Alex: If you haven’t yet heard of Red Lantern, for starters I’d be quite concerned and questions would most definitely be asked. Headed by celebrity chef Luke Nguyen, the Vietnamese restaurant has been a consistent power player in the Sydney food scene for the better part of 6 years.
Myself & Bianca aimed to try a good selection of the menu, so we started off light with the Goi Cuon – Soft rice paper rolls of tiger prawn and pork neck with a hoi sin dipping sauce $18. A perfect dish to excite the palate especially with that dipping sauce. All of the elements in the rice paper roll were fresh. I was actually most surprised that nothing that all fell out when eating it. The roll was packed so neatly that everything just stayed as is.
We went a bit OTT with the rice paper rolls but only because it’s not something we would generally order. This was the Cuon Ga, Xa va La Lot – Soft rice paper rolls of lemongrass chicken and betel leaf $18. The chicken was moist and I especially loved the light crunch from the shredded lettuce. If I had to choose between the two rolls though I think I would go with the tiger prawn roll.
As soon as the Banh Bot Chien – Aunty 5’s rice cakes with tiger prawns, caramelised pork, pork floss and shallot oil $23 hit the table I was in awe. The colours were distinct and is the epitome of Vietnamese food. Aromatic and vibrant. This dish in itself was a complete flavour explosion. Each bite would be a juxtaposition of sweet, salty or sour and somehow it just worked so perfectly. Texturally it was beautiful with the crispy rice cakes blending well with the pork floss. This was definitely one of the highlights of the night.
Another stand out dish was the Bo Luc Lac – Riverine Black Angus MBS 2+ beef strip loin wok tossed with black pepper, garlic, oyster sauce and sesame $45. The gorgeous cubes of beef were tender and the black pepper danced on the tongue after each bite. This is a must order if you’re going to check out Red Lantern.
Feeling as though we needed some sort of vegetable we went with a side of Cai Thia Xao Xot Hao – Wok tossed baby bok choy, snow pea tendrils, shiitake mushrooms and oyster sauce $14. One of my favourite asian vegetables and I love how the oyster sauce was lathered on the bok choy. The flavours were prominent and again the vibrancy of the dish was beautiful.
Our final savoury dish of the evening was the Thit Heo Quay – Roast free range Valencia pork belly marinated in coriander seeds, black pepper and oyster sauce with a vegetable salad and herbs $38. Pork belly can sometimes be our kryptonite. One thing I especially loved about this version was how thin the layer of crispy skin was. Sometimes it can be a bit hard to eat but this was great. Ear shatteringly crisp skin followed by the melting pork belly.
Always having the need to end on a sweet note we allowed ourselves to choose 1 dessert. The Chuoi Chien – Banana fritters crumbed in coconut and white rice with palm sugar caramel, tapioca sauce and vanilla bean ice cream $16. Presentation was a little lacklustre but it made up for it in flavour. Surprisingly it didn’t seem all that heavy either. I love caramel sauce but I’d be curious to see how it would taste with a dark chocolate dipping sauce…
To say we were blown away with the food would be a complete understatement and I can’t believe this was the first time we’ve visited. Service was efficient yet unobtrusive, atmosphere was dark and bustling and the food was a 10 out of 10. Honestly there was nothing that could be faulted, and it’s no wonder Red Lantern established themselves in the scene as one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in Sydney, if not Australia.
Until next time.