Red Lotus Vietnamese Restaurant
A little while back, I trekked out to Kelowna to catch up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in twenty years or so. The weather reports promised brilliant sunshine the entire weekend…perfect conditions for a short road-trip. When I hit the first snowfall up on Highway 97, I started to think “Maybe I ought to have brought a jacket.” When I finally pulled into town I was greeted with a cold, stiff wind and pelting rain. Of course, in a situation like that, there’s only one thing on my mind. Soup!
Luckily for me, the street my hotel is on is lined with numerous restaurants and a good variety of Asian places. The hunt begins. The first place I come across is a run-down, seedy Chinese-Vietnamese joint…dirty windows, filthy tables, tattered awning. You know. Like in Whalley. Surely I didn’t just drive 400 kilometres through sleet and snow for this. As I turn around, directly across the street, I see this.
I literally blinked several times. Could it be? Upper-end Vietnamese in Kelowna? It used to be, not long ago, special meals in the Okanagan meant Mr. Mike’s or, if you were lucky, White Spot. I wasn’t exactly prepared for this.
After a couple of walk-bys and some stealthy window-stalking it was apparent the place was deserted. Granted, the weather sucked and this was Kelowna, but still, you’d figure some folk would be in the mood for phở. Oh, well. Looks like I’ve got the place to myself!
The Red Lotus is one sleek room. No encrusted squeeze bottles of hoisin and old, dusty plants. Instead, there are glass pots of Sriracha and cascades of water on glass.
For some reason I assumed the food wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as in Vancouver. I guess that comes along with the vast amount of variety and quality ethnic food we are blessed with. Fortunately, I was proven dead wrong.
These may appear to be your average, run-of-the-mill, Chinese-style spring rolls with a bland, non-descript dipping sauce. Instead of under-seasoned fillings and a jacked-up dip, these rolls are packed with flavorful pork, garlic, ginger, fish sauce and julienned veg. The Nước chấm here is the simplest version…vinegar, fish sauce, sugar and water…the perfect accompaniment.
For the phở, I had to go with the Specialty House Noodle Soup…brisket, well-done beef, rare beef and beef balls.
Right off the bat you could tell this is a well-made broth. Deep, complex and infused with all the requisite spices. The brisket, well-done flank and rare beef were all very tender. The noodles were in their happy state and the beef balls were, actually, not bounceable. A really well-crafted bowl of phở.
If you ever find yourself in Kelowna, dodging rain and wind, don’t settle for the Triple-O Burger. It appears that there is much more on offer these days.