4/17/12: So apparently they have added some crepes back onto the menu at Lotus Leaf, including a sweet potato crepe.
3/8/12: From what I hear it sounds like Lotus Leaf will take crepes off its menu in the near future, so this review is essentially obsolete. I find it strange that crepes are being removed from the menu, especially since they served a wonderful chocolate and orange dessert crepe. Its hard to find good crepes in this city.
After our recent trip to Paris, Phil and I now consider ourselves quite the experts on crepes. Since taking off from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, I have been craving another one. So we decided to try out Lotus Leaf Cafe and Creperie in the Delano district. Lotus Leaf promotes itself has a healthy eating establishment and this is easy to see by their limited menu and lack of soft drinks. Yes, for the diet coke addicts out there, you will simply have to have tea (which they have lots of) or water. However, there are some guilty pleasures on the menu such as chocolate crepes. The inside of Lotus Leaf is small and cozy with a trendy modern feel to it. The walls are adorned with artwork for sale by local artists and on each table are various herb plants.
As a shock to everyone, we both went with crepes. I decided on the seafood crepe and Phil ordered the classic crepes Florentine. The seafood crepes was described as having shrimp, crab, scallops, and wild mushrooms. I was worried that I would have to pick out the mushrooms in the crepe but the fear was unfounded since I’m pretty sure there weren’t any in there. The actual crepe was great, reminded me quite a bit of the ones in Paris. The problem with the crepe was the filling. Not only could I not find a single mushroom, but none of the ingredients mentioned above. It seemed like they took all of the parts and blended them together and threw them in a crepe, covered it in cheese, and called it good. The crepe itself did not taste bad, in fact it was pretty good. But I was disappointed and hoping for at least a chunk of one of the sea creatures mentioned. Phil was equally unimpressed with trying to find the ingredients of his crepe as well. Needless to say, at this point my Paris blues returned because I was becoming convinced that I would have to wait until my next trip to Paris for a good crepe. The sides that came with our crepes were good. Phil had a vegetable couscous that was very well done and I had a simple salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Besides the blended crepe filling letdown, the portions were rather small for the price. We both left still feeling hungry.
But there was a saving grace at the Lotus Leaf. Now we said that they do have some guilty pleasures here including chocolate crepes. Of course we ordered the chocolate crepe people! And it was awesome! The crepe itself was chocolate flavored, had melted chocolate and bits of orange throughout, and fresh fruit on top. This was the crepe I had been craving since Paris. We both decided Lotus Leaf would be worth a second visit, but for dessert only.
This past weekend Phil and I were driving all over town picking out tile when I decided we needed lunch. We first took a detour to Juarez bakery which was an exciting event. I will have to post a second blog on that later. However, as much fun as Juarez was, we realized it was best for dessert and not lunch. So we made our way to Riverside Cafe. I have driven by this restaurant more times than I can count and have always wanted to try it out. True to its name, Riverside Cafe is located next to the Little Arkansas River at 13th and Bitting. When you go in, the place feels like going back in time to a 50s diner. I am fairly certain that the soda bar is original to the building. It has a great classic feel along with a rooster themed decor. They are known for serving breakfast all day, but Phil and I were in the mood for sandwiches, although you can order just about any traditional diner fare you can think of as their menu is rather expansive.
Phil’s family has introduced me to the deliciousness that is corned beef through their celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Because of this, I decided to order a Reuben sandwich. Who knew that a Reuben sandwich could be so tasty with thousand island dressing and sauerkraut? Apparently lots of people, but I was not one of them. The sandwich was wonderful with a great amount of corned beef and some nice and crispy tater tots on the side. A sandwich, tater tots, and a side of grease all equal great diner food. Phil ordered the pork tender sandwich. I was afraid that it would come out dry and fried to a crisp, but it sounded too good to pass up. To my delight it was perfectly fried and the pork was still tender. It came with mayo, lettuce, onion, and tomato on the side, but I think it needed a slice of cheese to jazz it up a bit. While not as good as Timbuktu’s pork tender sandwich, I would still recommend you give this one a go. My cottage fries were not that great and I would recommend going with the tots.
They also had a rather impressive selection of homemade pies that were very hard to pass up.
Overall we enjoyed our experience and I am looking forward to dragging some school friends to the south Woodlawn location on an in-service day.
Another Friday in Lent and another restaurant with a self-explanatory name. On Friday my mom and I checked out the Wichita Fish Company, a venerable establishment located near Douglas and Seneca. A tip for those of you who actually go and try these places we review; the parking for the Fish Co. is located across the street on the north side of Douglas. From the outside this place looks as if several random buildings were thrown together to create the sprawling, multi-awning temple of seafoodery. Inside, you are met by a friendly cashier/matre ‘d/waitress/bouncer who takes you order and rings you up. The menu here is rather expansive and to make things more confusing there are 10-15 “specials” plastered over the wall and kitchen door. If you are a fan of seafood and especially fried seafood this is your place. The mission statement of the restaurant might be, “If it comes from a body of water, we fry it.” If you are in the mood for a little surf and turf they can humor you with an offering of fried chicken. Although ordering chicken at this place would make as much sense as going to a Justin Bieber concert.
