my husband and i just got home from red lantern, and i have to say we were fairly disappointed.
the ambiance was very nice -- it reminded me a bit of a smaller version of ana mandara in ghirardelli square, which i love.
the waitstaff was pleasant and attentive from the start, which we definitely appreciated.
on to the meal, however...
we started with seared fois gras over a round of toasted coconut rice, 'garnished' with a spicy-sweet chili sauce. the fois gras was cooked perfectly and the rice round was nice, but the dish was overpowered by the sauce -- a tiny bit of sweetness and bitterness to offset the richness of the fois gras would have been great, but i kinda felt sucker-punched by the time we finished our small bites.
next up was a nice little cucumber salad -- crisp rounds of cucumber dressed with a chili-oil vinaigrette. this was a good palate cleanser.
third, we ordered the sea bass claypot. this dish was mediocre at best. the fish was perfectly seared, but was overpowered by the mess of mushrooms, onions, ginger, and black pepper that surrounded it. the dish was overly sweet, and didn't have much of a claypot feel to it -- we would have expected the flavors to have more of a caramelized quality if they had actually been cooked in the claypot versus having likely been transferred there after being sauteed and/or seared.
our final dish was the lamb shank curry. i found the sauce to be quite nice -- gingery and peppery, and not overly sweet. my husband was expecting more of a thai style and was disappointed. the shank itself was not particularly tasty . it seemed like it had been pressure-cooked instead of simmered in the sauce the way a traditional curry would have been.
the two beers that my husband had tasted 'cardboard-y' , in his words -- as if the tap lines had not been cleaned out in awhile and the old beer had made its way into his glass. i ( 7 months pregnant and unfortunately unable to have one of their cocktails, which looked delicious, by the way) had a pot of white tea, which was fine but nothing special.
the total for the meal before tip was $81. this would have been fine had it not been for the utter mediocrity of the meal.
i would be willing to give red lantern a try again sometime in the future, given its ambiance, service, and good-looking cocktails, but as of now, i'd highly recommend spending your money at tamarine or three seasons in palo alto to have a significantly higher-quality meal for the price.
A number of ladies from work went with me to Red Lantern last night so we were able to try alot of different dishes. Overall, it was better than I expected.
I started with a Shanghai Surprise - Pear Grey Goose cocktail which was alright. My biggest complaint of the night was that their riesling selection was not large enough. They only offered a single Spatlese by the bottle which was disappointing as it would have gone very well with the spicier dishes.
Scallops on top of a crispy rice cake. There were 4 scallops on top of the rice cake which was fabulous.
Quail on cabbage. This was okay. I heard the cabbage was good but after the mind-blowing wok-charred cabbage at China Village, this didn't stand a chance.
Chicken soup. This was very tasty. It had a full bodied chicken flavor and the bean sprouts and vegetables added a nice change of texture.
Lamb - I generally don't like lamb but this was great. I didn't like the mango sauce that went this but the lamb in between two pieces of green onion pancake was still very tasty.
Beef shortribs in peanut sauce. This dish was very tender and was good.
Sea bass claypot - this was the best dish of the night. The sea bass was extremely flavorful and well cooked. There was a black bean sauce that added to the complexity of the dish. However, at $22 and the priciest dish on the menu, the portion size was quite small.
Adobo eggplant - The texture was good but the flavor was a little lacking. Once again, after the fish-flavored eggplant at China Village, this dish stood no chance.
Water spinach with tofu - very nice texture and flavor. A bit pricey.
Crab fried rice - fine. I could see large pieces of crab but it wasn't well seasoned.
Pineapple upside down cake - not a fan of the dish.
Coconut tapioca - a very beautiful dish but the tapioca was too thick.
Chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and szechuan peppercorn chocolate sauce - This had great potential but it needed a stronger peppercorn flavor to distinguish it from all the other chocolate desserts out there.
Overall, I had quite an enjoyable meal and was impressed by the beauty of the restaurant and flavor of the dishes. My only major request is that they add more riesling's by the glass.
A girlfriend and I went last night. I work in RWC so am always on the look out for good lunch places. The Red Lantern had so much buzz, I was looking forward to it.
After reading up on it, I was a bit concern about the high prices and the small portions. I have to say, for two girls, the portions weren't small, but the prices were indeed high.
