Chinese cuisine has always been popular with Karachites. One of the many new entrants in this mushrooming market is The Lantern located at 76 Old Clifton near the Two Swords roundabout.
Decor and ambiance
A fairly new restaurant, the Lantern opened its doors to diners on 21st January this year with an inciting deal of a 15% discount during the first week. Offering both outdoor and indoor seating, the eatery is housed in a small single story building with a seating capacity of 20 to 25 people.
Furnished with simple wooden furniture, the rectangular shaped dining area sports a sunny and inviting vibe mostly due to the large almost floor-length glass window overlooking the courtyard outside.
The opposite wall of the room is adorned with a lush vertical hanging garden overflowing with a plethora of the Boston fern and dracaena and a small rectangular stone display of polished white rocks running under its length. The roof is decorated with a sea of beautifully lighted soft pink and white Chinese lanterns giving the environment an ethereal feel.
Going over the menu one notices that the choice of dishes is rather limited. For soup among the two options available, we ordered individual servings of the Hot and Sour Soup priced at Rs. 175 (exclusive of tax).
The red colored, chili sauce infused broth garnished with a little green onion was served piping hot. Tasting predominantly of tomato and a lot of red pepper corn with miniscule wafer-thin pieces of chicken and egg, the soup was flavorsome but very spicy. It was also missing the wild mushrooms that the menu described it to contain which contributed to a lack of heartiness in the overall dish. The serving size though was more than enough for one person.
For the main course we ordered Beef with Black Bean Sauce and Chicken Fried Rice priced at Rs. 525 and Rs. 325 (exclusive of tax) respectively. Garnished with thin strips of carrot and green onion on top, a cucumber fan on the side and pieces of red bell pepper and green capsicum, the presentation was simple and uncluttered. The beef prepared in chili oil sauce was cooked to perfection; the meat was succulent, soft and a little sweet to the taste which went along fabulously with the black bean sauce and pieces of baby corn. The dish had almost no gravy (which is optional) but paired well with the rice. The helping was generous and ideal for two people.
On the other hand, the Chicken Fried Rice disappointed in terms of serving size which was sufficient for one person only. In terms of taste, the rice with small pieces of chicken and a garnishing of green onion, coriander and strips of carrot and green capsicum, was average at best.
For dessert, the menu offered only one dish – the Fried Fruit Candy priced at Rs. 345 (exclusive of tax). The confection was designed around six pieces of fruit – kiwi, apple and banana – all fried in a light batter of sesame seeds and served with a golden sweet syrup and crushed whole red pepper corn.
This dish was by far my least favorite item of the day for several reasons. For one, the helping was barely adequate for one person. Two, the pricing was not in correlation with the quantity. Six small pieces of fruit are hardly worthy of a whopping Rs. 345! Thirdly, the candy was served with small dessert spoons which made it a struggle to cut and lift the fruit. A fork would have been more appropriate especially since the fruit is supposed to be dipped in the syrup.
The service was quick and closely supervised by the two nervous but enthusiastic young owners who were quite keen on getting consumer feedback.
Hit or miss? A hit!
The Lantern is still in its infancy and needs to work out several teething problems such as providing better value for money, improving the serving size and presentation of dishes and expanding its menu, especially desserts. But it has one thing going in its favor – flavorsome and good quality Chinese food. Definitely a restaurant to watch out for in the days to come!
A word of advice – the restaurant does not accept credit/debit cards at present so do have some cash handy.
My rating for The Lantern, Karachi is 3.5/5.
Top image from The Lantern’s Facebook Page