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Lotus Cafe, Georgia and Sligo Avenue in Silver Spring - Vietnamese in the Former My Le Space


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Recently went to newly opened Lotus Cafe in DTSS, and thought it was pretty good. Since my Vietnamese cuisine knowledge isn't very much at all I wanted to know what others thought?

When we went we tried the summer rolls, combo of grilled, skewered meat (this one was one of my favorites), chicken pho (this broth was FANTASTIC, but again maybe that's cause I haven't had a lot of pho), curry chicken and cashew chicken. We weren't the most daring at ordering but it was our first time there and so stayed safe.

Has anyone else been? What did you think? Am I alone in being a Lotus Cafe lover?

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We ate here last night...it's a little disturbing to find out this morning that one of the worker's who lived in an upstairs apartment died in an early morning fire. (story here)

I wasn't expecting a lot, but was at least hoping for a respectable bowl of Pho. We arrived around 5:30, and the place was practically empty. We perused the menu, and found a combination of different asian foods--some Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. 3 out of 4 ordered Pho, and one ordered the combination skewers on rice. We ordered an appetizer of calamari fries to share and one iced coffee. The waitress was pleasant and took our order--repeating as she wrote it down.

After a very long delay, the appetizer comes out. Calamari was good but inconsistent. The preparation was tasty, with ginger, onion and jalapenos. It wasn't overdone, but some pieces were a little too soft that the breading did not stick. The dipping sauce was quite tasty...a lime sauce with lots of pepper. After another very long wait finally out comes the food, and it is wrong. Two large #2's were ordered, one with everything, one without onion, and one small #2 with brisket, no onion and no cilantro.

One large is delivered and it is correct. A second small bowl is brought out, the contents are right but it is supposed to be a large. Then the small is brought out, without brisket, and with onion and cilantro. After another wait the server emerges with the corrected bowl of large Pho. At this point we mentioned the mistake on the small and asked to have it corrected. The waitress admitted she heard no onion but denied ever hearing no cilantro. (Even though it was repeated at time of order) Thankfully the brisket was brought out in a small bowl and that was finished while waiting for the corrected Pho to appear. When the Pho was brought out again, they had just poured it from one bowl into another. There were still small pieces of cilantro embedded in the beef, and the meat, which was now totally overcooked, was tough. As far as the taste of the meat and the broth, I'd say the broth tasted like it had MSG in it (and most likely did based on my reaction afterward :lol: ) Hard to say about the meat, since it was so overcooked. The skewers were a mix--beef was soft, chicken was kind of dry and not very flavorful, and the pork was the best of the lot. Iced coffee never arrived, but we didn't want to mention it after all the snafus with the meal. Just wanted to make sure it wasn't on the bill, and it was not.

When we left, there were a respectable amount of people sitting outdoors dining. The place is still pretty new and I would probably give it another chance, but just won't order Pho. Especially since the place in Aspen Hill is far better. I would order the dinner portion of the calamari, though. Hard to complain too much for a meal for 4 for $40 before tax and tip.

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As stated above, we get carryout at least twice a month. I'd probably choose Pho Hiep Hoa on Ellsworth if dining in, though.

My husband and I go all the time, the other poster might not have liked it but we love it. Got pho ga from them last week. Also really like their vermicelli noodle bowls.

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My husband and I go all the time, the other poster might not have liked it but we love it. Got pho ga from them last week. Also really like their vermicelli noodle bowls.

I didn't say I didn't like it, just that the location/decor leave a little to be desired. Which is exactly why we get takeout, instead of eating there.

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Decor ain't that great, but we ate outside on this bea=utiful evening. Decent service, food was tasty enough but not to make me want to go back. The broth of the pho was pretty good, but the 'meatballs' that I opted for to be in it were pretty flavorless uninspired hunks of protein.

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I've been hunting in the area for good pho for over 5 years and I've found it really hard. By far the best bowl I've had is at Lotus Cafe in Silver Spring. This is the only pho I've had in the area where the broth is flavorful enough to stand on its own and the only pho I actually recommend to people as good. The next best broth for me was at Le Bledo Dalat in Springfield, but their meat just wasn't very good, and their noodles were pretty mediocre. Nam Viet in Cleveland Park is good enough to satisfy my craving, but it's okay, not great. Pho DC in Chinatown and Pho Eurasian (formerly Saigon Bistro) in Dupont are about on par with Pho Viet for me, although I really dislike the oddly shaped dishes they use at Pho DC.

...

For now, I'm trekking out to Lotus when I want a good bowl of pho, but I'm desperately seeking more good options.

 

On a couple of return trips to Lotus Cafe the pho wasn't quite as good, but it has still been one of the better bowls I've had in the area. These wouldn't have been worth the trip for me, though, over other options that are closer. I need to collect more data points to figure out if they're more consistently good, consistently okay, or consistently inconsistent. I really do like the place as a whole. The food isn't mind blowing, but they use good ingredients and everything else I've tried so far (steamed pot stickers, fried wontons, Vietnamese crepe, summer rolls, beef skewers) has pretty much hit the spot.

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After another return trip I'm going to sadly retract my recommendation. If this most recent trip was my first, I would have thought the place was awful and never have returned.

This last time everything seemed to go poorly, except for some chicken skewer appetizers that were tasty enough. I never really got around to the vermicelli salad they were sitting on for reasons I'll mention further on.

The summer rolls are cut in half and stood up together in a column, cut end up, in the middle of the dish. Unfortunately the rice paper stuck together pretty badly making them really hard to pull apart. This had the side effect of loosening them up so all the fillings dump out if you try to dunk them in peanut sauce. This wasn't an issue the first time I went, when I was worried about this exact issue when I saw them come out but yet they pulled apart easily and remained tightly rolled. Aside from the sticking, though, they were fine.

The pho this time was not good at all. Diametrically opposed to the flavorful, well balanced broth, good cuts of meat, and well placed toppings from my first visit, this time I had a really thin, watery, nearly flavorless broth, maybe 7 or so small slices of overcooked, rubbery eye round, tough pieces of tripe that were cut way too big, and unevenly sliced onions dumped all over the top. After several sips to make absolutely certain I wasn't going to discover any more flavor, I grabbed the hoisin and, to my slight dismay, squirted out a clumpy, dried paste of hoisin sauce that had been left out too long. The Sriracha was fine, but the basil was covered in black spots. Aside from two bowls I've had that were actively unpleasant to eat, this was one of the most disappointing bowls of pho I've had. And to boot, while I was eating it I spotted a baby cockroach trying to crawl up a dish and snack on my peanut sauce. No, that's MY peanut sauce, damn it. >_< I pointed it out to the waiter, and he tried to get it with a towel, but it got away and made a return trip a little while later. I think it was antennaeing out the vermicelli noodles that the chicken skewers came on, but I wasn't in a sharing mood and didn't let it have any. Which was really just me being a curmudgeon, because at that point I didn't really feel like eating anything else and left it unfinished.

In four trips, Lotus Cafe has given me (1) the best bowl of pho I've had in the DC metropolitan area by a landslide, (2) two bowls of decent pho that weren't really worth the trip, and (3) one of the worst bowls of pho I've had in a long time. Granted, four data points isn't that many and any one of these experiences could have been anomalies, but the wild inconsistency I've experienced there really bugs me and I doubt I'll be heading back to give them another shot.

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