We ordered lumpia and the fried calamari for appetizers. The portions on both were plenty. In fact the calamari basket was really large. Perfectly fried, crunchy and not oily, it is one of the better calamari that I've tried recently. The lumpia fell short for me. It was slightly on the greasy side, and overall the filling was uninspiring and I can't really tell you what was in it.
For our entree we had an order of crab fried rice and Chicken Penang (sp?). I broke my rule of never ordering fried rice out in restaurants because I'm convinced that restaurant will used leftover rice (i.e. uneaten portions from the tables) to make fried rice. But given this was a bit more upscale and I've read good thing about this crab fried rice, I went for it. I was pleasantly surprised it was chock full of crab. They did not skimp on the ingredients. But the fried rice itself was a bit smooshy, not as 'loose' as I expect fried rice to be. The portion size is perfect for two people.
The chicken penang is a light coconut curry with boneless skinless chicken breast meat. I'm glad to say they did not over cook the chicken breast. But given it's chicken breast and you can't really braise it for long, the flavor didn't penetrate the chicken, and overall it was not as successful as it could have been if it was a boned-in dark meat braise dish.
Between us we shared the coconut tapioca with coconut sorbet and strawberry. I found the tapioca to be too sticky, but the sorbet was really coconut-y. And at the end of the meal, we really needed something sweet so this hit the spot.
The appetizers were around $9 or $10. The crab fried rice was $10 or $11, the chicken was $20, the dessert $8. Add one small bottle of sparking water, tip and tax, we paid $62 total.
I'd say Red Lantern is a place to go if you want nice atmosphere and decent Southeast Asian food. But it will not be a place we go for lunch any time soon...way too expensive.
Let me start with the positive ... the ambiance is pretty cool, especially considering we are in downtown Redwood City. I had some of the best tea in a long time (elderflower) and even I didn't order a cocktail tonight, what I saw arriving on all of the neighboring tables, looked creative and I will be back for a drink (only a drink however).
Our server when ask, what the difference between the dressing of the Prawn and Beef Salad was, told me, that the beef salad had ranch dressing, in somewhat of a disbelief I asked again ... I stopped asking questions quickly, ....since with every question he became obviously more uncomfortable.
The cucumber salad was served and I all I tasted was ketchup with some spice. I have to admit, we were off to a bad start. Next the coconut soup ... almost every tiny little Thai bistro will serve you something more flavorful than this. The positive highlight was the chayote in the soup. The beef salad arrived and I almost hoped, they would have served it with ranch dressing.... instead more ketchup (can anyone try harder to please the average American palette???) Again, just to be fair.... the beef itself was tender and good.
Our busser and water boy were far more helpful than our waiter. I hope the busser will be a server soon, since he was really passionate and informed about the food. Even though I didn't like the food; I do appreciate passion and knowledge.
Finally we had the sea bass; it was a beautiful piece of fish, moist and perfectly cooked ... but again it was overwhelmed by spices and this time the slightly burnt flavor of the mushrooms that accompanied the bass.
A huge disappointment.
If you crave Thai, you're far better off at Erawan in RWC and if you crave Vietnamese go to Tamarine in Palo Alto .... If you just go for looks but don't care for content ... go to Red Lantern.
We just went tonight. It was good! They did a nice job on the decor - it's lovely.
We started out with the Lumpia and the fried calamari. The lumpia was quite good - a fried eggroll with minced meat and vegetables. Mmm. The calamari was breaded and fried nicely.
I had a glass of the Chenin Blanc and my boyfriend had a glass of the Zinfandel. I liked the Zin - nice body and spice. The Chenin Blanc was also good - very light. I didn't get a cocktail and regretted it - a table next to us had something tall and red with an umbrella. It looked tasty.
I got the Cambogee Beef and my boyfriend the lamb shank. The beef was fantastic. It was cut into bite sized cubes and seared. Great flavor and perfectly done. The lamb shank was cooked perfectly (the meat fell right off the bone) but the flavor was lacking. It wasn't bad, just ordinary. A basic curry dish.
For desert, we got the fried bananas with vanilla gelato. It was good, if basic. No surprises.
