A while back, reader Don Brody contacted The Herald to offer up a dining story suggestion.
A well-traveled man, Don even lived for a time in Malawi, Africa. He and his wife, Paula, have traveled extensively in China.
The restaurant he hoped we would visit — Red Lantern in Edmonds — is “the best thing this side of Shanghai,” Don told me. “Red Lantern is on par with our favorite restaurant in China. I would say we eat at Red Lantern at least once a week.”
Well, who can ignore a recommendation like that?
Earlier this week, I asked my friend and former Herald city editor Robert Frank to join me at the restaurant, a small place in the same complex as the IGA Market on Fifth Avenue.
Robert, a foodie with a penchant for Asian cuisine, is married to Carol, a lovely woman of Chinese ancestry. He also has traveled in China and he knows all the good Chinese restaurants in Richmond, B.C., where many people from Hong Kong moved before the 1997 transfer of administrative power from Great Britain to China.
I knew Robert would be a good critic.
So it was nice when my old boss pronounced Red Lantern’s food “more authentic than most.” Robert said he would even take Carol out to eat there.
The restaurant itself is small but stylish. The menu (also written in Chinese characters) is enormous, so make time to read it before you order. Be bold.
For the owners and staff at Red Lantern, English is a second language (and yet unconquered for some), but the wait staff can spot people who aren’t interested in typical American Chinese fare such as sweet-sour pork and vegetable fried rice. If they know you are interested in an authentic meal, they may offer suggestions.
For an appetizer we ordered skewers of honey beef ($4.95 for four). This would be a street food in China, Robert said. We decided that it while it tasted good, the beef strips (flank steak?) were a bit tough.
We shared plates of the house special noodles ($6.95), cumin lamb spareribs, which seemed more like thinly sliced lamb chops to me ($16.95), Kung Pao squid ($11.95) and, of course, brown rice ($1.50).
The vegetables and sauces with the lamb and squid were delicious, as was the sauce that accompanied the noodles.
Robert had fun talking about the ingredients in each.
Most people don’t know that cumin is a popular spice in China. In fact, cumin is the scent always present in neighborhoods where street grills are fired up, he said. The cumin lamb was tasty and tender.
The squid — probably a cuttlefish — was thinly sliced and scored so that it curled up and looked almost like rotini pasta. The seafood was tender and it paired well with the sesame and chili oils that accompanied it.
The noodles, something one would find in the Sichuan province, were fat and tender, and Robert loved the vinegar, oil, soy sauce garlic, green onion, red pepper flakes, herbs and spices that presented a nice heat and numbing sensation in the mouth. Yep, the noodles were Robert’s favorite.
To complete this delicious meal we ordered two small pumpkin cakes ($3) that were made from sweet sticky rice and filled with a bit of pumpkin.
Oh, by the way, my husband ate the leftovers. Cold. And no cake. But he enjoyed it, too.
“Cold may not be the best way to enjoy Chinese food, but the flavors held up,” he said. “The lamb, noodles and squid dishes have me eager to visit Red Lantern myself.”
546 Fifth Ave. S., Edmonds; 425-673-9933; www.redlanternedmonds.com.
Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Vegetarian available, no alcohol, take-out can be ordered online.