Paper Lantern took over the Guppy House location at Diamond Jamboree about six weeks ago, and since its opening, I’ve been here a handful of times, to experience the latest in the Xiao Long Bao craze.
The restaurant is a fast casual concept and attracts a good amount of customers during the lunch rush. Parking in this plaza is abysmal, and I highly recommend going right when they open, or in between the lunch and dinner rushes (if possible) to avoid the long lines.
After several visits, I have now managed to experience a good chunk of the menu. Start with some Pickled Cucumber ($4.50) which is not only refreshing, but a great respite to heavier options on the menu.
Beef Wrap ($5.50) is solid here, although sometimes, you will find some grisly braised beef hidden within the scallion pancake wrap. When the beef is right, the sandwich is stellar, with bites of perfectly balanced meat and carb ratio, and good texture throughout.
We tried Fried Pork Chop ($5.50) on one occasion. The coating was soggy and the longer it sits, the less appealing it becomes. I would like to try it again to see if it’s been improved upon.
If you like heat, try Lantern Spicy Wonton ($6.50), but only if you’re eating it on site. These wontons tend to stick together and the wrapper becomes gummy if you leave it too long in the container, if taken to go.
Of course, everyone comes for the Xiao Long Bao (XLB), and there are many to choose from. Classic Pork XLB ($4.75) are decent when eaten still hot, but surprisingly, I preferred the Chicken XLB ($4.75) better. There is also Black Truffle XLB ($10) which some people rave about. Me? Not so much. I am a purist when it comes to foods I grew up with, and truffle isn’t a flavor profile that I like with my XLBs.
Of course, if you are looking for other dumplings, the Pork and Prawn ($6) shumai are good too.
I really liked the Veggie ($4.75) dumplings, but make sure, like every other dumpling on the menu, you eat it hot. Once cold, they lack both texture and flavor that dumplings are known for.
Potsticker fans will enjoy Pan Fried Dumpling ($6) either stuffed with a pork filling, or chicken and cabbage. These were rather good with the crispy bottoms that is indicative of proper execution.
Noodle lovers can choose from two options. Sesame Noodles ($8) are a hit and miss depending on how and when you decide to eat it. If you’re taking this item to go, I suggest foregoing it all together. If you’re dining in, it should be eaten quickly, and definitely, before they become gummy and a sticky mess.
Spicy Noodle ($8) however, is able to withstand travel better, and is still viable after sitting around for 20 to 30 minutes. Although these noodles are only tossed in the sauce, you may add ground pork, or vegetables (not both) to them, free of charge. We opted for the ground pork, and it was reminiscent of dan dan noodle without the punchy Sichuan peppercorn numbness which accompanies them.
Paper Lantern is a good option when you’re craving this style of cuisine, on the go. The food comes out quickly, piping hot, and gives that instant gratification we are all looking for when the craving hits. If you’re not willing to wait for Din Tai Fung, then Paper Lantern is the ideal alternative to satiate that hankering without the long wait.
2730 Alton Pkwy Suite 101
Irvine, CA 92606