Service was very friendly, if a little schizophrenic. Our server showed up right away (we weren't ready) and then didn't come back for ten minutes. And then tried to leave after our drink orders. (We had enough time to think it over, thanks!) But that was the only slip - the food came out fast and water was refilled often.
I'd like to go back in a couple months after they've ironed out the kinks and developed the menu, but it looks very promising.
My husband and I had dinner here two nights ago and we agree that it's a fine addition to the RWC dining scene. The decor looks pretty big-city and the place was quite full on a Wed night - I would imagine that on a crowded night, with lots of people at the bar, that it would get quite loud. There are large red lanterns suspended on the ceiling that are quite pretty and the downstairs area is approx 1/3 bar and 2/3 dining seating. There is a lofted upstairs area that looked quite nice - but we didn't go up there. Could be a good location for a private event.
For drinks, we ordered two teas - dragon pearl jasmine and rose kuan yin oolong. This was the worst part of the evening. They were apparently having hot water issues. Our teas arrived barely lukewarm and AFTER our food. But the waiter was enthusiastic, nice and just the right amount of apologetic (also took one of the teas off the bill).
We ordered Martabak for the appetizer - it was very good but oddly served with a mango chutney instead of the traditional sauce (but it still worked). The food came surprisingly quickly and was nice and hot. Then we had Cambogee Beef, Chicken Rendang and the Nonya Bakmi noodle dish. The Cambogee Beef was pretty good - a different marinade than the traditional shaking beef flavor with medium rare chunks of beef. Hubby thought it was nothing special. The Chicken Rendang was very orange, more like a chicken makhani color. Very different color than the beef rendang that we usually get - the coconut flavor was a little too strong so this was the dish we liked the least. The Nonya Bakmi were fried noodles with tofu, chicken and chilis - we liked the flavor, it had a nice spicy edge. Plus 2 orders of jasmine rice that were quite petite. Lots of leftovers to take home.
I ordered dessert out of a sense of chowish obligation, rather than true desire, since nothing on the menu really spoke to me. We got the "Floating Islands" - described on the menu as a "Hot banana float with pandan cendol topped with coconut sorbet". It was quite good - similar to a classic soupy Thai dessert called "salim" with marinated bananas floating in the soup. Hubby did not care for the soupiness of it though - maybe you have to grow up with that sort of thing.
The owner or manager floated around the room and checked up on all the parties. The waitstaff wasn't the most polished but made up for that with their enthusiasm.
The restaurant is located on a somewhat decrepit block in RWC, but just a block from the brand new theatre complex. Give it a try.
808 Winslow Street, Redwood City, CA 94063
After watching and eagerly waiting for Red Lantern to open I got a chance to eat there this evening. In terms of decor they have done a nice job. There is a well appointed (and already well attended) bar area on one side. The main dining area is "romantically" lit with bamboo accents and bare wood tables.
The wait staff was pleasant. They are not what I would call "city" caliber but they were friendly and attentive.
At the moment the wine list is fairly short though I heard a waiter saying they were working on it. The drink list does have teas as well as some Asian inspired cocktails.
The food is, in a word, good. I chose the papaya salad, the fried calamari, and the pork short ribs.
The salad was nice. It was more lightly dressed (less fish sauce) than I am accustomed to but had a nice fresh taste. The disappointment was the shrimp which had no taste. It seemed like they were cooked in unseasoned water and placed in the salad undressed. Some full flavored shrimp would really change this dish.
I found the calamari to be more to my liking. It was cooked well with a light batter and some fried pepper slices are also in the mix. It is served with a nice dipping sauce with a touch of heat.
The pork was good though not great as I hoped it would be . As advertised there is a healthy dose of black pepper.
For dessert it was the tapioca with strawberry puree. It was actually quite nice though I don't think I would pair cinnamon with strawberry.
I was eating by myself so that was all I was able to try. It might also be why I didn't rate a visit from the Maître d' who was working the room. I did enjoy my meal and will update this the next time I get to go. If you are in the area please give Red Lantern a try. We need more restauranteurs to want to open places in Redwood City!
There was an earlier thread with more information, but no reports to date.
I can add that at least their tea service should be decent. They're sourcing their tea from Red Blossom and had their staff trained on how to brew it by Peter Luong.