Red Lantern, an Asian restaurant and bar which opened this past June.
Red Lantern is owned by the Big Night Entertainment Group, which is also behind The Estate, a nightclub in Boston, as well as Scorpion Bar, High Rollers, and Shrine at Foxwoods Casino. Contrary to the concept at these other establishments, Red Lantern is primarily about the food, a restaurant with an added bar, rather than a bar that also happens to serve some food. That might be their biggest challenge, convincing people that this is a dining rather than a drinking destination, though you will likely enjoy their beverages as well.
Everywhere you turn, scattered all over the room, including inset high up on the walls, you will notice many Buddha and Asian statutes, some complete while others are just heads. The ceiling is filled with red lanterns. The ambiance is hip but with traditional elements that combine in a pleasing décor. It would be a great place for couples or groups, and on a Wednesday evening, the restaurant was packed with a diverse crowd.
Red Lantern is open for dinner seven days a week, and serves food in the dining room until 1am. They also serve takeout cuisine so if you live nearby, you can stop and pick up your dinner. The Executive Chef is Kevin Long, who started working in 1995 at Tosca in Hingham. Chef Long now is in charge of all the kitchens of Big Night Entertainment Group though his primary focus is currently Red Lantern.
You will find 16 available wines by the glass as well as over 60 wines by the bottle, starting at $34. Their wine list is predominantly California but with French Champagnes and some wines from other regions such as Argentina and South Africa. They sell more white wines by the glass and more reds by the bottle. To my pleasure, they sell 9 Sakes by glass ($8-$12), such as the Kaori Junmai Ginjo, and 14 by the bottle, thought the prices seem a bit high, especially for the less expensive bottles. They also stock numerous beers, both draft and bottle.
The higher priced items include more luxury items like lobster and Wagyu beef. Some of their specials include a Pu Pu Platter ($30/$60) and a Whole Roasted Hong Kong Duck ($88, serves up to four). There is also a menu of Sushi, Sashimi, and Maki rolls. This is reasonably priced, such as two pieces of Tuna for $7 or Salmon for $6. In addition, you will find a Special Monday menu, which includes seven special small bites for $7 each, from fried shrimp shu mai to pineapple fried rice. There is also a featured wine/sake each week.
Five of us dined together, a fun group of food lovers so that the conversation never dulled. Our main server was Kai Le, a personable and energetic person, who explained the various dishes and made sure to bring us whatever we needed, from drinks to plates.
Up next, we tried some sushi and sashimi, including Toro and Dressed Hamachi. A nice presentation and the Toro was silky smooth, fresh and flavorful, with plenty of veins of fat. The Hamachi was also tasty, with only mild heat and almost citrus flavors too. We later tried a few maki rolls too, and the Crunchy Roll, with Bana salmon toro, tobikko, crab stick, and crunchy was the clear favorite, though the Spicy Tuna performed very well too.
I was enamored with the Singapore Street Noodles, a bowl of thin noodles with pieces of shrimp, scallop, and pork with a Madras Curry and XO sauce. Great textures, lots of flavors, and a light dish. A heavy dish, but worthy, was the Mongolian Steak, slices of skirt steak with garlic, ginger, and mushrooms. Tender beef with rich flavors will please any carnivore. It was accompanied by a bowl of sweet potatoes with a crispy exterior and a soft, sweet interior. The Tik Tok Chicken were chunks of water chestnut golden chicken, atop white rice and topped by crisp wonton chips. It has a blend of sweet and spicy flavors, with tastes of orange.
Overall, I was impressed with Red Lantern. It is reasonably priced for the quality and quantity of their dishes, and there is something for everyone, no matter their preference. The food is obviously very important to them and does not come in second place to their drinks. Yet they have not skimped on their drinks either. Take a group of friends to Red Lantern and have a fun and delicious evening.
(A modified version of this review appeared in Boston Scene magazine, with plenty of great photos.)