Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Lucky Red - Asian Bar Snacks in Chinatown

Brought to you by David, Phil and Peter Chau, the brothers behind Banh Mi Boys re-launched Lucky Red six months ago in April. I went to check out the place recently and I'm happy to report that I absolutely love it there. I loved the space, the food, the cocktails, and the prices.

A bit of background for you guys. When Lucky Red (Twitter: @LuckyRedShop, Facebook: Lucky Red) first opened its doors in the summer of 2014 its set-up was similar to Banh Mi Boys - think an order-at-the-counter, street food-focused eatery that served steamed baos and noodle soup. Due to unforeseen execution issues the concept didn't work out as planned and after just a few months the Chau brothers decided to shut down Lucky Red in September. I never had an opportunity to visit Lucky Red Ver. I before it closed - so no thoughts on the place - but after hearing good things about Lucky Red Ver. II I knew I was due for a visit.

In one sentence, I would say Lucky Red Ver. II is a fully-licensed, sit-down restaurant that serves affordable and delicious Asian bar snacks and drinks :)

Lucky Red's menu is divided into six categories: Steamed Baos, Small Plates, Snacks, Veggies, Fried Chicken, and Sweets. All are meant to be shared. Other than the the 4pc and 6pc fried chicken everything is priced under $10 (click here for online menu).

The cocktails at Lucky Red are all very reasonably priced at $9-$11. I wanted to try their Five Spice Bourbon Sour too but I had to drive. Too bad. Next time! These two were both very tasty; the Lucky Red was light and refreshing and the Shin Akuma was more bold and boozy.

LUCKY RED (Left, $10)
Gold rum, ginger beer, ribena, lime, mint
SHIN AKUMA (Right, $11)
Hennessy, amaro nonino, black walnut bitters, orange zest

Herbs trinity, peanuts, shrimp cracker
This Vietnamese take on beef tartare was quite nice although I wasn't fond of the pool of water that was slowly accumulating on the plate. Aside from that I enjoyed the crunch from the peanuts, the mixture of herbs that made the tartare taste distinctively Vietnamese (possibly the use of Thai basil, coriander, cilantro, etc) and the squeeze of lime that brought everything together. The shrimp crackers were a terrific vehicle since they were light and mild in taste, and didn't take away or overpower the flavour of the tartare.

Red sauce, pickled onion
Perfectly soft and fluffy, a bit squishy yet sturdy, these steamed baos should be the standard of how all steamed baos should be! The braised then seared pork belly (two slices in each bao) was tender, juicy and very flavourful. The generous dose of scallions and pickled onions was great for texture and do a great job in cutting the fattiness from the pork belly. 

Pork dumpling, kimchi salsa
A spin on the classic bar food and a play on kimchi fries, deep fried pork dumplings replaces chips here. The pork wontons are then topped with a cheesy kimchi salsa, spicy mayo and scallions. It's weird but it works.

Four ginormous pieces of fried chicken for $11 is an extremely good deal but hey, size is not everything! The chicken's gotta taste good too...and it does. So very good! The five spice fried chicken comes out pipping hot and the meat inside is extremely tender and moist. The crispy skin basically encapsulates all the heat and juices inside until you take that very first bite. The chicken is served with a very hot house-made hot sauce, cornichons and lime. I've concluded that this fried chicken at Lucky Red ranks second on my "Favourite Fried Chicken in the City" list (Bar Fancy takes first place).

Our server described the Cinnabao as, "You know how most people love the ooey, gooey middle part of the Cinnabon? Well, all of this is... that." All I'm going to say is that the Cinnabao was so ridiculously good I still think about it. I had such a tough time putting down my fork, I kept on nibbling at it. A part of me knows I should stop because I had way too much food already and this was obviously not the healthiest of desserts, but the other part of me couldn't' get over how crazy good something so simple could be! I ended up eating 3/4 of the Cinnabao and leaving the rest for my friend...who also ate a lot more than he intended. This Cinnabao should be called Crack Bao.

I walked out of Lucky Red really satisfied; my tummy and wallet were both very content with the food and drinks there. I've already thought about what I'm going to order the next time I'm aLucky Red, and it goes something like this: Ham Bao Ger and Fried Chicken Steamed BaosBacon & Liver Terrine, Duck Gravy PoutineJapanese Eggplant, Fried Chicken (yes again!) and Durian Tart.

Lucky Red Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato