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Sunday, March 11, 2007






Great Eastern Dining Room



IT'S EVEN BETTER THIS TIME AROUND
WITH COLTRANE ON THE K.L.H.



I’ve always had a mistrust of fusion food (a bit like Les and his terrible fear of chives). Isn’t it just a method of dishing up cheap stir-fries at inflated prices and when there is something echt on the menu the result is usually watered down because “the British don’t really like foreign food, do they ?”. However, on the occasions I’ve been dragged into one of Will Ricker’s Pan-Asian joints I’ve always ended up eating pretty well. Several visits to Cicada and E&O spring to mind although this may have been not unconnected with the fact that Ian Pengelley was cooking there at the time. With this in mind and partly to expunge the horrors of the previous night’s disastrous Iberian campaign I popped into Great Eastern Dining Rooms which also happens to be in the DH hood.

I hadn’t been here since the late nineties during the restaurant’s previous incarnation as a not-bad Italian. The decor hadn’t changed and looked similar to all the other restaurants in the chain, a sort of functional, worn, chic. The place was a buzzin’with thirty-somethings sporting chunky spectacles and designer sideburns. Makes a change from the Hoxton Fin (or rather Hoxton Fillet/combover as Wikipedia would have it). And yet again, despite initial misgivings I had a very enjoyable meal.

A dry martini though a bit short on the visceral punch of gin was still acceptable and the array of dishes which turned up more than passed muster. There was the signature chilli salt squid which was good but lacking a bit on the chilli side of things. Crispy pork belly was several bit-sized cubes of unctuous percy offset by a tart black vinegar dip. Prawn tempura were large greaseless specimens that were crunchy and good.

A reasonable delay to let that lot go down was followed by some more pork, strikingly similar to the starter but cut in larger cubes which came with a son-in-law egg which Google tells me is a Thai dish of deep fried egg covered in a tamarind sauce. The tamarind was non-existent but the egg was rather nice as all deep fried food tends to be. There was also an zest salad as an accompaniment. Black Cod came on a unnecessarily elongated plate but the dish was sound. A dense piece of lacquered fish that broke up pleasingly into thick flakes which could then be dipped into a sweet miso sauce. Finally a salad of deep-fried shoft-shell crab which delivered great deep fried hunks of crustaceans and another vibrant salad.

Everything was served up with efficiency and brio by the young staff who thankfully avoided hunkering down at any point (always makes me feel about five years old).
I was even offered a newspaper to read although even if the light - set at date-friendly levels – was brighter I think the sight of a middle-aged gent reading The Indy amidst the Jeunesse Dorée of Shoreditch would have been incongruous enough to turn one or two stomachs…if not mine (and that was already turned the previous evening).
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