By Moreton Neal (Food Critic)
In our current age of celebrity chefs, Lantern’s owner/chef Andrea Reusing is to Chapel Hill what Ben Barker is to Durham. Both are media magnets, and for good reason. They are brilliantly creative inventive cooks with a depth of culinary knowledge. They are dedicated to using the freshest produce and maintain strong relationships with the local food artisans and farmers that supply their kitchens. Like Ben and Karen Barkers’ Magnolia Grill, Andrea’s Lantern is modest in size with a simple, artfully decorated dining room.
But the source of their inspiration is a hemisphere apart. While Barker focuses in his own backyard, the American South, Reusing works her magic reinventing Asian classics. Her brilliant cooking, which utilizes familiar local produce in classic Asian recipes, has attracted so much media much attention this fall that it’s almost impossible to open a food magazine without seeing her name. Gourmet’s cites Lantern as one of their top 50 restaurants, Food and Wine praises her wine pairings and Saver credits her with contributing to Chapel Hill’s status as one of the “five best food towns in America.”
Every item on the menu reflects Reusing’s inventive sensibility. Even the cocktails are stellar. For your splurge, try a Hibiscus Petal (hibiscus-infused vodka, fresh lime juice and Thai basil) while choosing from a menu that includes such temptations as “Wok-roasted Stump Sound clams with local green chiles, black beans & tsing tao” or “red-cooked Chapel Hill Creamery pork shoulder and fresh bacon with black mushroom sticky rice.” Finish the meal with a chai pot de crème and cardamom shortbread.
Then sit back and thank your lucky stars, and Andrea Reusing, for blessing us with the subtle splendor that is Lantern.