Monday, 1 December 2014

Dee Reviews The Eastern Restaurant First Birthday, 30th November 2014

The Eastern is located in Wylde Green, near Sutton Coldfield, above a hairdressing salon, and offers a choice of Chinese, Thai, Malaysian and, to a lesser extent, Japanese cuisines.  Usually I am wary of restaurants offering multiple cuisines, but the Eastern is an honourable exception, as their culinary output is of a very high standard. 
The restaurant is clean, spacious and elegantly decorated, the equal of any I have seen in the centre of Birmingham.
The evening of our visit was the restaurant’s first birthday, and a special evening had been publicised, promising a free bottle of Prosecco (Terms and Conditions applied) for each table booked.  In addition, entertainment was provided by singer Nolan Terry, who often performs there at weekends, singing covers of familiar classics by Sinatra, the Bee Gees, Billy Joel and a few Christmas songs thrown in for good measure.  A day early for me, but not too much to worry about.
We hadn’t made a prior booking but luckily there was a table available for us, and even though we didn’t qualify for the Prosecco, the manager offered us a complimentary glass each, which was gratefully received.
It was nice to see the restaurant busy and buzzing as we have been in before when it has been a little on the quiet side.  This didn’t seem to trouble either the kitchen or the front of house teams, as all of the customers seemed happy, and staff were moving from table to table, with meals arriving out of the kitchen at a steady pace.
The confidence in cooking is evidenced by the choice of set menus on offer: all of them showcase a wide range of dishes from the main menu, allowing diners to sample the different cooking styles and bookmark favourites for future visits.  The Thai dishes are my favourites, with the wonderful Tom Yum soup deserving of special mention.  Hot without being unpalatable, and having very vibrant colour and strong flavour.
On this occasion, we opted for the Eastern Feast set menu, which comprised a platter of four starters, tasting plates of four main courses and a dish of rice.  The starter platter was nicely presented, with sculpted vegetables dotted in amongst the chicken skewers, barbeque spare ribs, tempura prawns and vegetable spring rolls.  There were three sauces served with the starter, to compliment the skewers, spring rolls and prawns.  The spare ribs were served with the sauce already poured over them.  These were a particular favourite of Jay’s.  A sweetened soy sauce was paired with the prawns, an even sweeter plum sauce accompanied the spring rolls, while a garlic chilli satay sauce went with the skewers.  As the sauces were served in their own small dishes, it would have been fine to mix and match if desired.
Just the right amount of time passed before the mains were served, this time on separate plates.  The stir-fried vegetables were treated with the subtlest of sauces and held their flavours well.  We had these first before moving on to the more heavily sauced dishes.  The sweet and sour pork and sliced beef in teriyaki sauce, garnished with sesame seeds, were both pleasant tasting but my favourite of the main courses was undoubtedly the Thai green curry.  A mainstay of Thai restaurants, the Eastern’s version was a delicious combination of skinless chicken, crunchy Thai aubergines and kaffir lime leaves in a creamy coconut milk based sauce.  I enjoyed it so much that after enjoying the curry itself and the sauce coated rice, I then started on the leftover sauce with a spoon. 
Also worth mentioning was the rice, which included tiny cubes of sausage and green peas stirred through it, an interesting alternative to the more common plain steamed rice that features in set menus.
The portion sizes were just right and left us feeling full but not uncomfortably so.  We had room for dessert but decided not to order from the dessert menu.  This is the only real sticking point for me.  With all the care and attention to detail that had gone into the savoury dishes, it was a shame to see that the desserts were standard freezer-to-plate options so often seen in many other restaurants.  Perhaps this is a question of economics as desserts are not commonly ordered, but even a simple freshly prepared fruit salad would have made a nice end to the meal.
At 21.50GBP for the food for each person, the price was about right, with no additional service charge added to our bill, but with the level of service and quality of food, we were happy to leave a bit extra.
Upon leaving we were offered a mint from a tray before being bid goodnight.  A small but welcome gesture from a very fine restaurant.

Happy Birthday to the Eastern.  Here's to more of the same.

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