Guest blog by Aaron Postiglione
You may have noticed an inviting single-story building behind the majestic Stanley Theater in downtown Utica the last time you were in the neighborhood. That would be The Lotus Garden, in its second location at 1011 King Street, featuring some of the best Southeast Asian Fusion (Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese) cuisine in the area. There is no need to wait for a show at the Stanley to visit.
The atmosphere is the first thing my wife and I look forward to when heading to Lotus. It is muted, calm, relaxed and normally has pleasant music streaming through the speakers. In other words, it is perfectly suited for long conversation over a bottle of wine. Or in my case, sampling the many imported beers available. We have visited many times over the past several years, sometimes at dinners in their banquet room, sometimes simply because of how inviting the atmosphere is, but always because we like to see the latest dish the talented staff has cooked up. Adding to the aura are the Lotus Garden’s inviting owners, Sam and Chendra Phou, along with the rest of the staff. They will quickly get to know your name if you are a repeat costumer and Sam is often seen walking the main dining area and chatting with patrons. They are also very accommodating to those of us who have food allergies.
The fusion menu features many dishes that may look familiar, but the mixture of spices Sam and his chefs employ to each dish gives them a fresh taste. You may have had shrimp in lemon grass sauce before, but not done this way. If you like spicy food like me, you can request that the chef add extra spices to the dish, making your shrimp in lemon grass sauce tweaked to the way you want it. This is a great place to experiment if you do not want a more traditional dish, and the ever changing specials reflect Sam and his chefs’ adventurous side. On this particular night, I learned that I like Hunan fish, a sea bass dish.
Though the place is always packed the night of Stanley shows, there is no need to plan a visit to the Lotus Garden around that. It offers a great experience every night. Check out their website (http://www.lotusgardencny.com/) or find them on Facebook.
Meet Guest Blogger Aaron Postiglione, a Local Food Advocate for the Utica area
Until his mid-twenties Aaron Postiglione thought fast food and late night microwave burritos was considered good eating. That changed when he met the woman who would become his wife, who a) has some food allergies to contend with and b) spent five years working at a high-end restaurant in NYC, peppering the chefs with questions before, during, and after her shifts. He has no special food training, just taste buds, an English degree, and a willingness to try almost any dish and write about it.