Some friends and I went to dinner on Friday night at the Lantern in Chapel Hill. Parking in Chapel Hill is a stressful endeavor and not a great way to start the evening. However, once we finally got settled at our table, we had a wonderful evening.
The atmosphere is great: modern, attractive and flattering lighting, a giant vase of forsythia stems in bloom. Our server was attentive but not fawning. He gave us excellent recommendations on the food and wine.
For starters, we shared some pork and chive dumplings. They were delicious. Sometimes dumplings taste like mystery meat and mystery seasoning, but these definitely has the taste of pork and chives. The waiter told us that the pork and crab dumplings are also delicious so I am looking forward to trying those someday soon.
For the main course, I had a pork shank braised in coconut milk with galangal. The meat was falling off the bone tender. The coconut milk was rich but not sweet. A papaya side dish was refreshing and a nice contrast to the rich, heavy pork.
One friend ordered the whole fried flounder. It was spicy and seasoned with garlic and chilis. She ate every last morsel (except the tail fin and the eyeball). The fish was tender and perfectly cooked.
My other friend ordered chicken smoked in tea served in a cognac sauce. The tea gave the smoked chicken a unique flavor. I liked it very much. While every dish was delicious, I could not get enough of the tea smoked chicken. I will order it next time.
A regular feature of the Lantern's dinner menu is the black cod. I usually order that but I am glad I branched out during this visit.
The desserts looked fabulous but we were too stuffed. Instead we ordered tea. After dinner we retired to the bar behind the dining room. It's a cool space: dimly lit with black and red decor.
I highly recommend the Lantern for a great night out.