Friday, June 21, 2013

Solaire Resort & Casino: Dim Sum Buffet at Red Lantern

A week later after my Solaire staycation, Jericho, his sister Justice, and my brother Nap, headed back to the resort and casino on a weekday to check out Red Latern's Dim Sum Buffet (P880++ per person). I know, we just can't seem to get enough of Solaire, we just had to go back and check out their restaurants.

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The name is a beacon calling out to diners from all over the world. The collection of specialty chefs led by Chinese Master Chef Chan makes this a true culinary destination. Suckling Pig, Peking Duck, homemade dim sum for lunch: the list of mouthwatering, authentic gourmet spectacles goes on and on. Ingredients arrive daily from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, all for the enjoyment of Manila’s very own. Fancy the fresh fish and admire the custom made fine bone china. Whether you gather for a private party or simply feel like feasting, Red Lantern is sure to impress.

I have to say, the whole restaurant looked magnificent, like a posh Hong Kong establishment with a motif of mostly black, yellow, and red. The room dividers were made up of huge glass panels with Cantonese calligraphy, and I marveled at how pretty the modern red lanterns looked. We were shown to our seats, and I fell in love with the buttery soft leather of the yellow chairs - I'd sneak one home with me if only they would fit in my bag.

After ticking off everything we wanted to try on the dimsum list (which was basically the whole menu), we spent a good 15 minutes talking animatedly about the interesting origami wall decor over cups of freshly poured Tie Guan Yin tea, that also happened to be the house of tea of the day.

For starters, we were served a small plate of wintermelon with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. I've never had actual wintermelon before, just the ones that come in drink form (preferably come kind of milk tea). The bright yellow cubes were a bit sweet, but mostly sour, which was surprising, given that the wintermelon concoctions I'm used to are usually the sickly sweet kind.

Lunch started with Steamed Pork Ribs with Black Beans. This was more for my brother, since he's allergic to seafood. I thought I'd give him a head start on the pork and chicken dishes. This was alright - nothing to write home about.

Nap also had and order of Steamed Chicken Feet with XO Sauce. My brother was the only one at the table that ate chicken feet, since the rest of us were weirded out by it, and he said he really liked that there was a lot of heat coming from the XO sauce, which was what made the dish so appealing. Whatever tickles your fancy, bro,

I liked the next dish that came out - the Barbecued Pork Rice Rolls. Bathed in a simple broth, the flavors of the diced barbecued pork was brought out in the delicate rolls. I only wish the diced pork were chunkier, so you get a nice mouthful with every bite - it was lacking a bit in the meat department.

I think the Shrimp and Parsley Rice Rolls were better. You could get a decent amount of shrimp with each serving, yet it was a challenge picking it up with chopsticks - the rice rolls were slipping and sliding all over the place!

I was looking forward to the Hot and Sour 'Schezuan' Soup with Seafood. Upon tasting it, I was disappointed to discover that it was too salty, and the heat was too overpowering, taking over the flavor profiles of what would have been an incredible soup. I tried diluting the saltiness with a few drops of black vinegar, but to no avail.

I didn't like the Vegetable Dumplings with Fermented Red Bean Curd too much, but this is definitely something for the vegetarians in the fambam. I like my dumplings with some sort of meat in them - preferably shrimp or crab - so this wasn't doing it for me.

We had quite a few re-ordrers of the Shrimp Dumplings with Coriander and Water Chestnuts (Har Kau). Jericho, although mildly allergic to shrimp, kept popping them in his gob like they were cocktail sausages. They were perfect, the shrimp, coriander, and water chestnuts were wrapped in an almost see-through wrapper.

The Pan-fried Radish Cake with Sausage was disappointing, it felt like I was eating sawdust. It was really bland. Where the heck was the radish and sausage?! Needless to say, no one touched this after we all got a bite. Bleh.

We all loved the Mashed Yam Puff Dumpling with Minced Pork and Black Pepper Milk Sauce! The crispy golden skin reveals a soft inside, with pork and a mixture of other kinds goodness that I can't describe inside. Yum!

I love, love, love Red Lantern's Golden Barbecued Pork Pastries with Walnuts! I think I had around three of these babies, everything about them just makes me want to smile! The pastry was more like an empanada shell, with the inside revealing hot, barbecued pork bits, topped with the crunch and sweetness of a walnut.

Everyone at the table also enjoyed the Pan-Fried Shrimp in Bean Curd Rolls. What is it with fried Chinese food that just makes everything taste so good? You dip these fingerlings in Worcestershire sauce and savor every bit of them.

I was looking forward to the Assorted Meat Dumplings in Superior Stock, but they didn't really blow me away. They were like Xiao Long Bao without the soup or a Chinese version of gyoza.

