a handful of Indian restaurants.

Leave a Comment

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: