“When eating bamboo sprouts, remember the man [and woman] who planted them.”
Thanksgiving is all about great food and giving thanks, but starting next week, Mammoth might just be giving thanks to Jim and Nancy Demetriades for great food when the Red Lantern officially opens it doors to the public.
The newest brainchild of Jim and Nancy (who also own Rafters and the Sierra Nevada Lodge), Red Lantern fills Mammoth’s Chinese food void.
The restaurant, which will have its soft opening on Nov. 30 (limited seating by reservation only) and its grand opening Dec. 2, offers high quality food made from scratch under the direction of Executive Chef Kerry Mechler.
“I have a passion for food,” Jim explained at a private tasting on Sunday evening. Having traveled all over the world for work, his taste buds have enjoyed some of the finest foods on the planet; an experience he wants to share with Mammoth.
“Our goal continues to be to take it up a notch in Mammoth … or two or three,” Jim said, of the latest restaurant to launch within his Sierra Nevada Resort.
Located downstairs in what was formally the Ocean Harvest building on Old Mammoth Road, a Chinese teacup of complimentary warm plum wine will greet diners coming in from the cold streets of Mammoth.
Nancy has managed to completely transform the vibe of the space with her decorating skills. This is not anything like Ocean Wok (for those readers who remember). This is gorgeous, fine dining with a reasonable price tag (everything on the menu is under $20, except perhaps the fried whole fish, which is listed at “Market Price”).
To keep things authentic, Nancy brought much of the decor over directly from China. Living up to its name, beautiful red lanterns are the main focus of the room. Purchased overseas, but painstakingly upgraded by Nancy (she burned her fingers on hot glue guns while replacing the tassels and fringe on each lantern hanging from the ceiling), the lanterns emit a soft glow for an intimate setting.
The wood doors to the back room, which can be closed off for private parties, are also from China and are full of intricate carvings, adding to the room’s appeal. No detail was overlooked by Nancy, who, while never having formal training, is a natural at the craft of interior design.
Another great feature are eight seats that face the kitchen. Think sushi bar seating.
“We wanted people to be able to engage with the chefs,” Jim said.
With the help of local contractor Tim Flynn, the building’s bones have also been completely redone.
“This is virtually a new building,” Jim explained. Indeed, the building has received a major facelift and is no longer the tired-looking structure it once was.
“Every skill and talent we have needed, we have found here [in Mammoth],” Jim said.
And that includes the staff. Mechler has been in town for many years and has been working at Rafters since its opening in December 2009. Also on the roster is Gary Mucci. Prior to moving to Mammoth, Mucci worked at Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills, and will now provide the creative juices behind Red Lantern’s bar in his role as Managing Bartender (the Lychee Martini is great).
“We knew Gary when he worked at Mr. Chow, and knew he had moved but didn’t know where until he came in and applied for the job here in Mammoth,” Jim said.
Chip Ermish has been in Mammoth for about a year and a half and has been working as the Wine Director for Rafters. He will serve in the same capacity for Red Lantern, as well as Jimmy’s, the third restaurant for the property coming early next year.
A former sales and marketing executive for NBC, Ermish did not have any formal wine training, but impressed Jim when he came in to Rafters and said that the wine list could be expanded to truly complement the menu. Jim had him plan the wine menu for a reunion he was hosting to give Ermish a shot. Jim liked what he saw, and Ermish was hired. Today the resort boasts more than 400 labels.
“Chinese food goes with wine pairings,” Ermish explained to Sunday’s group of 14 while lovingly listing off the wine on the menu. “Tonight we are going to have a pairings experience.”
And what an experience it was.
“We want your feedback,” Jim said. “The chefs have been working on the menus for six months, but let us know if anything is too salty.”
However, as delicious spring rolls, lettuce cups, wok squid, jicama and Asian pear salad, Kung Pao chicken, brussel sprout leaves, oversized fortune cookies with dipping sauces (a fun twist on the Chinese restaurant tradition), and more were brought out paired with just the right amount of sparkling South African, a Spanish white, French Chenin Blanc, and Oregon Pinot wines, I wasn’t thinking about the salt. I was simply thinking that good Chinese food had finally arrived in Mammoth.
Red Lantern officially opens next week and is a dining experience not to be missed. It is the latest addition to the Sierra Nevada Resort, the four-star establishment that Jim and Nancy are creating. When completed, the Resort will include the completely renovated Sierra Nevada Lodge and three high-end restaurants within walking distance. Jimmy’s will complete the restaurant trifecta with Mediterranean charcoal-grilled seafood.
For reservations at the Red Lantern, call 760.934.9432.