I left Nap to his own devices and let him have all of the Steamed Pork Dumplings. There was a teeny tiny bit of shrimp in each of the 'Siew Mai', so he'd pick it off, and like the sweet brother that he is, put it on my plate for me to eat. Aww, thanks, bro.

The Fried Shanghai Buns were so cute! The mantao were bite-sized, golden rolls of happiness we'd dip into condensed milk and savor every inch of. Isn't this more or a dessert dish though?

A surprise hit at the table was the Deep-fried 'Kataifi Roll' with Avocado. Delicate deep-friend strings were wrapped around a piece of avocado, so you get a warm creamy center after you get through its crunchy outer shell. This worked as a great palette cleanser.

My brother couldn't get enough of the Glazed Fluffy Barbecue Pork Buns! I didn't have any, but they was so good we had to order three of these. Nap ate most of it. I think he also squirreled away at least two more in his hamster cheeks. Take that, Kowloon!

I also liked the Glutinous Rice with Chicken and Salted Egg Wrapped in Lotus Leaf. More commonly known as machang, - you can get bigger versions of these stuffed with mushrooms, pork, chicken, and other good stuff over at Chinatown. Jericho didn't take too much of a liking to it, though. I think this was a taste I acquired when I was dating my Chinese ex-boyfriend. Dòjeh!

The Beef Balls with Crunchy Green Vegetables didn't look very appetizing to me. They looked like bola-bola sans the bun, but with beef instead of pork. Jericho confirmed it was a beef-y bola bola, but appreciated the fact that it was really juicy. I don't know, they just looked like someone's shaved balls to me.

After the pan-fried shrimp wrapped in bean curd, I was looking forward to trying the Steamed Bean Curd Skins Stuffed with Pork and Shrimp. They were as disappointing as the radish cakes. Because they were steamed, they had a weird, gummy texture to them, and whatever was in the sauce left it with a sour aftertaste. Weird all around - I think I threw up a little in my mouth. This is definitely an acquired taste.

The Crispy Shrimp Dumplings brought back some great childhood memories for me, so of course, I ordered another plate of these babies. The crispy fried wontons revealed perfect bite-sized portions of shrimp inside, and dipping into the sweet chili sauce tied in the flavors nicely.

The Steamed Custard Bun, or Liu Shao Bao, was supposed to ooze custard-y goodness when bitten into. Sadly it did not - the custard was thick, cold, and refused to do any kind of oozing, no matter how hard I tried.

We had better luck with the Oven-Baked Egg Tartlets that came out fresh from the oven and piping hot! The custard was perfect, almost as good as the ones you'd wait in line for in Hong Kong. The layers and layers of puff pastry held little golden globs of creamy warm custard, melting in your mouth with each bite. I would've ordered another round of these if I wasn't stuffed to popping.

My brother needs his rice, otherwise this whole eating exercise would just be called merienda, but thankfully the dim sum buffet came with a few rice dishes. He got himself a plate of Fried Rice with Barbecued Pork that he wolfed down. It must've been been really good, since it was gone pretty fast and he had no complaints.

Jericho and Justice, on the other hand, needed their noodle fix and ordered some Crispy Noodles with Chicken in Brown Sauce. This looked like it went over with them quite well, the noodles remained crispy even after a good 20 minutes of leaving them to soak while we attacked the other dim sum dishes.

For dessert, we had the Chinese staple, Sesame Balls with Lotus Paste, commonly referred to here as buchi. I can only describe this as ok - we've all had buchi before. I guess I was hoping they'd do something a bit different with the filling, like maybe a nice dark chocolate filling or a buchi's take on Fererro Rocher. Mmm...

We also had Chilled Glass Jelly with Longan, Sweetened Sago Cream with Seasonal Fruit, and Chilled Osmanthus Flower and Wolfberry with Aloe Vera. Dessert was saved with my favorite was the Chilled Osmanthus Flower and Wolfberry, it tasted sweet, with the wolfberries giving it a nice flavor that was totally unfamiliar to my palette, and the aloe vera giving you a bit of bite. Justice and Nap took to the Sweetened Sago Cream with bits of seasonal fruit - strawberries and melon, mostly. The glass jelly was left untouched, as it was neither sweet nor appetizing.

When mucking around Solaire, sit down and enjoy a dim sum buffet at Red Lantern  with friends! Try different types of Cantonese cuisine and share your favorites or discover new ones, with their wide array of dim sum and other delicious dishes!

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Images taken by Jericho San Miguel

Red Lantern
+63 2 888-8888
G/F Solaire Resort & Casino
1 Solaire Boulevard, Entertainment City
Metro Manila