The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, March 20, 1997

Lotus eases you
into a vegetarian diet

FOR a junkie, coming clean is a painful thing. Your stomach turns gnarly. You feel sweaty. A dull ache pulses in your joints and your lower back cramps. You can't sleep or think because your mind focuses only on the pain. It's happened to me . . . when trying to kick the meat habit.

Unlike suffering drug withdrawal, however, these feelings arise only when returning to eating meat after spending as little as a week on a vegetarian diet.

The body adapts so quickly to to vegetarianism that it really makes one ponder the damage that can be inflicted on the body by hazardous substances -- meat, fat and sugar.

Today marks the 13th annual Great American Meatout, when diners are asked to consider giving up meat for a day, a week, a month; it's up to you.

One place to start is the new Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant on King Street, where Zacharia's used to be.

In some kind of cooperative arrangement, Zacharia's sandwiches and salads are still available by fax and for home delivery, but thankfully, Zacharia's unwieldy plastic patio furniture is gone. It's been replaced by narrow formica tables and simple chairs that seat more customers.

All but two items on the menu are free of meat, fish and fowl. Additionally, 13 items are geared to vegans, who also eschew dairy and egg products. (The non-veggie items are Broiled Chicken Breast, $10.95; and dare I say "meaty" Tiger Prawn Scampi, $12.95.)

ONE might start with "Beautiful Spring," deep-fried spring rolls ($4.50) filled with fresh veggies and served with a plum sauce; Guacamole ($4) served with salsa and chips; or Baked Stuffed Mushrooms ($5) filled with garlicky spinach and Parmesan, which can be replaced with soy cheese if you wish.

Pate Vegetal ($6.95) was tempting, said to be a loaf of fresh mushrooms, carrots, bell peppers, oats, honey and a hint of walnuts, topped with a roasted bell pepper sauce. But unfortunately, this wasn't available.

Eggplant Amalfi ($6.95) was a good second choice, thick rounds of juicy, melt-in-the-mouth eggplant topped with spinach, mushrooms, soy cheese and fat-free marinara sauce.

Senorita Chen's Special ($6.95) featured layers of corn tortillas with a thin mixture of tofu, onions and floral-scented herbs folded between. This is baked with a topping of mozzarella.

Other diners raved about the spicy Golden Triangle Curry ($5.50), a colorful array of veggies blended with coconut milk and basil.

Meanwhile Chili Chihauhau ($5.50) was nothing out of the ordinary, a zesty, if pasty blend of lentils and kidney beans, fresh tomato, red pepper, corn and bits of carrot and zucchini.

I find most vegetarian eateries don't go for the razzle-dazzle of their meat-serving counterparts. For this reason, vegetarian items off a standard Thai or Pacific Rim menu can be much more interesting than Lotus' offerings. However, true vegetarians and vegans have a problem with such "mixed" restaurants that prepare vegetables in pots and on countertops that might have the taint of animal flesh on them.

I never said vegetarianism is an easy choice.

Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant

Where: 1269 S. King St.; street parking or $1 parking after 5 p.m. at 1350 S. King St., across from Taco Bell

Hours: Lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday; dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday

Prices: $15 to $20 for two

Call: 596-2207

Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

- excellent;
- very good, exceeds expectations;
- average;
- below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to

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