My mother is the biggest Luke Nguyen fangirl. On the rare occasion that I’m home on a Thursday night, she would make a huge annoucement that “LOO-KE is on TV!”. So for Mother’s Day, we decided to take her to Luke Nguyen and Mark Jensen’s Red Lantern to try some of their food. Mum was completely psyched (as were ALL the other female members of our family). The only qualm was, being of Vietnamese heritage, my parents already highly judgmental and unrealisticly unrelenting standards were even higher for a cuisine that:
- LOO-KE! is cooking!
- They’ve eaten every day for the last 56 years of their lives.
We ended up getting the Hanoi Hunger banquet ($65 per person) where we got to try 9 dishes! It was the greatest hits complilation of Vietnamese cuisine and we were pretty excited.
Goi Cuon: Soft rice paper rolled with prawns, pork, vermicelli, perilla leaves and
The starting dish, the Goi Cuon was a bit of a let down. From the view point of people who eat this weekly, we felt that it was a bit average and there wasn’t a wow factor. My parents were critical of the fact that the paper rolls were cut in half to make it look like there were more but I just thought it looked nicer that way.
Goi Bo Xao: Wok seared Black Angus beef, with tamarind, beetroot, daikon and
The Goi Bo Xao was something we’d never had at home - and thankfully, it was really good! There were lots of spices mixed in with traditional Vietnamese flavours and really fresh veggies.
Thit Ga Nuong Chao: Char grilled Burrawong chicken skewers marinated in
preserved bean curd and lemongrass.
The chicken skewers were pretty good too. They had some cumin mix which you can sprinkle onto he chicken which just made it that much better!
Muc Rang Muoi (unpictured): Lightly battered chilli salted squid served with a fresh lemon and white pepper dipping. This was our absolute favourite dish - it’s probably the best squid we’ve ever had! A must order in our eyes.
Bo Luc Lac: Cubed pasture fed Black Angus sirloin wok tossed with
garlic, sesame and black pepper.
I normally don’t like this dish at home but beef was charcoaled to perfection. I thought it was pretty tasty and succulent but dad thought the beef was a bit dry.
Strangely, the Rau Muong Xao Chao (top left) i.e. the water spinach wok tossed with fermented bean curd sauce was one of our favourite dishes from the night. The water spinach was mixed in a sweet but rich soupy sauce which was mind blowing and my sister and I were fighting to finish it.
Next up we had the Ca Hap Ca Cot Dua (top left) which is Blue Eye Trevalla poached in an aromatic prawn, tomato and coconut bisque and the Ga Chien Don (centre) which is Crisp skin Burrawong pasture raised chicken poached in master stock with ginger and oyster sauce were a bit disappointing.
Both dishes were overcooked and hence a bit dry. Dad mentioned that plenty of places in Cabramatta (e.g. Tan Viet Noodle House) would have consistently executed the crispy skin chicken better and was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t done better here.
Do Chay Tay Cam: Hot pot of Asian mushrooms, tofu and daikon in a mushroom and tamari stock.
On the other end of the spectrum, the hot pot was severely undercooked and biting into each stalk made me feel like my teeth were going to fall out.
Although the food varied on both extremes of extremely good and could have done way better, we were impressed by the knowledgeable and exceptional service (including an Aussie as hell waiter hilariously trying to pronounce dishes in Vietnamese for my parents) and the overall experience.
Red Lantern on Crown
545 Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Ph: 02 9698 4355