Blossoming Lotus was voted the “Best Restaurant on Kauai” by the Honolulu Advertiser and while I might debate that island-wide choice, I would give Blossoming Lotus the title, “Best Restaurant in Kapaa,” hands down. Because Kapaa was our destination of choice for the evening, I couldn’t resist recommending “The Lotus” to my three friends.
There was just one problem: Blossoming Lotus is a vegan restaurant and my friends are not. But my carnivorous husband once confessed, “I could eat here every night of the week.” (When our birthdays roll around in February, he chooses Scotty’s Beachside BBQ for his birthday dinner, and I choose this place.)
When the four of us sat down, I got the usual questions–what’s good here, what’s a vegan, what’s the difference between tofu and tempeh–and I could tell by the shifting in the seats, the gawking of food served at nearby tables, and how long it took to make entree selections that not everyone was as comfortable with my restaurant choice as I was. So, just to make the three vegan virgins I was with feel good, I announced that Blossoming Lotus was a Certified Green Restaurant, the first in all of Hawaii. That means they have a full-scale recycling program and use vegetable-plastics (which biodegrade in a compost pile) instead of petroleum-based plastics. They have also adopted energy and water efficiency measures. Further, I said, their beautiful, four-color, coffee-table cookbook had received numerous international awards.
Then I found out Vegan Virgin #1 was allergic to cashews. Uh oh. That ruled out Pesto Manifesto Lasagna made with cashew basil ricotta. It also ruled out Taj Mahal’s Indian Platter made with coconut cashew basmati rice. And, my favorite, Senorita Bombia’s Enchilada Casserole made with cashew cheeze.
If you’re allergic to nuts, a vegan restaurant is not a good place to be. A vegan diet is comprised entirely of plant-based foods. No dairy. No animals. The basic ingredients of a vegan meal include vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts.
We started with appetizers: Summer Rolls (marinated and grilled tofu, herbs and veggies wrapped in fresh rice paper and served with a peanut sauce), Live Moo Shu (sesame marinated shitake mushrooms and mixed vegetables served with coconut hand rolls and hoisin dipping sauce) and the restaurant’s signature Kaya’s Cosmic Cornbread (southwest spelt cornbread served with homemade squash sage butter).
Vegan Virgin #2 was surprised the Live Moo Shu was served cold, but other than that, we all survived the first round—no hives, no rashes, no emergency room visits. I even heard “Mmm” escape the lips a few times.
While I may be first in line to buy the latest iPhone, when it comes to restaurants, I do not experiment. I am like a broken record that keeps repeating the same verse over and over. When I find a dish I like, I order the same thing every time I visit. At Blossoming Lotus, it’s the Senorita Bombia’s Enchilada Casserole. “Mmm” does not do this Spanish dish justice. “Delicious” does not quite explain the taste explosion of the marinated and baked tempeh, beans, rice, chili sauce and cashew cheese which is layered between sprouted wheat tortillas and topped with a carob mole sauce and salsa. All I can say is, “Try it,” which is exactly what Vegan Virgin #3 did.
And he mopped it up. Not a single bean, kernel of rice or piece of tomato was left. Indeed, his plate looked just like mine: Clean. Now, #3 was eyeing the dessert menu and his all-time favorite cake—carrot.
But what about the other two Vegan Virgins? Things looked good with #2. She was even sampling everyone else’s food in between bites of pumpkin red lentil curry, coconut cashew basmati rice and papaya chutney from her entrée, Taj Mahal’s Indian Platter.
However, I don’t think #1 was as happy with her selection as the rest of us. She said it was good, but her bountiful Teriyaki Bowl of Udon noodles, mixed vegetables and tempeh mixed with teriyaki sauce was still practically brimming when the waitress carried it away.
My parents are visiting me and my husband next week. They live in suburbia now, but they were born and raised on farms in the Midwest. They grazed their own cattle, fattened their own pigs and collected eggs from their own hen houses. They also grew their own asparagus, tomatoes, corn, beans, squash, watermelon, potatoes, onions and more.
I am debating whether or not I should suggest Blossoming Lotus for dinner one night. Surely, we’ll hit Scotty’s BBQ. But should I risk The Lotus? I think so. Look at it this way: I am averaging .666. I would say Blossoming Lotus was a hit with two of my three Vegan Virgin friends, and in baseball—we are approaching the World Series, you know—a .666 batting average would break records. So, let’s say only one of my parents likes their vegan dish at Blossoming Lotus, I would still be batting .500. Still record-breaking. And even though we all know gambling is illegal in baseball, I am betting on my dad. I think he’ll like the Senorita Bombia’s Enchilada Casserole. And maybe this time, I’ll order something new, like the Pesto Manifesto Lasagna, but I doubt it.