Monthly Archives: December 2010

First impression: Lotus Leaf Cafe & Creperie

Owner Jacquelyn Keefer and chef James Butler.

I’d been meaning for weeks to try out the new Lotus Leaf Cafe & Creperie that opened a month ago in the space at 613 W. Douglas in Delano formerly occupied by The Palette.

Today, I met my friend and food goddess Tanya Tandoc there for lunch, and we had a great time and a great meal.

I ordered some chicken tarragon crepes, and Tanya had a crepe Florentine. We finished the meal with a banana-nutella crepe, one of my all-time favorite treats.

Tarragon chicken crepe at Lotus Leaf.

The food was good. Chef James Butler, under the direction of owner Jacquelyn Keefer, makes the food using healthier ingredients. And the space is warm and cozy.

Coincidentally, sisters Connie Dirks and Linda Grafton, former owners of the Palette, were there dining today, too.

Lotus Leaf also serves sandwiches and homemade soups and serves a dinner menu, with dishes such as tandoori chicken.

I’ll definitely go back.

I had my Chinese Christmas, sorta

The whole gang on Christmas Day at Saigon.

The whole gang on Christmas Day at Saigon.

I’m lucky I have a family that’s so willing to go along with my food whims.

Just before Christmas, I wrote a little essay for the Go! section about the joy of eating out at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day. My inspiration, of course, comes 100 percent from “A Christmas Story,” — specifically the scene at the Chop Suey Palace.

I cooked a nice dinner of molcajetes (a recipe The Eagle secured years ago from now-closed Mexican restaurant El Torero) for my family on Christmas Eve, and in exchange, they agreed to eat out on Christmas Day. We debated our options and ultimately decided on Saigon 1103 N. Broadway. True, it’s a Vietnamese restaurant, but it SERVES Chinese food. And several of my family members ordered it.

My BFF Jaime Green caught the image above during our festive feast, which included a nice Vietnamese appetizer plate sent over by owner Hanh Bui.

I’m at the end of the table on the left, not looking at the camera because I was so entranced by the WHOLE FRIED CATFISH my nephew Cody ordered.

Merry Chinese Christmas!

Question of the week


Photo by Eric Wittman

It’s almost a new year — a perfect time to go over your list of dining out resolutions for 2011.

I have a few myself, but the main one is to finally stop in some of those restaurants I always drive by, wonder about, and never go in. My life was changed for the better, for example, when I finally tried Mana Wok. On my list for 2011 are places such as Ming’s at 1625 S. Seneca, Jack’s Coffee Shop at 6154 S. Hydraulic,  and this odd Chinese place near West and Central that says “Open” but looks like it never is.  (Hunan something?)

What are your 2011 dining resolutions? Answer in the comments section below.

Metro Grill II coming soon

Michael Gonzalez of Metro Grill.

Michael Gonzalez of Metro Grill.

Wow. I feel like I’ve been gone forever, but not forever enough.

Christmas break is over and now it’s time for a little 2011-style restaurant news. Several of you have been asking me for months now when Michael Gonzalez, famous for his amazing food court fare at Towne East Square, would open his Metro Grill II.

He originally planned a Rock Road location, but that deal fell through, so he decided to move the concept to Andover, where he and his family live.

Gonzalez now tells me he’s planning to open the new space at 321 S. Andover Road around Jan. 15. Metro Grill II, which will seat about 40, will have a menu very similar to the the mall’s but will have an extra feature Gonzalez is excited about. On Sunday evenings, he’ll take customers by reservation only and will cook an off-the-menu five-course meal that really shows off his culinary talents.

Metro Grill will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays. Sundays will be a reservation only affair. I’ll update you when Gonzalez chooses a firm opening date.

The return of Lil’ Mexico

FOOD ENCHILADAS 2 DEI got an e-mail last week from a distraught fan of Lil’ Mexico at 1601 E. Pawnee who said that the restaurant appeared closed and the phone number no longer worked.

Today, I talked to Cheryl Powell, who just took over the restaurant from the previous owners. It closed right around Thanksgiving, but Powell, who also owns the Burger Barn on West Central, reopened it a week ago with the same menu.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. For more information, call 316-267-0594.

Question of the week

santaeatingdonutsA lot of most-wanted restaurants have landed in Wichita this year, from Five Guys to Panda Express.

But if you could have Santa bring us one other new restaurant in 2011, what would you choose?

Try to think of something other than Cheesecake Factory people!!!

‘All is right with the world’

chopsueypalaceThe movie “A Christmas Story” has so many fabulous scenes, from the frozen tongue-on- a-pole to the arrival of the cherished and very “fra-gee-lay” leg lamp.
But as a food fan, my favorite scene is at the end of the movie, when the family — whose much anticipated Christmas turkey has been devoured by dogs — has its holiday meal at the local Chop Suey Palace.

