Olive Boulevard between 1-70 and Skinker Boulevard is home to an array of noteworthy (and authentic) Asian restaurants and markets. While foodies in-the-know recognize the variety of goodness available along these blocks, there are still those out there who have never ventured down this stretch of road. Recently, we've begun exploring some of the eateries in this vicinity in order to get the word out. The latest: a long overdue introduction to Lu Lu Seafood Restaurant, a fixture in the area for some 20 years that has been on our short list of must-trys for a while.
First, the space itself. The interior of the restaurant was a riot of red and gold, with barely a spot on the walls and floors (or any flat surface, for that matter) that didn't sport a tapestry, wall-hanging, Chinese vase or other knick-knack. Over the top? Most certainly—and we loved it! The dining room was expansive, with plenty of seating for all sizes of parties and a good-sized bar, as well. Another plus: ample parking in the surrounding lot.
The Lu Lu menu was voluminous, so we took a small-plate approach in order to sample as much as possible. From the Dim Sum, we got the Steamed Egg Custard Buns ($4), three palm-sized globes of smooth, sticky dough filled with a luscious, mildly sweet custard. These came out first and were so substantial and filling, the rest of the meal was temporarily in jeopardy as we slowly made our way through the other items. The Soups And Apps section yielded an impressive array of dishes for noshing, like the Steamed Juicy Pork Buns ($6) (aka Shangai Dumplings according to the menu caption); Steamed Shrimp and Pork Wontons ($6); and the Scallion Pancakes ($5). The pork buns were actually more like dumplings (versus the hefty buns found under the Dim Sum offerings). They were small but flavorful, full of mild shredded pork. The pancakes were thick, dense and bread-like, reminiscent of focaccia. The scallions were a low-key flavor presence, very subtle and detectable mostly in the finish. The pancakes came with a thick, rich, sweet hoisin sauce that we ended up using with almost everything else we ordered.
To mitigate some of the heaviness of the other plates, we tried to even things out with the Broccoli With Garlic Sauce ($9) from the Vegetable And Tofu list. Surprisingly, this dish was the standout of the evening. We expected a simple side but it was actually very complex, with a sauce that was sweet but not cloying or sticky, and a judicious use of garlic that created a great balance and depth of flavors.
Unfortunately, we invested our time and appetites in so many starters that we didn't get around to sampling the impressive array of lamb, beef, chicken, duck and seafood items also available. Sounds like a good excuse to make a return trip in the near future.
--Lu Lu Seafood Restaurant, 8224 Olive Blvd., 997-3108, luluseafood.com