My mom and I, for the greater good of our BMIs decided to try some grilled fish. Although when queried by the cashier I broke down and chose fries over mixed veggies, but that is just a decision I will have to live with. I went with the Chilean sea bass and my mom went with the apple wood smoked tuna(which really sounds like some crap dish that would be served at TGI McSuckys). Anyway, after ordering we wandered past freezers of delicious sea creatures for sale and into the main dining area, which was surprisingly large. After waiting for a good 30 minutes our food finally arrived. We really couldn’t complain because on the menu is does state you must allow 20 minutes for grilled fish. And on a Friday in Lent at lunch time you should probably add 10-15 minutes more onto that.
Our lunch came served in styrofoam boxes that when opened unveiled what was a rather generous and delicious meal. Along with our fish fillets there was coleslaw, hushpuppies, and fries for me and mixed veggies and rice for my mom. There were also two cups of dipping sauce, one consisted of melted butter and the other was a honey dijon based sauce. My fish was very good, probably some of the best fish I have had in Wichita, which I know isn’t saying a whole lot. The sea bass was not overcooked and had a nice seasoning with the right amount of searing on the outside. Dipping it into the melted butter resulted it a delightful experience. The slaw and fries were nothing to get excited about, but the hushpuppies were exceptional. Unfortunately my mom’s tuna came out overcooked, but was still decent enough with the sauce. In the Fish Co.’s defense tuna is a tough creature to prepare. Ideally you would sear it on each side leaving the middle raw, but this should only be done with top quality tuna, which for $10 is not what you are getting here. None the less my mom took it all in stride and thoroughly enjoyed her grilled veggies and rice.
If you are someone who enjoys eating seafood, but can’t dignify spending $15-20 dollars for it, the Wichita Fish Co. is your place. You can’t get better fish for the price in town, not to mention the generous amounts of sides that come with your meal. I guarantee you will leave feeling full and satisfied, you just might not want to order the tuna.
This being the season of Lent Steph and I headed out for a fish dinner on Friday night. We tried out a new place with the straightforward name Just Catfish(although they do serve fried chicken as well). Just Catfish is quaintly nestled between I-235, an old sandpit pond, and a trailer park. The restaurant is decent sized for a local place with large picture windows that overlook the sand pit lake. There is also an outdoor deck with tables that would be nice when the weather is warm and the pond level is not so low. The place was busy with take out and dine in customers when we got there. While waiting for a table we took a look at the menu to decide if we should have the catfish or the catfish.
We both decided to go with the fried catfish and for sides Steph ordered fried okra and I went with hushpuppies. While waiting for our meal Steph noticed a young child who had hit the wall of fried fish consumption and had fallen into a dreaded catfish coma. The poor child was passed out on the table whilst his parents finished off their meal and attempted to keep the little guy’s head from falling off the table. Steph and I wondered if this too would be our fate after polishing off our plates. The fish soon arrived and we quickly dug in. The cornmeal breading had the perfect combination of spices and saltiness and was very good. The tartar sauce tasted homemade and was a good compliment to the catfish. My only complaints were the lack of lemon slices and fact that some of the edges of the fillets were too crispy for me. We both agreed that this was very good fried catfish, although I would rate it just below Scotch and Sirloin’s catfish. All the waitstaff at Just Catfish were very friendly and appreciative, so much so it was very hard to turn down the offer of a plate of homemade cobbler to go.
Just Catfish is a no frills, straight up kind of place. They are a catfish house and if you go there expecting something else you are going to be disappointed. If you go there looking for great catfish at a reasonable price you will be a happy person as you stare out into the depths of the sand pit, feeling yourself slipping into yet another self-induced catfish coma.
In case you haven’t noticed Wichita has a bunch of Lebanese/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern inspired restaurants. If anyone kept records on the amount of hummus consumed per person I bet that Wichita would be way up there on the list. Maybe a close second to Beirut. N and J Cafe is one of the grandaddy Lebanese establishments in Wichita that just about everyone who enjoys Lebanese food has been to. Steph and I swung by here recently to see how the place was doing after all these years.
N and J is divided into a restaurant and a bakery section. The bakery sells all those delightful Middle Eastern favorites such as hummus, pita bread, and baklava. The restaurant menu is straight up authentic with hummus, baba ganoush, cabbage rolls, shwarma, falafel, etc. On this occasion we had an order of grapes leaves stuffed with rice and ground beef as an appetizer. They were fresh and warm with just the right amount of tanginess. For dinner we both decided to try something new, which was very hard for Steph since she loves the chicken shawarma. She went with the falafel pita and I went with the kafta pita. For those you who don’t know falafel is basically ground chickpeas and spices that have been rolled into a ball and then fried. A kafta sandwich consists of seasoned ground beef and tahini sauce. Steph was not a big fan of her sandwich due to the fact that she thought the falafel were rather bland. I myself thought it was just fine. Both of us agreed that the kafta sandwich was really good. For one of my sides I decided to go out on a limb and order baba ganoush, which is very similar to hummus except it is made with roasted, pureed eggplant. It has a very distinctive smokey and tangy taste, we both enjoyed it though.
If you are looking for real traditional Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine you can’t go wrong with N and J’s. If you need further convincing just think of the all the pita bread and baklava that you can buy at their bakery after your tasty meal. Just because you are at a place that serves hummus, fight the urge to order it and try something new. Chances are in this town you have probably had hummus at least 3 times in the past week anyway.