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Restaurant’s baby pink facade belies the South Federal Boulevard eatery’s staunch vegetarian mission. For my part, I’m a dedicated omnivore, but chef-owner Thuy Huynh’s charge inspired my curiosity: With so many Vietnamese dishes using fish and meat as flavoring agents, I wondered how Lotus’ fare would retain the cuisine’s telltale nuances.
Inside the spotless space, a friend and I scoured the massive menu in which meat and seafood substitutes—veggie shredded meat, “white ham,” tofu shrimp—replace conventional proteins. We began with the crispy rice-flour cupcakes. These pleasantly chewy rounds are similar in texture to crêpes, sweetened with coconut milk, and served with crisp lettuce, fragrant shiso leaves, fresh basil, and bean sprouts for wrapping into little bundles.
Take a note from the cakes, which come 14 to an order: The portions are generous. Lotus Special Soup, which reminds me of the egg-drop version, is stirred with crushed pumpkin, bamboo shoots, and soft tofu, and could easily serve four. The rice vermicelli with fried egg rolls and grilled soy protein was more than the two of us could eat in a sitting (although it did need Sriracha). And the hu tieu ap chào, a savory dish of crispy, wide rice noodles, stir-fried tofu, soy protein, and vegetables in brown sauce, makes excellent leftovers.
Lotus’ bright herbal flavors stand up to more traditional Vietnamese restaurants—even without the meat. Although I’m not likely to renounce my omnivore status anytime soon, this is a place that I’ll frequent when I’m craving something lighter. 1015 S. Federal Blvd., 303-936-5610