23 June 2012

Red Lantern on Riley: Vietnamese, Darlinghurst (22 June 2012)

60 Riley Street, Darlinghurst NSW 2000 

A taste of Vietnamese

Luke Nguyen has now expanded his Vietnamese empire from Crown Street to Riley Street which is a plus for city workers looking for a nicer than average Vietnamese restaurant as a lunch outing. I've dined twice at the Red Lantern on Crown Street many years ago but wasn't overly impressed on both accounts. Perhaps I ordered the wrong dishes or my family and friends just thought it was overpriced Vietnamese and couldn't see the value. The bar menu snacks I tried today could easily clock up a few dollars quickly but the flavours were fresh, tasty and enjoyable helped washed down with a Pham Fatale ($18) which had good flavour and noticeable alcohol content making it 'One dangerous lady'. It could have done with maybe a bit more ginger flavour to make it a touch less sweet for my liking though. The Goi Cuon ($4 each) was your classic fresh roll done well at a price. With tightly packed ingredients including tiger prawns and free-range pork you could easily eat a few. I found the Oysters with tamarind sauce ($4 each) a rather unusual combination for me. I'd prefer just having them natural or for an Asian style dressing I like the ones they do at Muoi’s Feast in Byron Bay.

The Banh Khot ($12.50, 5 per serve) had a crispy base and nice flavours that were easy to eat one bite wonders. I really enjoyed the Red Lantern Cha Gio Chay ($6, 3 pieces) aka Deep Fried Spring Rolls filled with tofu, glass noodles, carrots and wood ear mushrooms. The pastry was crispy as hoped and thin enough to enjoy the flavours inside. Not feeling too full I thankfully ordered the Nem Nuong ($6, 2 pieces) which became another favourite. The char grilled pork was moist and very flavoursome wrapped around sugar cane which you can nibble on a bit. Don't ignore the freshly sliced lettuce garnish which was an extra tasty treat dripping in the juices. I was very impressed with how light and fluffy the Banh Bao ($6 each) were — like soft cloud pillows that melted in your mouth. The filling of pork, prawn and water chestnuts was a bit light and would have enjoyed a bit more but the tangy tomato and chilli dipping sauce was wickedly good. I could have happily dipped a few dishes in that sauce which was probably where I got the garlic breath from. It's early days but the service seems to be on top of things already and the kitchen turnaround was pretty good. It looks like La Mint next door now has some stiff Vietnamese competition to watch out for.

PROS: Quality ingredients, Tasty dishes, Nice decor, Down-to-earth service, Tempting cocktail menu
CONS: More expensive than your average Vietnamese restaurant, You might smell heavily of garlic depending on what you order — pack some chewing gum
MUST TRY: Cha Gio Chay (Spring rolls), Char grilled pork and lemongrass skewers
VERDICT: The tasty bar menu dishes have tempted me to return one day to try the a la carte menu with hopefully a few friends

Bar menu

Table water

Pham Fatale: Kaffir lime leaf vodka shaken with lychee liqueur, ginger liqueur, fresh lemon juice and coconut water. One dangerous lady! ($18)

You had me at 'One dangerous lady!'

Goi Cuon: Soft rice paper rolled with Tiger prawns, free-range pork, vermicelli, perilla leaves and garlic chives ($4 each) 

Oysters with tamarind sauce ($4 each)

Red Lantern Cha Gio Chay: Crisp parcels filled with tofu, glass noodles, carrots and wood ear mushrooms ($6, 3 pieces) 

Banh Khot: Turmeric and coconut rice cakes filled with prawn and pork ($12.50, 5 per serve)

Nem Nuong: Char grilled pork and lemongrass skewers ($6, 2 pieces)

Banh Bao: Steamed buns filled with pork, prawn and water chestnuts with a tangy tomato and chilli dipping sauce ($6 each)

Bill $60.50 for one

Cute bar seating although you won't fit much on those tiny tables

Not much of a view out the back window unless you love roller doors

Restaurant dining area

Vodka bottle as a flower vase in the toilet — I like

Single tap provides instant warm water — I like

Every celebrity chef has a bit of merchandise to sell

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Red Lantern on Riley on Urbanspoon


Richard Elliot said...

$60 for one, what a lunch!!!!

Not making it to Red Lantern on Crown St before leaving Sydney was one of my slight regrets. I know a few people who thought it was bad value and others who rated it as one of their favourites in Sydney. I was intrigued enough to want to try it myself.

gaby @ lateraleating said...

I've read a lot of reviews saying that Red Lantern is just overpriced Vietnamese... I think its greatest value is in the sustainable side of things.

Simon Leong said...

hi richard, i think if i had another person with me i'd order a few more things to share too. the crown st restaurants certainly has a lot of mixed reviews. it just seems like one of those place you have to visit at least once to make up your own opinion.

hi gaby, sustainable costs more these days which is a shame.

Nic@diningwithastud said...

Those Banh Khot's look aweosme! Love the "pack chewy" comment haha

Vivian - vxdollface said...

Real keen to try this place though his food is on the pricier scale. The fried spring rolls and nem nuong sound like a must order :)

Simon Leong said...

hi nic, chewing gum or mints are a must ;-)

hi vivian, if you're up for a weekday lunch i'll be happy to join you to try some other dishes :-)

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