A perfect world would be full of delicious hole-in-the-wall restaurants, each tucked away on some unassuming side street, waiting to be discovered. In a place as pristine (and often pretentious) as Palo Alto, finding such an establishment often seems impossible—many places that, at first glance, appear to meet the qualifications are priced in a way that immediately disqualifies them.
Lotus Thai Bistro, a small, understated eatery on California Ave., is the exception to the rule. Lotus Thai is everything you could ever want in a hole-in-the-wall. Upon entering the bistro, diners are greeted from behind the counter by the restaurant’s chefs, who are busy concocting creative and awe-inspiring curries. The servers are consistently welcoming and will gladly accommodate special requests.
As a starter, I am always tempted to order the fresh rolls. While fresh rolls often linger on menus as the “healthy” (read: boring) alternative to their fried counterparts, Lotus Thai’s fresh rolls are as delicious as they are nutritious. Filled with an array of fresh and colorful ingredients, it is as if each bite surprises you with a new and exciting flavor. The rolls are packed with tofu, mango, cilantro and assorted crunchy vegetables and are topped with seaweed salad. The sweet and savory combination is intriguing and pairs excellently with the accompanying creamy, wasabi-topped peanut sauce. My fellow diner enjoyed the chicken satay skewers, which were served with a delightful sweet coconut peanut sauce. Another winner is the refreshing “som tum” (green papaya) salad.
My favorite entrée by far is the pumpkin curry, a beautifully carved squash filled with an assortment of vegetables, chicken or meat, according to the diner’s own tastes. The curry sauce, which pairs well with brown rice, is fiery and addictive, begging diners to have just one more bite.
At the end of the meal, a dish of complimentary ice cream almost always makes an appearance (and a welcome appearance at that). In a college town that often fails to bring students options that are cheap yet tasty, Lotus Thai Bistro serves as a reminder that although this may not be a perfect world, there are still a few hidden gems waiting to be found.