Red Lantern on Crown
As you may know, I was in Sydney for the weekend and was lucky enough to get myself into “Red Lantern“. Yes, Red Lantern, Luke Nguyen, Pauline Nguyen and Mark Jensen’s restaurant in Surrey Hills. Was a pleasurable evening and the food was delicious. I literally was so stuffed with awesome food that I found it so hard to walk by the end of the night.
We got the “Saigon Scrumptious” Tasting Menu which had 8 dishes and 1 platter of 3 desserts. I did want to get the Delicious Dalat but knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the wine as well as the food. That would be WAYYYY to fun.
(To keep the yummy imagery of food in our minds and tease our taste buds, there will be only but worded food porn. *wink* *wink*)
When I first walked in I was actually surprised to see the restaurant smaller than what I had in my mind. The only glimpses of the restaurant that I ever had was in Pauline’s book and to me it seemed like it had two rooms. Red Latern on Crown was actually like a small Vietnamese restaurant that is reminiscent of the restaurants in Vietnam. Like walking and eating in someone’s lounge, dining area and front yard. Very cute and very home-like.
The service was perfect. The wait-staff really take care of you. Attend to you. Thank you. Listen to you. Explain things to you. Like most Asian restaurants, your bowls and plates get changed every so often, but I can’t remember when was the last time I had someone cleaning the table between dishes. So lovely!
Now let’s get to the food.
We started with the:
– Banh Bot Chien (fried rice flour cakes) served with prawns, pork floss, caramelised pork, shallots.
– Muc Rung Muoi (lightly fried Chilli salted calamari)
These two dishes were so delicious. Well balanced and full of flavour. These were easily goobled up! What I really liked was the pork floss with the Band Bot Chien. I don’t think I’ve every had rice-cakes with pork floss – only had fried egg, spring onions and soy sauce like you get at Springvale Lunar Festival!
Next we had:
Canh Chua Do Bien (Vietnamese Sour Soup with Seafood)
Tom Rang Muoi (Chilli salt and pepper Spencer Gulf King Prawns)
Firstly, I still remember that juicy crunchy king prawn. OMG. Yum. I NEVER, never, ever, ever had the head of any form of prawn before. EVER. But when I saw that yummy looking thing with it’s eyes chopped off, the legs trimmed to perfection, one thought was in my mind,
“If Luke Nguyen wants me to eat this in this way, I shall.”
OMG. Delicious. So creamy, so fresh, so yummy. I ate the shell and all. So good. Oh God, I could just go there right now and just get a plate of that and eat it. So good.
The canh chua was delicious too. Funny thing was the Australian couple next to us didn’t like it at all. They thought fish in broth with pineapple was weird. LOL. To me it was comfort food. The broth was full of flavour, clean, the veggies crunchy still, fish was firm (snapper) and most importantly, the nuoc mum and chopped up chilli on the side was everything to me. The chilli they used were the fragrant kind. So good.
Next we had:
Thit Cuu Con Rang va Kim Chee Viet (Roasted Lamb ribs with Vietnamese Kim Chee)
Vit Hap (Poached Duck in a celeriac and green apple salad)
The lamb was so freaking good. Like with the prawns, I could get a whole plate of these ribs and eat it with beer and call it a fantastic night. It was so good. Delicious. It tastes like the marinade that Luke used when he was in somewhere north of Vietnam – fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar – what made it really good was the charred bits. They must have a char grill at the back somewhere.
The kim chee on the other hand. I didn’t like. I thought there was a whole stack of it on the dish and probably didn’t need that much. My boyfriend loves sour stuff, he ate most of it but not all. Mind you, he also dunked the kim chee in the lemon, salt and pepper sauce. Weird.
The duck was good – can taste the infused flavour from the master stock. I’m not a fan of celeriac, so I was a bit, weird, about the dish itself. I liked the apple thought. I wish the duck was a little more juicy or something. It wasn’t a stand out dish to me.
Finally the mains we had:
Ca Ri De (Goat curry)
Bo Luc Lac (Shaken beef! Not just any beef, Black Angus Beef! Living it large!)
