pan fried rice cakes with tiger prawns, caramelised pork, shallot oil, fried shallot, peanut and pork floss
Baby, you had me at pork floss.
This year’s birthday was very low key. While my graceful journey towards ageing is usually accented by decadent meals at fabulous locales, this year there be a bun baking in the oven and as we all know, decadent meals at fabulous locales more than likely will always include some form of ceviche this, or tartare that, or basically, raw, cheesy, eggy deliciousness that I’m not allowed to have right now.
And lord forbid I should ask for an abridged menu and watch someone else eat all the good stuff.
So after some long hard thinking, I came up with a gem. Red Lantern on Crown. Because you can always count on Asians to cook all our food, and I trust Luke Nguyen not to slack off on the decadence.
Red Lantern has a couple of branches – one on Riley, a bar called Red Lily, and this one on Crown which, while positioned as the more upmarket sibling, still carries the casual buzz of Vietnamese streets, paired with polite and well versed wait-persons serving up the fancy cocktail of the day. Which I didn’t have, and it damn near killed me because I’m a girl and I like all lychee based cocktails. Fact.
Why’d I choose Red Lantern on Crown over Riley? Simple detective work, my friend. A quick review of the Hanoi Hunger tasting menu for each restaurant (they both have the same named tasting menu, with different courses) and my super keen sixth sense zeroed in on none other than pork floss.
Pork floss. I swear to you, honest to God, I was sold by the pork floss.
But hey, everything else was also pretty spectacular.
wok fried school prawns served with garlic and coriander moyannaise
soft rice paper rolls of marinated chargrilled chicken, Vietnamese herbs and shredded cabbage
crisp skin master stock spatchcock with shallot, ginger and oyster sauce
brussel sprouts and pork belly wok tossed with oyster sauce
chargrilled pork chop marinated in honey, oyster sauce and lemongrass
served with cabbage and green apple slaw
pan fried snapper fillet served with green mango salad and spicy peanut crunch
sweet corn and sticky rice pudding with coconut ice cream
sesame and rice flour dumpling filled with spiced kumquat served with cassia anglaise
coconut, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf crème caramel made with free range eggs and coconut milk
The 11 course menu is pretty mind-boggling when you see that the main courses are the size of, well, main courses. I couldn’t fault any of the courses – and strangely enough, even Nguyen’s summer rolls tasted magnificento when really, it’s just a rice paper wrap! I think it’s the dipping sauce, the secret is in the sauce.
Even the brussel sprouts were good, the spatchcock moist and the school prawns. Those teeny tiny school prawns. Do they serve those in heaven?
Then there’s dessert, a triplet selected from the main menu. The sweet corn and sticky rice pudding with coconut ice cream? Panu was like, I’m not going to eat that (he’s not a huge fan of sticky rice) but then it was so good. And he did, much to my dismay. I played with the idea of ordering a proper full serve of this dessert, and had it not been for the fact that we parked right outside Kurtosh and I’d already promised myself I’d go back and buy second dessert there, I think I would have cleaned it up.
And yes, for the record – despite being explosively full – we rolled on over to Kurtosh and went home with my favourite Duo Mousse, Peanut Buuter & Chocolate Ganache, Cookies & Cream Cheesecake and Tiramisu. I KNOW. WE’RE DISGUSTING.
So 9pm and we’re on the couch. Watching Breaking Bad. Eating more cake.
Perhaps my birthday was decadent afterall.
Red Lantern on Crown
545 Crown Street,
Surry Hills, NSW, 2010
(02) 9698 4355