There’s a form of pristine sleekness when entering Red Lantern, with the glossy mahogany tables and polished floors as a warm welcome offsets the cool air from outside.
But more than the appearance, the food is what really matters to the owners, the Li family.
With a menu featuring dishes ranging from all across East Asia, Red Lantern is the outlier among the many restaurants in the International District. Red Lantern showcases the spiciness of Sichuan and Korean cuisine, as well as the sweet-yet-sour Shanghai dishes.
Kent Li, his wife, Eva, and daughter, Tiffany, moved and started up the restaurant in 2010 in Seattle for one reason.
“My wife liked the Seattle area,” Kent Li said. “That’s why we moved to the Seattle area.”
From Chicago, they brought over a comprehensive menu and 19 years of experience running a successful Chinese restaurant in the Chicago area.
The merging of the culinary cultures goes beyond what’s offered at their past and present restaurants; Kent himself grew up in Shanghai and Eva was born and raised in Korea. Yet, what the two can offer to the table is much more than the culture.
“I have cooking experience for over 30 years,” Kent Li said “And my wife is a French pastry chef.”
The conclusive element of a meal at Red Lantern includes the creations of black tea crème brulee and red tea tiramisu, influenced by Eva, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York and the French Pastry School in Chicago.
In the future, the family would like to stretch their creativity and expand the menu even more.
“Eva was telling me how back at the other restaurant, they had dim sum, like steamed buns and everything,” Tiffany Li said.
A small dose of their creative thought was put into the sharp layout and interior design of the restaurant. A designer from b9 Architects, a local architecture firm, guided their vision and fully designed the restaurant. Finding someone within the International District was a key to their decision.
“We want to help each other grow,” Kent Li said.
More than simply business, the family wants to see the area around them develop and flourish, and help as much as possible to do so.
“Besides money, we try to help the whole Chinatown to grow,” Kent Li said. “My hope is to get more travelers, more tourists, to stop in Seattle’s Chinatown.”
For the family, their best way to do so is to merge differences on the dinner table.
“Food is central to everyone’s culture,” Tiffany Li said. “It brings everyone together.”
Red Lantern is located at 520 South Jackson Street, Seattle, WA 98104.