311 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(212) 777-2770

Lantern, which also has an outpost in Brooklyn, recently cropped up in Gramercy after the demise of Pongsri Thai. Lantern, also Thai, changed it up by removing the old fashioned traditionalism of Pongsri and replacing it with a space that is far more bright, trendy, and young. I grew up in this neighborhood and always remember Pongsri having a pretty good rep for cheap, tasty Thai grub. I'm glad to see that the tradition is continuing at Lantern.

I forget how exactly I found the time to eat out this past week, given the workload and late nights, but somehow squeezed it in and convinced Mr. Dogz to head down from the Upper West Side to join me.

I got there early and was given a table where I ordered a Lychee Martini and perused the menu. Lantern, you will immediately notice, is dirt cheap. The appetizers average $5 and the entrees average $12. The most expensive thing on the menu were the red snapper dishes at $17 and my noodles were $9. The drinks are a little more expensive than the rest of the menu implies, with all cocktails costing $9. It seems that Lantern, much like Joya, makes a good portion of its money on liquor. Sadly, my lychee martini was mediocre. Not very strong and kind of bland. Thankfully, the rest of the food we ordered was top notch.

To start with I ordered the Curry Puff Chicken; curried chicken in a potato puff pastry shell with a sweet cucumber dipping sauce. It was very good, but a bit doughy. Too much potato. Still I'd order it again without reservation. I also decided to try the Tom Yum Soup with Shrimp. Normally at Thai restaurants, I find myself ordering a coconut-based soup and the time came to break out of my rut. This soup was the weakest link in the meal. It had shrimp, lemongrass, chili paste, mushrooms, and a hint of lime. But that was it. There were three (3) shrimp, and could have used vegetables instead of just mushrooms and broth. There just wasn't much there and what was there was reaaaally spicy. I like spicy and it was hot even for me. Mr. Dogz ordered the Tuna Tartare. Neither of us expected it to be quite so large. The dish came with large chunks of tuna and avocado, on a salad with a dressing (of sorts) of miso mustard puree. It was delicious to begin with and, given its size, very well priced. At any other restaurant, it would have cost twice as much, at least.

Dogz then moved on to the Green Curry with Vegetarian Duck. The dish has bamboo shoots, eggplant, bell pepper, basil, and of course, the vegetarian duck. I never even knew that vegetarian duck existed, but there it is. I tried it and liked it, but didn't really have enough to render a thoroughly valid opinion. Mr. Dogz, however, gives it a rave review. He felt that it was better than the green curry he's used to ordering at Land, his previous top pick for cheap Thai. The curry sauce, he says, was sweeter than Land's and the spice, while there, wasn't overpowering. I ordered the Beef Pad Se Ew; beef, flat rice noodles, egg, broccoli, and a dark soy bean sauce stir fried together. Delicious. I can't really compare it to any other Pad Se Ews I may have had since my South Beach brain does a pretty good job steering me away from noodle dishes, but this was truly a great dish. And it wasn't even all that heavy. This isn't a spicy dish. In fact, it's so mild that your friends who don't like "ethnic" food (alternatively known as out-of-towners) will find themselves enjoying it. It certainly doesn't lack in flavor. And like the green curry, was a relatively sweet dish. I definitely found myself wishing that there were more of it, even though I was so full that we skipped dessert.

Our three drinks, three appetizers, and two entrees, plus tax and tip totaled $73.

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