The tradition of going out to “dim sum” may be ages old in the Chinese culture, but in downtown Sacramento, chef Buu “Billy” Ngo is breathing new life into this ancient custom. Already having achieved great success with Kru, a sushi joint, his new venture Red Lotus opened in last year serving up adventurous dishes that take diners on a roller coaster of texture and flavors.
Those with a hankering for traditional dim sum classics will find “Har Gow” (shrimp dumplings), Siu Mai (pork, shrimp and shitake dumplings), and vegetable egg rolls available, on the menu right alongside dumplings filled with fresh water eel and shrimp, served with pistachio puree and truffle oil.
Admirers of Anthony Bourdain’s daring eating escapades can follow in his footsteps at Red Lotus, with exotic offerings like Jelly Fish, or rich, unctuous Spiced Beef Marrow Bone, served with crispy flatbread and accompanied by mustard, pickles, and vinegar.
Diners who want to play it safe will find comfort in the more familiar Chinese dishes on the menu, like Chicken Chow Mein noodles, Chicken Potstickers, and Chicken Salad with mixed greens and a sweet sesame dressing. Still, the chef can’t help but push the envelope again with variations on familiar dishes like fried rice. One version uses housemade Korean Kimchee and a duck egg, while another features braised pork belly and cauliflower.
One of the most popular menu items is Chili Shrimp, a riff on the Walnut Shrimp dish that in the past 10 years has found its way onto the menu of almost every Chinese restaurant around. The standard version of this dish consists of deep fried shrimp coated in a sweet mayonnaise-like sauce. The Red Lotus version uses candied pistachios instead of walnuts, adds serrano chilis for heat, and coats the fried shrimp in a toban jiang-honey aioli. The dish has acquired quite a following, many of whom claim it as “addictive”. It’s just something you have to try and decide for yourself.
The presentation is half the charm of the dishes here, with each plate wowing diners. Ngo certainly puts his training in sushi and in the artistic presentation of food to work here. Red Lotus features a nice patio where you can catch one of the evening breezes and relax across from a park. Happy hour deals include $5 plates of appetizers and cheap drinks. One of the best drinks, Berry Cobbler, comes from the Mocktail menu and is sure to hit the spot on a hot summer night. The Red Lotus Facebook page frequently posts passwords that can get you half off dumplings and happy hour drink pricing on Sundays and Mondays. Traditional it is not, but chic and delicious it is.