Red Lantern is about as authentically Chinese as the Karate Kid. But its fun Oriental theme makes the capacious restaurant a perfect place to celebrate Chinese New Year, especially with special dishes expanding the pan-Asian menu, which adds a bit of American culinary know-how to ease the exotica for the Western palette. Say Happy New Year one more time with a Dragon Roll wrapped in glazed blue fin tuna or a turnip cake flecked with pork. Pork is a big New Year’s dish because it invites strength and wealth. Another holiday tradition, the red envelope containing money or a prize, might brighten someone’s financial landscape. A bit. No doubt, Red Lantern’s huge cube scorpion bowls will be plentiful.
Stripped to brick and iron girder and festooned with vivacious red lanterns — and young buddhaesque statues smiling with acceptance — Red Lantern, which opened last summer, looks festive year-round.
With an easygoing atmosphere, it has built a reputation for drinks from after work to late night (the kitchen is open until 1 a.m.) and nibbles such as superbly salted edamame with white misu aioli and spicy rock shrimp in a tempura batter lightened with water chestnut flour. The menu ranges from filling bowls of steaming noodles to tender, miso-glazed sea bass to sockeye salmon nigiri sushi, which is so delicately sweet that it’s a crime to dab it into soy sauce — so don’t!
Red Lantern is part of Big Night Entertainment Group, whose repertoire includes The Estate nightclub and Shrine at Fox-woods MGM. A second Asian- themed Boston eatery is in the works, says BNEG’s executive chef Kevin Long, whose knack for spice, particularly heat, gives Lantern’s dishes a keen peppery backwash that does not overpower. Sophistication aside, Long sticks with fresh, fine ingredients as a basic.