3 Cracknell St, Annerley
Jenny mentioned to me in passing a restaurant near her called Red Lotus. It flashed up a feeling of reminiscence and when I searched the dregs of my tired and aging memory bank, I realised I had been to a restaurant called Red Lotus on one of my first dates with now-husband Marc. That was its Fortitude Valley location and it appears the same owners have also got a restaurant of same name at Annerley. In further Brisbane-is-a-small-city news, they are again the same owners behind Cafe O-Mai, which is located right next door to Red Lotus in Annerley.
It seemed fitting that I visit this Red Lotus with Marc. We're not sentimental people but we do enjoy a good feed so it's a case of any excuse will do really. I made a booking for a weekday night but whilst it was fairly busy, I'm pretty sure they could have squeezed two people in without a booking. I would recommend you book for a weekend or larger group though.
From the outset, Red Lotus doesn't look like your typical Vietnamese eatery. I described it to Jenny as a nice date spot because it's got lovely decor but is still reasonably relaxed. The menu is packed with detailed descriptions and photographs so even Vietnamese food novices will have some guidance as to what dishes to order.
Marc and I are far from Vietnamese food novices, indeed it's probably one of our favourite and most frequented cuisines. We leafed through the menu and selected a number of dishes to share, plus some imported Vietnamese beer.
I personally hadn't tried 333 before but Marc had 333 'regular' in Vietnam when he was travelling through there. The one we had at Red Lotus was the 'premium' version and I loved it! It wasn't as light as what I think of Asian beers to be, which is good for me because I hate light, watery beers.
Duck rice paper rolls
Our starter of the night was duck rice paper rolls. This was like a hybrid of Peking duck wrap with traditional rice paper rolls and it worked really well. I'm used to rice paper rolls having sauce to dip into but in this case, the hoisin sauce was inside the wraps. They were tasty and healthy and the only downside was two not being enough.
For our mains, we shared a prawn green papaya salad, a Vietnamese chicken curry and grilled pork salad.
Green papaya salad with prawns
I love ordering papaya salad because it feels like such a healthy option whilst being packed with flavour. This version at Red Lotus was no exception. The dressing was a perfect mix of sweet, funky and salty. Marc commented that he would have liked it spicier but as a mild-chili enthusiast, I found this level of spice to be adequate. You can choose the level of spice when you order and we went for medium, which is probably more our idea of 'mild'.
Vietnamese chicken curry
The Vietnamese curry was something I was really curious about because I'd never even heard of Vietnamese curry before. True to the menu description, it was unlike Thai or Indian curry and managed to carve a unique niche in my mental curry library. I would describe this as quite creamy and sweet with a good level of chili kick. It was like a more coconutty version of butter chicken. I liked that the chicken pieces were still tender and not dry. This one we also ordered in medium but was a lot spicier than the salad. Marc approved!
Grilled pork vermicelli salad
Our final dish of the day was the grilled pork salad bowl. This arrived in a large serve with plenty of pork, rice noodles, salad and pickled carrot. The dressing was typically tangy and sweet with a punch of fish sauce. I'm not a huge fan of rice noodles myself but if like Marc, you are, this makes for a really healthy and well-rounded meal.
I was worried we'd ordered too much but that was underestimating our superior eating skills. We ended up demolishing this delicious meal and went home wonderfully satisfied. As mentioned prior, the atmosphere in the restaurant is great and we experienced friendly service throughout.