Serenaded by the staff in broken English, they laugh, snort and dine on roast duck — squealing when the manager whacks off its head.

“That Christmas will live in our memories as the Christmas we were introduced to Chinese turkey,” the narrator says. “All was right with the world.”

That scene has always made me want to go to a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day, and a few years ago, I made it happen.

To accommodate various schedules, my family had agreed to celebrate Christmas at my house on Dec. 26, which meant that on Dec. 25, we had no dinner plans.

A big group of us giddily caravanned to Lee’s, a Chop Suey Palace-esque restaurant at 6215 W. Kellogg.

It wasn’t just any Chinese restaurant meal we enjoyed that night. The cashew chicken tasted special, and all the diners in the restaurant felt like they were part of an exclusive Christmas club. The people at the next table laughed and sang along when we broke into a version of “Deck the Halls” inspired by that scene in “A Christmas Story.”

Schedules are such again this year that it looks like the Neil clan will be able to make another visit to a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day.
All is right with the world.

Follow this link for a reminder of some of the restaurants open and serving on Christmas Day. (They’re not all Chinese.)

Anyone have a reindeer I could borrow?

RudolphTheRedNoseReindeerI’ve heard of some crazy promotions, including Chipotle urging customers to dress up like a burrito.

But this one takes the cake. AND the ice cream.

Dairy Queen sent out a press release today that promised a free Reindeer Bites Blizzard to anyone who brings a real, live reindeer to a local Dairy Queen from 1 to 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

I’m guessing the general public has limited access to real, live reindeer, which makes this promotion a guaranteed winner. But I say that if anyone actually shows up with one, they deserve free blizzards for A YEAR. Or life.

Old Mill Tasty Shop’s holiday hours

Don and Mary Wright, the brawn and brains behind Old Mill Tasty Shop.

Don and Mary Wright, the brawn and brains behind Old Mill Tasty Shop.

Mary and Don Wright, the mother-and-son duo who keep Old Mill Tasty Shop at 604 E. Douglas running, are extending their hours next week as a gift to customers.

The restaurant, which normally closes after lunch, will be open until from 11 a.m. untill 7 p.m. next Monday, Dec. 27, though Dec. 31.

The Wrights say they always hear from people over the holidays who are returning to Wichita to see relatives and want to make Old Mill a part of their visit. The extra hours give them more time to fit it in. Plus, Old Mill be able to accommodate people who want to grab dinner before heading over to Intrust Bank Arena for Cirque du Soleil’s “Alegria,” which starts its Wichita run on Dec. 29.

The Wrights also will be open until 7 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, Dec. 21) to serve dinner to those headed to the WSU v. Tulsa basketball game.

Call 316-264-6500 for more information.

Give the gift of Tanya


Apologies to Tanya for the circa 2002 photo I dug up. But isn't it festive?


Tanya Tandoc is at it again: Tempting us with yet another volume of her soup recipes.

Tandoc, the owner of the former Tanya’s Soup Kitchen, has been selling a volume a year for a few years now. This year, she’s putting out a sixth volume, featuring recipes such as French lentil with bacon, lemony chicken rice, broccoli and white cheddar, and brie and pear soup with toasted hazelnuts. The new volume contains 13 recipes in all and comes printed on a set of cards for $10 at Lucinda’s, 329 North Mead, and Cooking at Bonnie’s Place, 9747 E. 21st St. N. The previous five volumes also are available for $10 apiece.

Tandoc also will be putting on a demonstration from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at  Cooking at Bonnie’s, where she’ll also sign cards and give out samples.


I heard from a frazzled Tanya over the weekend, who told me that she had some trouble with the printing of Vol. 6. But it actually works out for you. One recipe was omitted, so Tanya asked me to share it here. She said she’ll correct the problem in the next printing. In the meantime, here ya go:

Indian Lentil with Spinach

Serves 8

2 Tb olive oil

1 tsp cumin seed

1 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp turmeric

2 tsp hot curry powder

½ inch slice fresh ginger, minced

1 medium onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can petite diced tomatoes

2 cups red or brown lentils

8 cups vegetable stock or water

Pinch of sugar

Juice of one lemon

1 pound fresh spinach, washed and chopped

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

1 tsp garam masala

Chopped fresh cilantro and green onions to serve

Plain yogurt to serve

In a large, heavy pot, heat the olive oil to medium.  Add the cumin seed, coriander, turmeric, and ginger and fry for a couple of seconds, until aromatic.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until onion starts to brown.  Add the tomatoes, lentils, and stock and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer and cook soup until lentils are very tender.  Add a pinch of sugar, the lemon juice, and the spinach and cook until spinach wilts.  Add the cream and simmer 10 minutes.  Season the soup with salt and pepper.  Stir in the garam masala and garnish with cilantro, green onions, and yogurt.  I like this soup served with rice.