Monday, January 5, 2009
If you've tasted the divine Asian concoctions and drinks at Chapel Hill's elegant and eclectic restaurant, the Lantern, then you may have discovered a bit of nirvana on earth. Recognized by Gourmet Magazine as one of "America's Top 50 Restaurants," the Lantern is a local favorite that's a perfect choice for a romantic date or a night out with the girls.
Using many local and organic ingredients, owner and chef Andrea Reusing creates her interpretation of Asia's best. With mouthwatering standout entrees like Coconut braised Niman Ranch pork shank with fresh galangal, crispy shallots, spicy green papaya salad and jasmine rice, the menu changes seasonally but always has a good variety of hot and spicy dishes to the more tame, yet always flavorful ones. A mix of seafood, meat-based and vegetarian cuinspirations typically dominate the nightly menu.
The Lantern's bar, tucked away at the back of the building, can be accessed by a side alley door after dining hours. While most might miss this windowless hole-in-the-wall, the bar is far more vibrant than the restaurant itself. While I'd liken the atmosphere of the restaurant to a soothing candle-lit sanctuary, the bar area is more along the lines of royalty in its décor and styling. The cozy one-room after-hours haven has an exclusive ambiance that's a far cry from many of Chapel Hill's smoky, undergraduate-dominated scenes.
With delicious, funky cocktails such as Red Geisha, made of muddled fresh organic strawberries with lime, ginger and vodka or Yo La Mango, a mix of mango puree, lemongrass, sake and vodka, you'll fit in with the hip, posh crowd that dominates the night scene at this hot spot no matter what your drink selection may be. My personal favorite is the Junebug, a delicious blend of Pimm's, fresh ginger and lemon, soda and cucumber that is reminiscent of a London favorite with a citrusy fresh burst akin to a South Pacific breeze.
Visit the restaurant's Web site for daily specials, one of Chef Reusing's famed recipes and a fortune. Visit the Lantern in person for an intimate dining experience or night out on the town.