By now I was full as anything. I specifically said no eating before Red Lantern, but we had to wait 1 hour because we got there so early. We ended up next door at Mr. Fox and had a glass of wine and some olives. Damn olives, filled me stomach up! (Notice I blame the olives and not the wine).
The bo luc lac was delicious. Meat was melt in your mouth and had that char-grilled flavour as well.
The interesting dish here and the stand out was the goat curry. One secret ingredient, I believe, made it very interesting was the Rice Paddy Herb (yup, upper casing it because it’s that good!). I am a huge fan of rice paddy herb. I love it. Every time I make canh chua, rice vermicelli or rice paper rolls, I will always buy rice paddy herbs, even if it’s not even needed. Love it! But I have never had curry with rice paddy herbs in it. You gotta understand what I mean. Rice Paddy herb is a citrus and lemon-like herb which is usually what makes canh chua, canh chua. To see it in a curry, at first, I was like… really?
When I took a bite of the goat, with a bit of curry and a segment of rice paddy herb that had been so delicately plucked from the stem, OMG. So sweet. It actually lifted the whole dish up to a new level. The rice paddy herb actually sweetened the curry. Amazing.
Now I finally stopped getting so excited about the food and took a nice snap shot of dessert for instagram and facebook (@kluublog).
Here’s what we got:
– Sticky Rice (wild rice or forbidden rice) wrapped in banana leaf most likely served with jackfruit icecream (which melted lol)
– Coconut and lime pudding
– Cinnamon doughnuts, poached pear and vanilla bean ice cream
My boyfriend loved the sticky rice, he especially loved that they char-grilled the top to give it that awesome char-grilled aroma that reminds me so much of char-grilling in Vietnam.
My favourite was the cinnamon doughnut and poached pear. I know, not very Vietnamese but I’m not a huge fan of things wrapped in banana leaf and grilled with coconut. Also, there was a fruit in the rice that I was afraid I was allergic to. Not sure what it was. My heart says that milky Vietnamese fruit, my mind says dragon fruit. Not sure.
Neither of us enjoyed the coconut and lime pudding. It tasted it bit like sticky date, but not. What I didn’t like was that it wasn’t sticky and squishy enough because the syrup didn’t penetrate through the cake but just layered up on top. Yes, I admit, I just ate the top bit only.
I really really enjoyed the love, attention and respect that Luke, Pauline and Mark put into Red Lantern. You can really taste the love they have for food. Just from seeing the way the food was prepared and how they picked the right thing for each dish, you can tell how much the chefs enjoy working at this place. There were cherry tomatoes in a few dishes, but there were larger ones in one dish and smaller ones in another. There was always a perfect reasoning behind each dish, each ingredient and how it’s plated on the dish. So enjoyable.
The staff were wonderful. For once I didn’t feel like the Asian that gets bad service when they go to an Asian restaurant. I felt like a white person. LOL. (Small yay for me even though a little racist). Always smiley, always lovely, always thoughtful. My boyfriend, for some reason, kept holding onto forks and knives that came with each dish. He was starting to pile them up (he had two sets plus his chopsticks and a soup spoon). The waitress went back in the kitchen and came out with new side plates as a way to exchange for all the cutlery. I thought she was so smart. So well trained. They must really love working at Red Lantern. Hope they get delicious food every day.
Red Lantern is a Vietnamese fine dining experience. I’ve had many Vietnamese foods before, cook Vietnamese food, been to my Vietnamese friend’s home to eat and had the real deal at Vietnam. However, Red Lantern is that but much more refined, clean and smart. Nothing like going to Phat Dat’s (made up Vietnamese restaurant name) in Springvale, Richmond, Footscray, Cabramatta or Parramatta. Although, Walrus in Springvale also make really delicious deep fried chilli salted prawns BUT not Red-Lantern-style UNLESS they spend time to clean the prawns and pick the juiciest ones with red stuff in their heads! (Yes, something I didn’t like, I still don’t like, but still can’t get over how good the Red Lantern ones were).
Will I return?
Hell Yeah! Would I get the tasting plate – probably not as I know what I’m going there for – crispy king prawns and lamb ribs. That’s for me only!
Next time, I would love to visit the Red Lantern on Riley and pop into the bar Red Lily for a few cocktails. It might be an interesting night again!
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