Thursday, June 23, 2011

Red Lantern and West Side Saturday

Red Lantern Boston
39 Stanhope Street, Back Bay

A big thank you to an old college friend for taking me to West Side Story at the Colonial Theater last weekend. Any time you go to the theater it calls for a nice pre-theater dinner! In Boston's theater district I almost always start out thinking that there aren't that many restaurants in the area ... then a little online research later I'm reminded how close other neighborhoods are. We managed to get a reservation at the new Red Lantern in the Back Bay - probably because we were going early before the show.
View from the bar area

We got a drink at the bar before being seated - and they had a great drink menu. My friend opted for a more traditional Mai Tai while I went for their Bamboo Juice - Ron Zacapa 23 yr, Don Julio, Passion Fruit, Pineapple. Anything with passion fruit grabs my attention - it was pretty strong for my taste, but good. The atmosphere is fantastic here - amazing decor that makes you feel like you're in a restaurant in LA or NYC, not Boston, though the female servers could maybe wear corsets that actually fit them.

To start we were torn between their dumpling options and spring roll list. We ended up ordering the Pan Fried Pork Gyoza - which were really good. Not too salty, the wonton skin wasn't mushy, the portion was good - 6 dumplings to share! We saw quite a few orders of the Tempura Green Beans come out of the kitchen, which also looked good.
With more traditional options like fried rice and noodle dishes, in addition to a full sushi menu, as usual I couldn't decide what to get. My friend went for the sushi - their Ronin Roll (spicy tuna, cream cheese, avocado, tataki albacore) and an avocado roll. I don't like cream cheese or spicy in my sushi so I didn't try out the Ronin, but my friend seemed to enjoy her choice! I was tempted to try their Crispy Calamari roll but the curry mayo in it threw me off so instead I chose a more traditional Salmon Avocado roll.
I also wanted to be sure to try something from the more traditional part of the menu, so went for the Vegetable Fried Rice. I was definitely happier with the sushi - the rice wasn't anything special. It was good - but nothing out of the ordinary even though they describe the fried rice options as "inspired by chef Kwong's secret family recipe passed down over several generations." You might be better off trying out something from their "specialties and wok dishes" part of the menu. As with many Asian restaurants, it's also great to go with a group to a place like this so that you can order a bunch of different dishes and share, giving you the chance to try a few things.
Totally unexpected, the dessert may have been my favorite part of the meal! I don't usually splurge for dessert but when our server described the three dessert options that evening my friend and I both had the same though - we need to try that! Pineapple Bread Pudding, Almond Gelato and Krispies - I don't know exactly what they sprinkled on top, but the krispy crunchy pieces added nice texture to the creamy pudding and gelato. My friend and I both agreed that the service was good - not on top of us throughout dinner, but always there when we needed something! The atmosphere also makes for a great special event place - they have large round tables fit for good size groups. Albeit a little pricey - it's not too bad for the location, atmosphere and quality of the food. Worth the splurge - and if you're just going for sushi, you'll be able to get out without spending an arm and a leg. Hoping to make a return trip soon - but with so many new restaurants opening in the Boston area these days, it's hard to justify return trips anywhere!

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