There is something wildly satisfying about walking into a swanky restaurant and casually ordering one of each dish on the menu. That moment of dead silence as the waiter digests your demand, the corners of his mouth quickly turning up into a grin, the mutual excitement over the ensuing feast.
Dan Hong, head chef at Lotus, must be doing something right. Itâ€™s a cold wintery Tuesday night and yet the chic Potts Point bistro is packed. Every table is taken, a few desperate diners brave the chill and sit outside, and theyâ€™re even turning people away. We begin with cocktails, apparently some of the best in Sydney. It must have something to do with renowned mixologist Petr Dvoracek being head bartender here. I prep my palate with a refreshingly sweet, fruity and light concoction of Plymouth gin, pomegranate syrup, passionfruit and mint. Complimentary bread rolls come to the table warm and it reminds me of my first impression of the place â€“ cosy and welcoming.
The food starts rolling out and silence descends. Among my favourites are: the yellowfin tuna sashimi (sleek, shiny pieces of tuna with butter-soft texture); the pork belly (sweet, sticky and meltingly tender); the cultivated mushrooms (hands down, one of the best vegetarian dishes Iâ€™ve ever had). And of course, THE Cheeseburger. It may look like a cheap MacDonaldâ€™s rendition but where these two burgers differ is in the ingredients and execution. Every single bite of Lotusâ€™ signature dish is exactly how a good burger should be. Itâ€™s the perfect ratio of super-soft white bun, juicy beef patty, thin slices of salty bacon, melted cheese, caramelised onions, crisp pickles and lashings of sauce. Itâ€™s a damn fine burger and at $18 a pop, you want it to be good. Really good.
Onto the sweet stuff, and the warm choc chip cookie is the overwhelming choice for half our table. Not surprising since this has become another signature dish, and with good reason. Donâ€™t be fooled by its simple childlike plating, this dessert has some well-developed flavours, worthy of an adultâ€™s palate. Iâ€™d guzzle that butterscotch sauce by the gallon if I could. No children â€“ or sharing â€“ allowed near my plate. The Lotus Pavlova doesnâ€™t look anything like youâ€™d expect. Sharp shards of flat, cardboard-like meringue poke out haphazardly from the quenelle of sorbet, deviating from the typical pillowy froths of egg white weâ€™re used to. You still get richness from the cream, sugary lightness from the meringue and fruity notes from the sorbet â€“ but each mouthful reminds you that this is not old Nanâ€™s traditional pav’, this is fresh and modern and pushing the bistro boundaries. Notable mentions should also go to the crispy prawns, duck breast and the apple granita â€“ Lotusâ€™ version of Quayâ€™s infamous snow egg â€“ and my suggestion if you want dessert but need something light.
We all emerge from our plates, stomachs near bursting, and smiles all-round. Once upon a time, a bistro may have been a small, casual, restaurant serving moderately priced food; and it certainly is still all those things â€“ but Lotus can also boast killer cocktails, adventurous food, stylish interiors, and even a cheeseburger worth paying a little more than moderately for.