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Aji Tram owner to launch Lantern

Eric Mann opening second restaurant in central Eastside Portland

STAFF PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Aji Tram Executive Chef Santino Monteblanco takes a break from kitchen. Monteblanco will also serve as executive chef at Lantern, the new venture of Eric Mann and Will Storey opening in central Eastside Portland in November.

It had been an ambition of Eric Mann’s to open a restaurant from the early age of 12, one he accomplished in 2014 with the opening of Aji Tram.

The Lake Oswego restaurant offers a fresh concept of mixing the flavors of different Asian cuisines. The flavors and décor are bright and deliberate, making the restaurant a popular spot for diners throughout the Portland metro area. Attesting to that is the fact that Aji Tram was named to OpenTable’s list of the “Top 10 restaurants our diners love” earlier in October.

SUBMITTED PHOTOS - Eric Mann, left, owner of Aji Tram and the soon-to-open Lantern, works with Aji Tram manager Adam Garside to make every detail perfect for diners. Aji Tram was recently named one of OpenTable's 'TopTen Restaurants our Diners Love.'

Fired up by the success of the first two years, Mann is ready to launch Lantern, a new cocktail lounge serving Vietnamese-inspired cuisine enhanced with French-cooking techniques. Joining him in the venture is another Lake Oswegan, Will Storey, the former manager of Uptown Liquor, who will serve as general manager of the lounge. Lantern will share services of Aji Tram’s Executive Chef Santino Monteblanco and Zach Edwards, bar manager.

Monteblanco is a Portland native who, like Mann, began cooking at an early age. He said he and his brother were responsible for making breakfast each day when they were growing up. Between the two of them, they could make French toast and bacon, but he was inspired by Japanese and Korean exchange students who stayed with his family. He is also influenced by French cuisine and was classically trained at Western Culinary Institute.

“Eric loves Vietnamese cuisine, and Korean and Japanese are my favorites,” he said. “We come up with dishes and then play with them. I like to have fun with food, but I am serious about quality and consistency. Asian cuisine is vibrant and fun.”

Monteblanco explained that the French influence on Vietnamese foods shows up mainly in methods, rather than ingredients like butter and cream.

“Lantern will have Vietnamese flavors served in the French fine-dining style,” he said. “There will be a big focus on presentation, quality ingredients, traditional fruits and vegetables and seafood.”

Zach Edwards will serve as bar manager at Aji Tram and Lantern.

The restaurant will serve small plates and sharable dishes, which are classic Vietnamese dishes served family style. Cocktails will be paired with the foods.

“Whether you are 24 or 82, if you understand great food, you will like what we do at Lantern,” Monteblanco said.

Zach Edwards has joined Aji Tram as bar manager and like Monteblanco will support both locations.

Lantern will open late November and is located at 726 S.E. Grand Ave. in Portland.

Will Storey is partnering with Mann on Lantern. He will serve as general manager; Mann is operational manager of the new cocktail lounge.

“Cocktails will be the centerpiece,” Storey said. “Lantern will play to your senses. It’ll be the turning off from the streets of Portland into an alley bar in Vietnam — rich smells, a warm and energetic ambiance and intense flavors.”

Lantern will cater to a late-night crowd that goes with the theme of the neighborhood, opening in the late afternoon and carrying the fun into the early morning hours. A late-night menu will be served after 10 p.m. that will include some “very quirky and unique items you won’t find anywhere else around town. We’re really excited about the location and the group of neighbors,” Storey said. “This neighborhood continues to thrive and produce some awesome spots that customers really love and we’re really looking to be part of that.”

To read a sample menu, visit lanternpdx.com.

Aji Tram opens at 4 p.m. each day, and closes at 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 10 p.m. on Thursday and later on Friday and Saturday. Happy hour is served every day from 4-6 p.m. and all day on Monday. It is located at 4477 Lakeview Blvd., Lake Oswego. Learn more online at ajitram.com. Make reservations through OpenTable or call 503-342-6259.

Contact Barb Randall at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 503-636-1281 ext. 100.