Red Lantern Riley Street
Competition winner, Hayley Brown, visits Red Lantern on Riley
A long-time fan of the Crown Street original, I was excited and intrigued by its sibling popping up in nearby Darlinghurst.
So new it literally wasn’t on the map (Google, that is), it took us a while to find this little haven on a chilly winter night, but the signature red hue eventually caught our eye and we eagerly welcomed the warmth of both the restaurant and the friendly staff.
Being our first week into ‘Dry July’, we reluctantly turned down a wine menu and opted for a pot of green tea, while casting jealous glances at our neighbouring diners.
But regardless of what customers were drinking throughout the night, no one needed worry about an empty glass. The service was startlingly attentive – warning: do not start any private conversations as they will take a very long time to complete – and we delighted in the novelty of coming back to a napkin that had been re-rolled after every trip to the bathroom (ok, we drank a LOT of tea).
What we lacked in alcohol we made up for in food, ordering a quick succession of fresh and tasty dishes, starting with the Diep Chien vui Xa Ot: MSC certified Scallops pan-seared with a tamari, citrus, brown sugar, lemongrass and chilli oil dressing. The scallops were nice and plump and the flavours so moreish they disappeared before we managed to get a photo.
Next was our “mid-course” of Banh Xeo: Crisp rice flour crepes filled with prawn, pork belly and mung bean, served with fresh herbs and lettuce to wrap. I was familiar with this DIY-style dish from the original Red Lantern, and it lived up to its predecessor with the same light crepe, tasty fillings and generous selections of fresh lettuce, mint and perilla to wrap it up in. I loved that it wasn’t at all oily and was also gluten free.
In fact, we were feeling so healthy at this stage that we decided we deserved to try the Vit Quay: Roasted Burrawong Pekin Duck with spiced orange sauce, fennel and watercress salad. This one was certainly no health food, with innocent segments of juicy orange crowded amongst seemingly endless pieces of tender duck, skin and all. My man was very happy.
We purposefully left room for dessert, having done our research, and this turned out to be the right decision. The desert special was an Espresso crème brulee tart with burned orange, ginger and caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream, which I immediately knew my man would love. It was lovely and gooey in the middle, but it was the piece of candied orange on the side we were fighting over.
The winning dish of the evening, however, was unanimously the Chuoi Chien: Organic banana fritters crumbed in coconut rice, palm sugar caramel and tapioca sauce, served with vanilla ice cream. Two perfectly sized bananas in a crunchy coconut casing were served nestled on some of the most delicious tapioca I’ve come across. I devoured my half and cursed myself for agreeing to share.
Finally, still feeling a little sorry for our non-drinking selves, we indulged in a Vietnamese coffee. These were served with an individual drip filtering coffee into the cup below, which we then stirred together with a layer of condensed milk waiting sinfully underneath. Strong and delicious.
And just like that, we were back out into the frosty winter night – satisfied, sober and very, very AWAKE.