Ginseng soup, golden barbecued pork pastries, dim sum buffet–Cantonese classics with a touch of the modern
Red Lantern, a new restaurant serving modern Cantonese cuisine, raises the bar in dining right from its interiors: rich, dark marble floors that match the majestic red carpet; exquisite contemporary works of art by noted Filipino artists on the walls; oversized Chinese calligraphy on glass panels—all creating a very Asian atmosphere.
The spacious and stylish setting is also accented with flowing floor-to-ceiling drapes in black, complementing the crisp white linen tablecloths and comfy mustard chairs.
Air of elegance
But, unlike the typical Chinese restaurant, Red Lantern has no massive crystal chandeliers or even huge red umbrellas or lanterns (the red lantern designs are on the Bernardaud dinnerware on your table). Instead, simple elongated lights cloaked with red mesh hang above tables. The lights lend an air of elegance in the room.
Red Lantern is one of four signature restaurants of the newly opened gaming destination in the country, Solaire Resort and Casino in Entertainment City, Parañaque. The others are
Yakumi (Japanese), Strip (Steakhouse) and Finestra (Italian).
The stunning interiors feature a main dining area and five private rooms. Each function room has piped-in Chinese pop music and can be configured into formal, casual or intimate settings. In total, the restaurant can seat about 240 people.
On one side of the wall hangs a huge orange abaca origami of Antonio Arcellana; on the other side are digital prints of American photographer Tom Epperson. There are more graphic prints and paintings in the private rooms.
Soft and succulent
Red Lantern’s innovative menu, on the other hand, offers classic Cantonese favorites with a touch of the modern. Chinese executive chef Chan Yiu So says: “In modern Cantonese
cooking, we already mix the cuisines of our neighboring countries, such as Malaysia, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. With the variety of flavors and ingredients from these influences, we come up with more exciting, playful dishes.”
For instance, Chan has created a scallop dim sum with squid ink. It’s pretty messy to eat, but it’s soft and succulent. He also serves Japanese sea cucumber stuffed with seafood paste and brown sauce. The sea cucumber has a nice chewy texture spiced up with a sweet sauce.
“Shanghai food is very oily and uses a lot of sauces,” says Chan. “Szechuan is typically very spicy. Beijing has a very strong flavor. Cantonese is lighter, not too oily and less salty. Sorry to say, Filipino food is too oily. Food is always deep-fried. People eat very little vegetables, they always eat pork.”
At Red Lantern, Chan uses a lot of stir-fried veggies in his dishes, with no MSG (monosodium glutamate) added. Live fish is kept inside kitchen fish tanks.
“If the guests want to see live fish or crab, we can show it to them,” says Chan.
The fish offered include Pacific garoupa, pampano and sea bass, cooked in so many ways: steamed with black bean sauce; deep-fried Thai-style; deep-fried with soy sauce; braised whole garlic; and barbecue pork belly.
The lobsters are cooked either with mayonnaise and fruit; steamed with garlic sauce; braised with superior stock; or baked with cheese.
Crabs can be deep-fried Hong Kong-style; steamed with egg white, Singapore chili crab and butter with pumpkin; or stir-fried with salted egg yolk.
Crispy suckling pig and Peking duck are also available.
About 70 percent of the fresh ingredients like seafood, chicken and veggies are locally sourced, while 30 percent come from overseas, such as sea cucumber from Japan, beef from the United States, and sauces and soya from all over Asia.
“We get our soya abroad because it’s not salty. We only get the sweet ones,” says Chan.
These days, Red Lantern is usually packed with the lunch crowd, especially after launching its dim sum buffet of about 25 items (steamed and deep-fried), two soups, four types of congee, rice and noodles for only P880+ (11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays, and 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends).
The dim sum comes in chicken, duck, pork, beef, bean curd and vegetable fillings.
Worth trying are Cabbage Rolls with Seasonal Vegetables. They’re light and refreshing, with the natural sweetness of the veggies giving the soup a softer, less edgy finish.
Golden Barbecued Pork Pastries with walnuts are like fried pork asado pao—small but filling.
The Deep-Fried Kataifi Rolls with Avocado is not a dessert, but it’s sweet, nutty and crunchy. The soft and sweetened avocado neutralizes the crispy, salty, shredded filo pastry.
If you’ve already tried all the dumplings in the dim sum list and would like to order from the a la carte menu, there’s no finer starter than the Monk Jumps Over the Wall—double-boiled ginseng soup with abalone, dried scallops, fish maw and sea cucumber. It’s a light broth that cleanses your palate, but is packed with chewy seafood.
The Wok-Fried Prawns with Glass Noodles and XO sauce has a distinct ginger taste. The finely cooked prawns go well with the sweetish brown sauce with scallions and red bell pepper.
The Homemade Braised Bean Curd with Black Truffles and Ling Zhi Mushrooms contains tender tofu with truffles, while the Hand-Rolled and Deep-Fried Shrimp Balls with Longan are blended with Thousand Island Dip.
Red Lantern has a 13-page menu to choose from, including a long list of Chinese teas. Everyone will have their fill here, guaranteed.
E-mail the author at [email protected]
PHOTOS BY JOSEPH AGCAOILI