A not-so-great meal at this usually reliable Vietnamese restaurant

Last Sunday, my oldest daughter graduated from college – and them promptly left for a camping trip with her father. My other daughter had plans with her boyfriend, leaving my friend Elektra and I to celebrate the graduation on our own. I suggested lunch at Lotus Leaf for the most trivial of reasons: it has parking. Finding parking in downtown San Leandro on a Sunday which also happened to be Father’s Day can be pretty challenging.

Beyond parking, Lotus Leaf tends to be a pretty dependable place for lunch. It’s nicely appointed, it’s one of those “Asian bistros” that appeared in California in the early ’00s, offering classy, minimalist and yet still somewhat-ethnic decore and nicely presented dishes, and a comfortable place for a nice-but-not-extravagant meal. You could have a business meal here, a celebration or just a casual lunch. I’d been several times in the last year or two, precisely for this reason and because the food is generally very solid. They also have an extensive vegetarian menu. After this experience, however, I doubt I’ll be rushing back.

First, service was problematic. The waiter was a young man who seemed to have very little experience serving tables. He forgot my drink, our main dishes came only a few minutes after our appetizers had arrived, he never checked on us and we had to chase him to get us the bill. Of course, this was Father’s Day, so perhaps he was covering for someone else – and he was pleasant.

We started with the grilled lemongrass pork spring rolls ($10.5), which are served with peanut sauce. These were very good. The lemongrass pork itself was very flavorful, and it went well with the lettuce, mint, lemongrass and carrots. The peanut sauce was also very flavorful. I’m not a fan of bean sprouts myself, but I didn’t mind them in these rolls. These, I’d order again.

More problematic was my grilled beef short ribs with pineapple rice ($18). The ribs were very tasty, they had a good marinade with bold flavors. Unfortunately, they were extremely chewy and fatty. That meant that I couldn’t eat much of it. The pineapple rice had such tiny pieces of pineapple that you couldn’t taste it at all, it was just bland. And the same can be said for the vegetables. I was left hungry, which I shouldn’t have been given the hefty price of the meal.

My friend Elektra had the ginger salmon ($16.5), which also came with pineapple rice and steamed veggies. She agreed with me as to the sides, and liked the sauce on the salmon. However, it was dried and overcooked. It was also too small a portion to warrant the price.

Elektra had a fresh squeezed limeade ($5.5) which she liked, as it wasn’t very sweet.

In all, we were disappointed, with so many other restaurants in San Leandro, I don’t think we’ll rush to Lotus Leaf again, unless we have a vegetarian on tow.

Lotus Leaf
277 Parrott St
San Leandro, CA
(510) 877-2601
M-Th 9 AM - 9 PM
F-Su 9 AM - 9:30 PM
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