Trip to Red Lantern worth the wait | Art & Appetite

By James Spangler | Jan 24, 2017
Courtesy of: James Spangler Eggplant in garlic sauce, lo mein, and prawns and scallops in black bean sauce make for a winning combination at Red Lantern in Edmonds.
Red Lantern
Score: 4.8 out of 5
Where: 546 Fifth Ave. S, Edmonds
Entrees: $8.95-19.95
Information: 425-673-9933, www.redlanternedmonds.com

 

What inspires a restaurant review from me? With few exceptions, review ideas come from readers and my editor. In a weird way, I'm even told when to review a place. Take the Red Lantern, which opened this summer in downtown Edmonds, for example.

Most of us seem to want to support small independent businesses when we can. Unfortunately, there can be a little too much of a good thing at times.

It seems that everyone was so excited when Red Lantern first opened that there was a virtual tsunami of the curious and hungry – overwhelming the staff in the early days. As a result, in some cases, service suffered. Just as I was preparing to drop in for a visit, I began to hear rumblings from some of my friends and neighbors. Yelp reviews were also less than complimentary at this point.

Writing a restaurant review is trickier than you might think.

On the one hand, you have a responsibility to be fair and honest. Your credibility is riding on your readers’ abilities to trust what you write. On the other hand, there is the awareness that someone has put their heart and soul into an enterprise that you were about to review. After all, this is their livelihood.

Having started several small businesses myself, I wasn't prepared to write a bad review for a restaurant just getting on its feet. To paraphrase an old adage: “If you haven't got something nice to say, stall your editor for as long as you possibly can.”

But then, something unexpectedly cool happened. My foodie friends started weighing in.

Denise Cole of Cole Gallery texted me after the last Art Walk Edmonds: “Red Lantern is sooo great!” Anytime you want to go, I'm ready to go again.” Then, retired Marine Gen.Don Brody USMC called me and offered a detailed, glowing report. Customers and even my editor begin asking me why I hadn't reviewed the Red Lantern.

The time had come.

So I went. And it's true. Red Lantern is a gem. Whatever service issues they may have had in the past seem to have been rectified. If you were one of the unlucky diners to have had difficulty in the early days of their opening, I would implore you to give it a second chance.

To begin with, I was very pleased with the hot-and-sour soup and also the fried wontons and pork spring rolls, which came out piping hot and crispy. We spent a couple of minutes admiring the hand-carved carrot flower blossom garnish. Then, with the help of much advice from friends, we ordered the eggplant and garlic sauce, the prawns and scallops and black bean sauce, and the shrimp lo mein.

The lo mein noodles were a marvel to me. If you've ever made noodles, I think you tend to appreciate homemade just a little more, and these were delicious. I was also very impressed with the garlic chili sauce in the eggplant dish – it wasn't overwhelmed by too much garlic and was just spicy enough to keep things interesting.

Another highlight was the bottom line. Although we came with large appetites, we left with ample leftovers for lunch the next day and didn't have to leave a large chunk of change.

To summarize, I’m officially a big fan of the Red Lantern – what a terrific addition to our downtown dining milieu. If you haven't been lately or haven't been at all, you should go.

Just don't all go at once.

James Spangler is the owner of Spangler Book Exchange in Edmonds and an aficionado of all things art and appetite. Do you know of a Snohomish County restaurant, art gallery or theatrical show worthy of a review? Call him at 206-795-0128 or email him at jamessspangler@gmail.com.

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