The menus here for both the Thai and Vietnamese dishes are extensive – everything from the Pad Ruam Mit vegetable medley to the Him Ma Parn for cashew lovers – but a perennial favorite is Pho Bo, a traditional Vietnamese soup that includes meatballs, scallions, flat rice noodles, ginger, a touch of sliced red chile peppers, assorted seasonings, bean sprouts, lean beef, cilantro, and more. It sounds daunting, but it all works. And the fresh bean sprouts and basil leaves that come before the soup arrives – and which are intended to be used as a garnish on the steaming soup – nearly doubles as a separate dinner salad.
On a cold day, this soup hits the spot. The serving for $7.50 is huge – and to say that Pho Bo is filling is an understatement – and after lunch you’ll feel like you’re sloshing as you head back to your office. But it’s all worth it.
Pho Bo is one of the two great dishes in downtown Sacramento during the winter. The other is the fresh chicken soup at Tex-Mex on 8th between K and L. Both will warm your cockles.
Aside from Pho Bo, the Lotus offerings are delightful and reasonably priced. Among the soups, the most expensive item on the lunch menu is a big bowl of seafood soup for $15. There’s coconut soup, Thai Hot and Sour Soup and Gong Jead Thread Needle Soup, all at $8 a bowl.
A Thai classic, Pad Thai, that mix of crushed peanuts, skinny noodles, meat and spices, is well-presented and delicious, as is the Miang Kaw, which includes Thai lettuce wraps with crunchy rice, coconut flakes, chicken and peanuts. Or how about the Pad Kra Pow, the Bangkok basil served with cashew nuts, bell peppers, basil and chiles. Most of the dishes are between $7 and $10.
The noodle dishes are a delight, not only the Pad Thai but the Drunken Noodles, Pad Kee Mow, and saucy noodles and pan-fried noodles, too. And the veggie offerings are treasurers, such as Pad Maklu Ah, the Royal Eggplant, which includes eggplant, bell peppers, onions, basil and chiles, among other spices. It usually takes an act of Congress to get me to eat eggplant, but with this spice mix, it all comes together.
In fact, the spices are dizzying: There’s ginger mushroom, red curry and green beans (for Christmas?), an eggplant-mushroom mix stewed in coconut red curry, green curry and coconut milk, a yellow curry stew with carrots and potatoes, and more.
If you’re not up for a big feed, the appetizers are enticing: There’s Satay (barbecue chicken with peanut sauce and cucumbers), and Po Pia Sod (fresh salad rolls, with soft rice noodles, prawns and minced chicken with peanut sauce and wrapped in rice paper).
A final note: It’s easy to miss this place. Lotus is below street level. Go down the steps at the northwest corner of 5th and J, the walk through the little courtyard. You can’t miss it. It’s always crowded for lunch, so get there before noon.
425 J Street
Mon-Fri, Lunch: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.,
Dinner: 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Closed Saturday and Sunday