Restaurants & Bars

White Lotus: Refined Vegetarian Vietnamese in San Jose

Alice Patis | Apr 25, 200505:05 PM     3

I joined a group of friends/colleagues at White Lotus in downtown SJ. We were about 10, and we tried a lot of dishes. I didn’t take notes so I’m cloudy on some of the specifics. Overall, I enjoyed it very much & think it’s on a level above the other asian vegetarian places I’ve been to. There is a sort of refined taste to the dishes. The decor is almost upscale chic. But the prices say "hole in the wall" (entrees are $6-$8, menu on Amazon linked below). Here’s a rundown of what I ordered for the group, based on wanting to try some basics and a few recommendations from our server. Everything is vegetarian, even the dishes named "chicken this" or "pork that".

All of their rolls are superb: Summer (Bi cuon), Spring (Bo bia), and Imperial (Cha Gio). Many liked the bo bia best. I liked the bi cuon best; I think it’s better than non-vegetarian bi cuon. The taste of the toasted ground rice is very nice here. The nuoc cham served with the Summer and Imperial rolls is of course made without fish sauce, which I missed having, but the rolls far made up for it. All 3 kinds of rolls are actually on par with something like Three Seasons, or pre-hype-Slanted Door, in the use of basic but really fresh tasting veggies. Definitely above the level of other Vietnamese restaurants of this price range.

Eggplant claypot: This was a huge hit with our table. But it’s served on a plate, not a claypot, so now I’m not entirely sure if I ordered the eggplant clay pot or the garlic eggplant. Very good depth of flavor, great texture and yummily garlicky.

Lotus Rootlet Salad: I wanted to compare this dish to the many other places I’ve had it, and it’s good, very fresh tasting, but I missed not having the fish sauce and the boiled shrimp. Good amount of herbs though.

Spicy Pork with Lemon Grass: Nice flavor (though not really spicy), but I’m not a fan of wheat gluten. The portion also seems small, but for these prices, that seems reasonable.

The other dishes were good but I don’t remember all the details:
A noodle dish (I think Bun Bi Cha Gio Thit Nuong) which was liked by the person who requested it, but not really special; I say go with the rolls instead of bun.

Curry chicken with vegetables: I liked the sauce, with its non-overwhelming curry/spice flavor.

Mushroom & veggies: Good version of a basic dish, and the veggies were not overcooked.

Che khoai: this is a hot dessert I rarely see, so I had to get it. It’s sweet potato (and taro?) in hot coconut milk. I was hoping I could include small tapioca pearls, but they didn’t have any that day. Even without the tapioca pearls, it was very good, comforting and soul-cleansing. And a large portion to boot (bigger than a "rice bowl").

Oh, and you get a choice of white or brown rice, which is nice.

Service was unfortunately very slow. The pace was like a banquet dinner rather than a weekday lunch. Granted we were a large group and ordered many dishes as if it was in fact a banquet dinner, but it was slow from the start, just to order drinks, then order the food, and we’d get one or at most two dishes at a time, then afterwards, it was a long wait to get the check. It’s too much to ask one person to wait on the entire restaurant, which was about 67-75% full. I was told it’s recently taken over by a new owner, so maybe they are bit overwhelmed until they get more servers.

Still, the food is unique and I love asian vegetarian, and now I get it at upscale tastes at rock bottom prices, so I’ll definitely be back.

Link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASI...

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