Red Lantern on Riley, East Sydney

Good news for CBDophiles, Luke Nguyen has opened a second Red Lantern on Riley Street. While I love the original one, if you’re in a hurry its great to have one just that little bit closer. The fit out is beautiful, warm chocolate wooden overtones, with that hint of the French colonial going on that you read about, if like me you haven’t yet had the chance to see for yourself in Saigon.  I read an interview Luke did just before he was about to open.  He fit out the original Crown Street venue for $40,000 odd.  This one almost hit seven figures. Its no wonder that some Sydney restaurants find survival tough.  You need a pretty serious steady stream of rear ends on seats to generate the cash flow required to keep creditors off your back (the banker within can’t help but think about this).

There’s also a cosy little bar out the back with a great list of cocktails, I’ll check that out next time.

So, on the menu that day:

Diep Chien voi Xa Ot, scallops pan seared  with a tamari, citrus, lemongrass and chilli oil dressing. Beautiful, plump, scallops with a perfectly matched tangy dressing.

Banh Tom, Aunty 5’s rice cakes with tiger prawns, caramelised pork, pork floss and shallot oil. The caramelised pork was a standout, and loved the texture of the floss.  The rice cakes though really need some kind of sauce underneath. The waitress suggested we use the sauce from the scallops, but took the plate away before we could! It would have been perfect.

Banh Xeo, Crisp rice flour crepes filled with prawn, pork belly and mung beans served with fresh herbs and lettuce to wrap.  Loved the mixture of the crisp lettuce and the crepe, great dish.

Banh Hap Nhan Rau Cu, deep fried sweet potato and sesame seed dumplings, filled with Asian mushrooms and water spinach, finished with snow peas and asparagus.  This was not what I had envisaged, and I found them a little bland. Give it a miss.

Hu Tieu Xao Tom, King Prawns with tomato galangal sauce, wok tossed with zucchini flowers and cherry tomatoes. A bit too tomato sauce tasting for me.

Vit Quay Chao, Roasted Burrawong Duck with Asparagus and watercress salad and preserved beancurd and lime dipping sauce. Beautifully tender and flavoursome. They breed them well in Burrawong, wherever that is.

Ca Chien Xu, Whole snapper with a ginger and lime fish sauce. Crispy-outside-tender-inside whole fried fish, with a tangy contrasting salad.

The waitress very kindly offered us a doggy bag for anything we couldn’t finish (non seafood items only due to health regulations), which was a big tick.  I wish more restaurants would do this – apparently Australia is one of the worst per capita food wasters in the world!

Its probably a little on the pricey side for Asian, easy to get to $70 plus a head without thinking about it too much; but overall this is a welcome addition to the fabulous rainbow of Modern Asian we have in Australia. They also have a group banquet which is probably better value.

Red Lantern on Riley, 60 Riley Street East Sydney  Ph 02 9698 4355

Red Lantern on Riley on Urbanspoon

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