While the divier old favorites of the Chinatown International District deserve all the love they get, there’s nothing wrong with an equally good place that also looks nice for the same price. That’s what you get at Red Lantern. On Jackson near Fifth, Red Lantern has quietly been serving very tasty Chinese and Korean food in a sleek, contemporary setting since 2010. Even the complimentary tea is better than usual — it’s a nutty, slightly sweet Korean roasted-corn version.
The menu: Favorites like General Tso’s and kimchi fried rice are available, but the lengthy menu also offers stuff like brown braised pig feet and spicy tendon. They advise ordering family style, and that main dishes serve one or two people (a conservative estimation of the giant portions).
What to write home about: Red Lantern pot stickers ($7.95 for eight) are superlative: Their thin wrappers are filled with a subtler, better-than-usual mix of ground pork, shrimp, spinach and cilantro; they come all lined up in a rolled format rather than in the usual half-moon dumplings; and they’ve got exactly the right grease factor.
The dried red chili chicken ($12.95) is a huge heap of golden-fried goodness, spiced to an incendiary level, with dozens of additional whole dried chili pods mixed in throughout for the truly hard-core. If you walk through the hallway by the kitchen while they’re making it, you’ll want a gas mask.
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What to skip: If your party’s 21 and over, skip the dining room and ask to sit in the lounge; it’s got a red and gold silk kimono hanging on the wall, and it’s more intimate and more fun.
Summing up: Three mains plus pot stickers and steamed rice — easily enough to feed four — totaled $46.80.