Three words made it to my inbox, Lotus Korean BBQ. With a faithful leap of the keyboard, I blindly accepted the challenge to write about the restaurant’s signature dish, only—after a brief search of the web—I couldn’t find this place anywhere. Eventually, I stumbled upon a 2015 Facebook post from Spring Gate Vineyard in Harrisburg. “We will be doing a free tasting of select wines inside to pair with” Lotus Korean BBQ. I had a lead. Then, I got a name – Mary Anne Clark.
Korean-born to an American serviceman and Korean mom, Clark has recently decided to share her love of food with the public. It turns out there is no restaurant. She offers her fare at special events like Carlisle Oktoberfest and caters occasions at area wineries. She invited me to her home to taste the food she grew up with, slightly Americanized to appeal to the palates of Central PA. Well, there’s a first time for everything.
At her home in Hershey, I was greeted and seated at a dining room table adorned with foreign teas and themed accessories—complete with chopsticks. The dish tonight was presented in four parts, and assembled before me. The swift, rich scent of meat hitting heat filled my senses as Clark started the bulgogi. Fire meat, as literally translated from Korean, is marinated and grilled beef steak. Once a dish prepared only for the wealthy and powerful, bulgogi is now a popular staple in South Korean restaurants. The flavor is extreme; think of a supercharged teriyaki. Crisp where the edges hit the grill, the meat stays delicately tender inside. Clark usually prepares the dish over charcoal (she’s using a domed bulgogi cooker since we are inside) to help achieve an earthiness, which complements the intentionally sweet marinade. When I inquire about the makeup of the marinade she balks.
The bulgogi is placed on my plate next to a pile of rice noodles; they have taken on a tan translucency after being combined with uniquely-seasoned ground beef, shitake mushrooms, carrots, sesame oil, garlic, and spices. The spices are what make Lotus Korean BBQ special. Clark has brought back the same spices her mother used. The noodles were my all-around favorite element of the dish, which was further complimented by a spicy Korean chicken (with jalapenos, carrots, sesame oil, soy sauce, and again garlic—which I learn is a staple of Korean cooking) and kimchi chicken fried rice. I’m eating Clark’s winter version—she makes alternate varieties in spring and summer—featuring ground radish, pan fried to caramelization. It is a unique flavor and I can easily understand why this is Lotus’ top-selling item. I enjoyed adding a dash of Clark’s signature sauce, made up of soy sauce, bean paste, bean curd, and red pepper paste, to the seasoned white rice rounding out the plate.
Lotus Korean BBQ
Website: Coming Soon
Food truck: Coming Soon
Find Them at: Taste of Lancaster, April 17, 2016; 11:00 am – 3:00 pm at the Lancaster County Convention Center