CCU was really starting to forget how to bake. She had thought ‘Holidays will end, and my kitchen shall come alive!’
Instead, what came alive was her car, stomach and wallet. Everyday, every night, whether it be for the world cup or for her friends, she is out.
Sometimes she wonders how she has the time to breathe! On her many adventures, in only the past week alone, one of the many places she has visited was Red Lantern On Riley. What even is Vietnamese food?, she pondered to herself.
She was in for a very pleasant surprise…
Red Lantern On Riley is a wonderful place. I cannot express how much I enjoyed this restaurant. It is neither pretentious, nor is it snooty in any way, despite its popularity and wonderful reputation. Unassuming restaurant, to the side of a quiet street (Riley St :P), you would not actually notice it much unless you knew you were looking for it.
Red Lantern (for short I suppose!!) has many other locations as well. It is your quintessential classy, gourmet eatery, but with a definite sense of homeliness – I think that is a combination of both the amazing food, the wonderful service and definitely, the interior decor.
Heaters surrounding the outside patio, we entered the warmly lit parlour. Our booking was for a pretty early time, but this certainly made it easier for me to photograph everything! Greeted at the entrance, the staff was very friendly, and took us to our table. All around us (my mum and I… I am not crazy yet), in the wallpapered restaurant (how vintage is that!), were plants and decorations reminiscent of colonial Vietnam.
Traditional, but contemporary, the chairs were a mix of designs, but keeping with a central colour theme of red, browns and pale peaches, all illuminated by soft lighting. I know it looks significantly harsher in my photos, but I did not realise for a while that my camera was on high definition😛
There were old style radios on display, and I could easily imagine the restaurant as a colonial house style setting!
Since I booked this experience through Lime & Tonic, my mum and I were to receive a three course meal with a dessert platter to come. That certainly saved on menu-reading time🙂 We were ready… and a wee bit apprehensive as neither of us had ever had Vietnamese before. But by the end of the night, we did feel a bit silly because there was no need for anything at all!
Although… All I knew about this cuisine before was that that pho is pronounced ‘phu’…😛
We had a lovely waiter, who asked us whether we wanted iced or tap water, expertly laid our napkins on our laps and brought us cutlery due to our lack of chopsticks skills (runs in my family I suppose!). We also received some wine as part of the experience and my mum and I went for some Red Wine, in particular, a generous serve of Red Lantern’s ‘Ruou Do Shiraz ( $10 per glass), from Barossa Valley.
Despite our white wine option being the Red Lantern ‘Ruou Trang’ Sauvignon Blanc, I think the wine’s rich taste went really well with the food to come! Speaking of which, I suppose I should start describing it all to you!
For our Entree, we firstly received the Goi Cai Xuan salad ($23.50). Immediate love, hearts beating wildly and tastebuds clawing for more. It was sweet, but very refreshing, and the orange slices were inspired when eaten with the snow peas.
It also tasted significantly fresh, with a delightful crunch to the vegetables!
This entree was joined by probably my mum and my favourite dish of the evening. Silken tofu, lightly battered and fried till a pale golden colour, served with chillies, and a sauce from the gods. A little bit of this tangy sauce went a long way after being drizzled on this tofu!
Its texture was incredible, a crunch before the melt-in-mouth sensation. I cannot recall the precise name of it, but for now, I will call it Spicy-Salty Deep Fried Tofu.
I would just like to point out how well done the service was, you could see why this restaurant has so much esteem. Between courses, all dirty cutlery and plates were replaced, the table was efficiently and quickly wiped down for its major part and it was like a new table for each meal.
And some kind of spidey-sense-for-waiters was happening, because every time I was about to run out of water, someone would be there to refill and ask if we needed anything else!! Full marks on service😀
Next up, for the Mid Course Meal, came the most indulgent dish of the night – Banh Cua Cai Chien ($19). These were triangularly cut rice cakes, panfried and served dripping in a rich, decadent and spicy peanut sauce. You could taste the crunch of the peanuts, with the crispiness of the rice cakes, and it was quite perfect together!
And of course, while not littered, the plate was decorated with tiny leaves and greenery😀
Finally, moving on to main courses, and with the restaurant beginning to fill up, the ambience was growing and the smell of amazing food permeated the air strongly!
Our next course was Mains, and involved two very exotic but equally as delicious dishes. With some side Jasmine Rice, was the Cai Xanh Xao Chao ($16). Heavily laden with stir fried greens such as Bok Choy, this dish was dripping in bean curd sauce.
And you would think that was a bad thing buts its really not. It was utterly delicious, crunchy and the bean curd alone on the rice was brilliant!
Along with this, came a very special vegetarian tasting menu dish. I can’t remember its exact name, so for now, lets call this dish ‘God’. Purple kumara potatoes (sweet) cut into slants and shell out from inside, before being stuffed with stir fried, soft mushrooms. The outside was covered in Sesame seeds and crispy to perfection (thank god for pan-frying)!
We ordered some chilli to go along with our delicious meal, although by the end our eyes were watering from how much enjoyed ourselves and ate!
And keeping this in mind – I HATE mushrooms!
The final part of our delectable evening came in the form of an awesome dessert tasting platter. My mum was not perhaps the biggest fan, just because the dessert style was SO different from what we have tried before.
But I was more than happy to dig into what she didn’t eat🙂
Just being the dutiful daughter and all, no other excuse!
But back to it. We got a lovely tray containing firstly, Xoi Hap Nuoc Dua La Chuoi ($16). It was a generous portion of wild red rice, cooked down in palm sugar and coconut cream (similar texture to rice pudding), before being bundled into a banana leaf. On top of it, sat a nice large scoop of vanilla or coconut ice cream (could not quite make out the flavour when eaten with the red rice pudding), and drizzled with sweet syrups.
At first, I was not the biggest fan, but then it became addictive. The red rice was a little bitter, but went wonderfully with the sweetness of the palm sugar and the ice cream. It was thick and very creamy, and I would have made that my whole meal if I could have🙂
Also on the platter, was the Banh Cam Mang Cau ($16) – even more exotic than the last! It was sesame and rice flour dumpling, filled with a gooey thick caramel like substance made from the Soursop fruit and served with black sesame ice cream.
Let’s just say I never realised my love for sesame seeds, because its crunchiness and flavour added so much deliciousness to the dumpling! My mum ended up finishing the ice cream, despite her protests of being full😛
Will we be going back? Yes. No other question about it😀
And that is not the Shiraz talking!
Address: 60 Riley Street
Phone Number: 9698 4355
Can’t wait to bring back the baking next post mes cheris! Stay strong!😀
Disclaimer: Go Bake Yourself attended this event through Lime & Tonic, therefore had a tasting menu experience and reduced costs for the dinner. However, all her opinions and thoughts are honest and her own.