The lights are finally on in the shopfront on the corner of Darley Road and Wentworth Street after years of closure. Well, not so much a light, as a lantern.
We ventured into the new Lantern Fish restaurant, as a guest of manager Carly Jin, last Thursday to provide our review.
What we discovered was an incredibly unique and interesting offering unlike anything we have locally. Some will find it the most exciting and delicious local foodie discovery in years, others may prefer the simplicity of a good battered fish and chips up the road.
We think it’s worth trying it out at least once to see which side you land on. The place puts in a lot of effort, and it’s a huge improvement on a vacant lot.
So who are they?
First I’ll let them describe themselves.
“Lantern Fish is Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian and Australian smashed together and served with booze and good times.”
At the helm is Kevin Un, a Malaysian-Indonesian chef who learnt French technique at Hubert, Chinese wok mastery at Lotus Dining Group, and contemporary Chinese as head chef at Sergeant Lok. His inventive but fun menu takes inspiration from all of his kitchen experience, his family and home (Indonesian on one side and Malaysian on the other), and his love for Sydney’s dining scene.
“I would describe my food as Malaysian, Indonesian and Chinese. It is my heritage combined with my experience.” Un says. “I like it to be creative, I don’t want my food to be found anywhere else but it won’t be over the top; no foams or gels. I want it to be different but I want it to be fun.”
There really is nothing like it in the area – the best I could try is placing it somewhere between Coya (the degustation fine dining venue recently moved from Cromer), and Little Pearl, with its south asian flair and flavour bombs.
It’s mid to mid-high range wallet wise, which it would need to be given the food quality and complicated dishes.
But before the food takes centre stage it’s worth appreciating the clean lines, and understated gorgeousness of the interior. It has woven chairs in muted colours, a good amount of space and the odd decorative quirk to remind you you’re there to be surprised.
Light timber furniture is framed by a myriad of indoor plants on one side and a series of stylistic leather and rattan banquettes on the other. The latter sit under a one-of-a-kind vintage light feature that’s sculpted to resemble a field of lotus over a pond.
The wine list is a decent selection from a casual glass to the “special occasion bottle” such as a 2009 Chateau Query Pindefleur from France at $120 a bottle (no we didn’t indulge) and the cocktails are pleasing. The Pandan Punch, which is similar but a little earthier than a Pina Colada, goes down well on a balmy afternoon. The Pirate Juice with a strong ginger warmth is better suited to a cooler eve.
We started with the fancy raw stuff. The yellowfin tuna tartare ($34), was a curious dish of inexplicably adjusted egg yolk, kombu jelly and pear with a Korean red pepper dressing which my husband enjoyed, though I much preferred the more classic hiramasa kingfish cerviche ($32) with apple, jalapeño and a coconut lime dressing.
A real standout was the spicy prawn fritter ($24) with a curry mayo and perfectly hand rolled cheeseburger spring rolls ($15) .
The Twice cooked Fremantle Octopus ($32) was a little too adventurous for me but the aptly named “perfectly crisp eggplant” ($24) was the best take on the vegetable I’ve ever had, which is saying a lot given I once lived in southern Italy.
The 12 hour slow cooked beef ribs ($42) and XO crab fried rice ($26) were generous, hearty meals cooked with a lot of love and care.
We finished with a perfect summer palate cleanser, the Summer Melon ($18), with a vanilla panna cotta, honey dew granite, rock melon and fig.
While there are already some commited regulars, the Lantern Fish team hopes- is still hoping- that folks on the eastern hill stroll down and give them a try.
The restaurant would work well for that need to impress client lunch, a special date or as an excuse to get together with your favourite neighbours to share a good bottle of wine and an adventure into culinary conversation starters. In the latter case, it’s definitely worth getting the banquet at $70 pp for 4 + covering off a lot of the hero dishes. For lunch lovers, be sure to spy their lunch specials board next time you’re meandering past.
The Lantern Fish venture is getting some strong bursts of mostly evening trade flared by the winds of word of mouth and foodie day trippers. But their woks need the constant regular turn of local trade. If we wish not lament another closed business on this corner, it’s worth investing in booking a table.
Lantern Fish is open Tues-Thursday from 12-3pm and 5-9pm and Friday- Sundays from 12-3pm and 5-10pm. Closed Monday.
It is located at Shop 5/2-8 Darley Road Manly
Phone: (02) 8962 2800 SHOP 5/2-8 DARLEY RD, MANLY NSW 2095
This is not a sponsored review, it is a genuine take on our experience. However, our meal and drinks were provided free for the purposes of review and we all know free food tastes a little bit sweeter.