What brought my friend Morgan and I to Lantern was definitely fate. While exploring West Franklin Street looking for a place to eat, we tried 411 West (45 minute wait), Talullas (closed), and Elaine’s (also closed), when we basically stumbled upon Lantern. Since I heard so many great things about it, my heart immediately started racing because I had yet to read through and memorize the items on the menu. For the average college kid, it is definitely a bit pricer, so I really recommend taking your parents there or if going on a fancy date.
Since the entree items were in the $20+ price range, we nixed getting an appetizer to start us off and went straight for the meal items. Our waiter was extremely knowledgeable about all the items on the menu, so that was a relief as I debated back and forth on what to get. I decided to go with their special: Miso Smoked Cod with shiitake mushroom towers, baby bok choy and jasmine rice drizzled with a sake-infused butter. Lantern is known for its asian inspired dishes with a homegrown touch. Normally, I am not a huge cod fan, but this cod was melt-in-your-mouth amazing!! There was not one thing wrong with this dish. From the fresh and clean crunch of the baby bok choy to the savory flavor of the shiitake mushrooms, this was the best meal I have had in Chapel Hill in the past three years.
My friend Morgan was looking for something on the lighter side, leading her to choose two appetizers that the waiter recommended. One of the items that she chose was the appetizer special of the night: N.C. Blue Crab crab cakes, panfried over a light arugula garnish and drizzled with a thin remoulade . I am EXTREMELY picky with my crab cakes and these are the second best that I have ever had, which is saying a lot because I have maybe sampled over 50 restaurant’s crab cakes and the best being my mother’s special recipe… I am a huge fan of lump crabmeat crab cakes, but the blue crab was spectacular! Not at all bready and very fresh tasting!
Her second appetizer was the Chaat, a chickpea based dish with potatoes, cauliflower, pickled red onions and mint chutney. Even though I was obsessed with my own dish, I was equally impressed with Morgan’s two choices. I have never had fried chickpeas before but the crunchy texture and the added flavor from the mint chutney really made this dish stand out. And with all these vegetables, it was a very fresh and healthy choice, it was not drenched in oils or artificial flavors.
Lantern did not instantly become my favorite restaurant because it “tasted good.” It became a new favorite, because the chef depended on the quality of the ingredients to naturally bring a harmonious flavor to the dish. It became a favorite, because it used fresh ingredients. It became a favorite, because I could not compare it to anything else. It became a favorite, because the staff was extremely knowledgeable about every dish on the menu.
Thank you for an outstanding dining experience, Lantern. I will be back soon.