Story and photos by Doug Hare EBS Staff
BIG SKY – When the Lotus Pad moved from Westfork Meadows to their new location at 47 Town Center, it was a move nearly seven years in the making. The old restaurant was a cozy 1,200 square feet with two woks and sat 36 inside; the new space is 2,900 square feet with four woks and easily accommodates 90 patrons.
“During busy times of the year at our old spot, we were turning away just as much business as we did,” said chef/owner Alex Omania. “Moving to a larger spot in Town Center was a no-brainer.”
Omania now has 40 employees compared to 19 previously. “More than doubling in size is a big jump, but my team held down the fort and executed everything that I asked of them,” Omania said. “It made a big transition a smooth one.”
Lotus Pad will still use the same recipe, so to speak, that earned them “Best Restaurant in Big Sky” five years in a row in EBS’s annual Best of Big Sky survey: fresh, mostly locally sourced ingredients, bold Thai-inspired flavors, large family-style portions, impeccable service and a lively, but intimate atmosphere.
The classics are all still on the menu: lettuce wraps, drunken noodles, pad thai, and bison curry to name a few staples. Or try the pad see ew, which isn’t on the menu but is a local favorite. Omania also plans to unveil a new bar menu with five items, including Vietnamese fries and spicy duck wings.
The new bar seats 10 patrons and still serves savory cocktails like Lotus Tea and the Green Dragon, but check out bar manager Cara Lindeman’s new creations: the Burmese Spring with a refreshing celery-infused gin or the Tiger Blossom made with pomegranate liqueur and Yuzu juice.
All of the dishes at Lotus Pad balance sweet, salty and sour flavors while experimenting with exotic Asian ingredients like kaffir lime and galanga, a plant in the ginger family. The best seats in the house might just be at the counter overlooking the open kitchen. Watching Thai food being cooked on the wok can be both mouth-watering and hypnotizing.
When asked about the recent economic boom in Big Sky, Omania said she has no reservations about Big Sky’s rapid growth.
“Change is inevitable so it’s better to embrace it,” she said. “Sure, Big Sky isn’t exactly the same sleepy town it was when I first moved here, but it still has that positive vibe and good quality of life that drew me here in the first place.”
Omania said that she was able to double the size of her workforce because she’s willing to pay relatively higher wages to recruit and retain employees.
“Maybe I’ll have a higher operation cost, but if you treat your employees well, it creates a positive work environment and that, in turn, attracts other good people. And I always make sure they have housing before I hire them.”
If you haven’t had a chance to check out the new Lotus Pad, stop in and treat yourself to some of the best Asian food in southwest Montana. Actually, make reservations first—business is brisk.