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Lantern Restaurant

I just wrote about our arrival in Chapel Hill late this afternoon. After getting settled in The Carolina Inn, we headed off to dinner at Lantern, the place Joel suggested we try. Our walk took us past a few fraternities, then on to Franklin Street, Chapel Hill’s main drag, along which we passed a representative sample of America’s finest fast food restaurants before arriving.

From Lantern’s website, we learn that

Lantern was opened in January 2002 by brother-sister team Andrea and Brendan Reusing, along with help from many friends including Silvia Pahola, Ric Palao and David Doernberg, who is responsible for our striking design and warm glow.

The menu at Lantern is a marriage of Asian flavors and North Carolina ingredients sourced mainly from local farms and fisheries. It has been named one of “America’s Top 50 Restaurants” and “best farm-to-table restaurants” by Gourmet Magazine … .

We own Andrea Reusing’s cookbook, Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes, which came out a year ago. We were eager to try Lantern.

For appetizers, we decided to share Lantern local pasture-raised pork and chive dumplings, Lantern spring pickle plate, and chat: crispy chickpeas and potatoes with cauliflower, pickled red onions and mint chutney. I loved the dumplings and the chaat. The pickle plate had beets, turnips, cauliflower, tomato, radishes. Maybe one other. It was fun to try them, but Gail and Joel seemed to enjoy them more than I did.

It was tough to choose from the main courses. Gail had the steamed Arctic char with house-pickled ginger, lemongrass, red onion, spicy cucumber-mint salad and coconut jasmine rice, which she was very happy with. I wanted either the lemongrass-grilled Chapel Hill Creamery pork chop with a fried farm egg, spicy green papaya salad, steamed jasmine rice and chile-lime sauce; the fried whole North Carolina fish [flounder tonight] with chiles, garlic, tamarind, fresh lime leaf, carrot salad and jasmine rice; or the shaking beef: seared Niman Ranch flat iron steak with black pepper, sweet caramelized red onions, watercress salad and soy-vinegar pan sauce. Joel proposed I choose two and we share them. I chose fish and pork chop. In the end, I ate most of the fish, Joel most of the pork chop, both of which were excellent.

For dessert, Joel and I shared fresh coconut panna cotta with White Dove Farm passionfruit caramel and crunchy macaroon, while also tasting Gail’s roasted banana ice cream with caramel, soft cream and NC peanut brittle. The best part of both may have been the complementary items: the crunchy macaroon and the peanut brittle. They were perfect.

Our North Carolina journey is off to a good start.

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Categories: Restaurants
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