311 Second Ave., Gramercy Park
It’s inexpensive. It has a tasteful, contemporary New AgeAsiatic decor. O.K. it veers a bit on the très side trendy, but it’s withoutthe attitude. That makes for a relaxing atmosphere, that’s pleasing to the eye without pretension or the annoying hipster vibe.
Lantern has an attractive bar area and now with a good array of mixed drinks, both standard and exotic as well as wines by the glass. Drink prices are comparable to your average Manhattan bar. Non-alcoholic drinks with exotic fruit juices are also an option here.
The portions are satisfying, not mammoth, but on the generous side of moderate. The service is hit or miss in that you’ll experience the occasional mix up and lapses in attentiveness, but all of the servers I have encountered (I have eaten here five times) have generally been courteous and accommodating.
In one particular instance, our host noticed that our appetizers were taking an inordinate amount of time to come out. It was a very busy evening and he cameover to ask us whether we’d already received them. When we told him that we hadn’t he looked into it and told us that the order had not gone through.
He appeared authentically embarrassed and asked us whether we’d still like to have the appetizers along with our entrees, which were about to be served or if we’d like to have desserts on the house. Since our entrees were about to be served,we opted for dessert ( mud chocolate cake with ice cream). The point is there was a lapse, but the host addressed it promptly and efficiently and we were not left feeling like our patronage was unappreciated.
The appetizer menu is what I find most appealing here. It’s diverse and offers items that are original and contains selections that are not restricted to your run of the mill satay chicken and papaya salad, although you can find these here too.
I especially like the Thai crepe, the Lantern’s Angel and the grilled beef skewer with eggplant. For a light, clean, refreshing starter, try the summer roll. The raw ingredients exude freshness and they’re served with a smooth sweet and tangy plum sauce.
If your dining with a friend, I highly recommend ordering the small plate tasting menu, which includes any three appetizers of your choice.
In terms of the main plates, noodles are up to snuff, but nothing particularly memorable. The drunken noodles and the pad thai are good noodle choices here. The pad se ew was a bit too heavy on the coconut milk for my liking and left a lingering sweet and tangy aftertaste.
There is not a very large selection of curries, but the ingredients they
are made with are consistently fresh and the spice factor you request is
satisfactorily met. The vegetable red curry I had here was good. The sauce
was flavorful and I especially enjoyed the generous use of basil. A more exotic choice of vegetables instead of bell peppers, zucchini and bamboo shoots
and larger chunks of softer tofu (as it was the tofu was diced and the texture was too toothsome for a curry broth) in this dish would have made it squarely above average.
On the whole, though the food quality is fresh, dishes are tasty and this place is a very good value.