Last night, we made arrangements to go out with another family, a family, who it turns out, has exact opposite tastes in resturants than we do. Have you ever gone through that mating dance of where to eat. The parry and thrust until someone budges from their prejudices. It would have been easier if we had made an earlier start of the evening, then we could have been in Chinatown as we first intended.
The end result of all the tossles, Lotus, a Chinese place in a small strip mall just over the Elmwood Park border. We had been once before, although there seems to be a Rashomon like dispute about how much I really liked it then. Leaving the house, however, I was miserable and convinced I would suffer greatly trying to eat mediocre Chinese food.
Our spirits were instantly lifted when we entered and say a write-on/wipe-off board listing a daily special of "wolleye pike", steamed or with black beans. A friday fish special surely spoke to me. The other thing that inspired hope was the menu that featured along with crab rangoon and egg rolls, tripe, jellyfish and soft-shell crabs.
This was one of those "your on your own" Chinese meals, which was fine with our family. We grabbed one of those wolleye's. Sophia said that last time we were there, she had something eggy that she liked, which we interpreted as mu shu, and we got szechuan won tons "smothered in garlic-spiced sauce" that psychicly called out to me as being "right".
Boy, did my esp work last night when the waitress brought out this small bowl wafting heavily of garlic. The four won ton inside were fine, a little mushy, but that sauce, gosh! A black magic blend of chili and oils and the garlic and big slivers of ginger and plenty of fresh cilantro too. I despised the waitress when she grabbed the bowl too soon as I was planning on soaking my rice with this stuff.
It did not make a difference what else was on our table, nor did it make a difference what else was being circulated in the dining room. About the only other dish that really appealed to me was some great looking stir-fried asparagus. We really enjoyed what we ordered.
I guess as payback for the early steal of our won ton dressing, we made the waitress really work hard for us. First she fixed up the mu shu, which of course, were not what Sophie had in mine. Still, who does not like mu shu. This may be elusive universal chinese dish. I know it is nothing special pre-assembly, but inside the rubber pancake, with a good spread of hoison, it's fine filling food.
After she got us started on the pancakes, she went to work on the fish (granted we did not ask to do this, it was appreciated as lake fish is pretty boney). Who else loves a really good lake fish. We pay so much attention to the air freight bills at places like Charlie Trotter (or Bob Chin), but tend to ignore the glories in our own back pond. I know if you eat it more than a few times a month your body begins registering the tempature from all the mercury inside you, but there is really something special about this stuff. This fish tasted pure and sweet and soft like the best of the great lakes. It provided a perfect foil to the salty black beans and other chop-chop things over the fish.
Has loving this place dropped me from the official rank of chowhounds? If you do not love it as much, you can always pick up a combo at the nearby Johnnies.
7230 W. North Avenue
Suite 210 (it's a stip mall not an office building)
Elmwood Park IL, 60707
Open 7 days for lunch and dinner