Name: The Lanterne Rooms
Address: 3 Blamey Place, Campbell Shops
Ph: (02) 6249 6889
Owner/Chef: Jeremy Shim
Hours: Lunch, Tuesday to Friday; Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday
It was the cool, dark Canberra evening of the final Friday before daylight saving ended. Walking through a door in a small suburban shopping centre, I was transported to South-East Asia.
The décor of Lanterne Rooms, the Malaysian outpost from the owners of the stalwart Chairman and Yip, makes you feel like you’ve walked into a scene from the Deer Hunter, except with nicer cutlery and less Russian roulette. With high thatched roof, walls of solid, bold colours with traditional artefacts, and gorgeous old-style ceiling fans, just sitting in there made me feel warmer instantly.
Chef Jeremy Shim’s food alternates between classic ‘nyonya’ cuisine and modern Malay, and it is a solid delivery. We were advised that, for a large group, the best option was to go for the banquet. And I always listen to the house.
A fried spring-roll of duck started off the meal, and pretty well set up the rest of the evening. It was perfectly pleasant, but it lacked the real richness that you expect from duck.
Being pleasant but unexciting became a bit of a theme for the rest of the meal. Spicy Cassava wasn’t that spicy, and was served with some ManTau bread, which is less exotic than it sounds. Galangal-lemongrass chicken with sambal okra felt like it needed a touch more flavour.
There was tender and comforting wagyu beef stew, and some well textured rice noodles matched nicely with some sweet pieces of pork, but it lacked punch.
The one exception was the prawns. Tom Yum infused crispy prawns gave a sweetly salty bite, drenched in a brilliantly sweet and sour rock melon and apple slaw. Perfectly balanced, this was a flavour combination you don’t usually find, and had that difference, that point of excitement that the rest of the meal lacked. Give me a big bowl of this, I wouldn’t need the rest of the banquet.
Still, with a good bottle of Chablis, a reasonable Pinot Noir, a bunch of friends, pleasant food delivered in spades makes for a fun evening. The servings were large, and the service was very happy to accommodate people. And at $58.50 per person for the banquet, it didn’t make my wallet cry.
I just wish the food was as exciting as the fans.