Last week I caught up with my friend Lorraine at a very new restaurant in Darlinghurst – Red Lantern on Riley. In fact, it’s so new, that the launch party is later this week. Yes, we do like a privileged sneak peek when we can snag it! Especially when the restaurant owner is unexpectedly our host for the evening… very special indeed!
You probably think I’ve gone off my rocker because Red Lantern is a very well known restaurant, but let me just clarify, this is a second branch that has opened on the quiet cul de sac end of Riley Street in Darlinghurst. And let me tell you, the clever Luke Nguyen has done it again – the fit out, the food, the service – it’s all top notch (even in soft launch phase, so imagine it in full swing!).
Unfortunately I forgot my camera on the night because I was too busy getting Poppy fed, bathed, in PJs and ready for Daddy to put her to bed. Then running around like a whirlwind to get dressed, hair brushed and face on in about 3.4 seconds before driving to pick up Lorraine and get to the restaurant on time (ahem, yes, we were late!).
Never mind. Lorraine never forgets her camera, so be sure to head over to her blog here to feast your eyes on every single dish we devoured (there were loads!). Before you go, let me tell you a few of my favs…
I should tell you in chronological order, but I won’t. Dessert was amazing. Please save room on your visit! I highly recommend the banana fritters ($15) – they are battered in rice flour and coconut and have the most amazing crunch factor. Plus, they are accompanied by coconut tapioca pudding – I just love the slippery texture of the tapioca pearls in my mouth. Add to that a warm caramel sauce and some vanilla ice cream and you are in dessert heaven.
Back to the savoury stuff. It is very hard to choose between the two mains – Blue swimmer crab in XO sauce mixed with glass noodles (divinely salty, spicy and sweet) and the amazing Roasted Burrawong Pekin Duck with spiced orange sauce, fennel and watercress salad ($38). We ask Luke how the duck meat takes on such a rich, complex flavour that’s full of spice and richness and he says rather nonchalantly “it’s twice cooked”. Fair enough, I wouldn’t give away my secrets to a couple of food bloggers either!
Going all the way back to the beginning of the dinner, be sure to order the Banh Xeo ($28) which is a crisp rice flour crepe filled with prawn, pork belly and mung beans. There are fresh herbs and lettuce on the side that you wrap the pancake up in (pictured above). This is a very traditional Vietnamese dish and Luke tells us that it is normally made in a big wok with lots of oil to make it crispy, however, his version is lighter “because I use a non-stick crepe pan”, so it is much less oily and super crisp. A must try.
Lastly, but actually firstly, we tried the Cha voi Pate ($18) which is a house made charcuterie plate with pate, sausage and terrine that changes daily. The terrine of the day was crab and pork and the pate was made with pork livers – divine!
It was also served with gorgeous house made pickles (radish, cucumber, carrot) and baguette which Luke strongly clarifies with a laugh “it is Vietnamese style baguette, OK?” (which I take to mean it’s much sweeter than French style baguette!). I ask him if it’s a kind of deconstructed Bahn Mi (Vietnamese pork roll) and he laughs and says “it is now! I love that. Maybe I’ll amend the menu”.
Red Lantern on Riley
60 Riley Street
East Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: 02 9698 4355