There’s something to be said about hidden treasures in the food industry, and Canberra is a place that doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of them. Most great places tend to be talked about ad nauseam so it’s really a pleasant surprise when you can take a chance on an innocuous little place and walk away satisfied, and even keen to go back! East Kitchen is a Chinese restaurant nestled in the back corner of the home of Chinese restaurants, Dickson and this hidden location has lead to it being really quiet most nights.
Truth be told, the reason we ended up eating here was mainly because it was so empty. My policy is that we shouldn’t be so quick to write off places that don’t have a ton of people, there are so many awesome places that are almost empty all the time (see Tutto Continental) and there are many average places that are always full (see Sammy’s Kitchen).
With that in mind, here is our night at East Kitchen!
First up, we got a serve of the Shallot pancakes ($6.50). These were a lovely surprise, I was expecting a thinner Japanese style savoury pancake, (which is a bit dumb since I’m at a Chinese place) and instead I got a super thick fluffy and airy roti-like pancake. This was a really understated dish, the onion flavours were really subtle and complimented the airy dough perfectly. The texture of this was probably my favourite part about it, soft, light, fluffy. It ripped apart in strands much like a roti, and made me wish we ordered some sort of curry to enjoy it with.
The interesting thing about this dish (and there’ll be more in the rest of this post), the East Kitchen seems to switch between classic traditional Chinese foods, such as this pancake, and Western Chinese food like honey chicken, Mongolian lamb etc. While we were there, our friends scoffed at all the Westernised food, which sort of shows what’s happened to Chinese food in Australia over the past couple of years.
Next up, we got a serve of the Crab meat and sweet corn soup ($6.00). So earlier when I said the menu had some Aussie’ified Chinese food? Here’s one. Never say we’re elitist Chinese food eaters. I actually get this dish somewhat regularly whenever I eat at a Chinese place and one thing I’m always on the lookout for when I get the crab version of this (the other version being chicken) is whether they use real crab, or seafood extender. You can never be sure when it comes to a Chinese restaurant what you’re going to get, I’ve seen highly rated expensive places serve seafood extender, and here is an example of a place that no one really talks about, serving up some good ol real crab meat (as evidenced in the above picture).
Now, sweet corn soup is kind of comfort food for me, it never really tastes bad, even if it’s seafood extender. This one in particular though was really nice and much better than I was expecting. When a place isn’t doing so well, I start to expect that they’ll take short cuts on the better, fresher ingredients as they try to save money. The East Kitchen hasn’t done that here, and I commend them for it. A really tasty and enjoyable crab and sweet corn soup.
Our first main of the night was a serve of the Beef in a Golden Bowl ($16.60), with cashews and black pepper. So, throughout the night I was constantly getting pleasantly surprised by dishes I was expecting the worst from, and this one unfortunately was a blip in that trend. When I read ‘golden bowl’ for some reason I expect a deep fried nest of egg noodle, it turned into a bowl filled with delicious somethings. This dish was 90% of the way there, except instead of egg noodle, it was more like a massive sheet of wonton skin or something like that. Not what I was expecting at all, though not nearly as bad as it could’ve been.
This dish was essentially a nice little stir fry of beef and black bean, cashews and mixed veggies. Despite my initial disappointment in the bowl, the stir fry here was incredibly thick and saucy, so it was quite an enjoyable little dish from that standpoint. There’s something immensely satisfying eating your dish, then eating the bowl, looking down and seeing nothing but a table (If you don’t get this reference you’re dead to me).
Our next main was the Sizzling BBQ pork ($18.00). I had almost forgotten that silly child like joy that engulfs me whenever something arrives at my table and it’s all sizzling away with smoke billowing everywhere, it’s kind of like going to a Korean BBQ, except you get to eat straight away and you don’t smell like cigarettes afterwards. Win win! This was a pretty nice dish, it had the red skinned BBQ pork (cha siu, I believe) heavily sauced up and sizzling away with a bevy of vegetables and topped with dried onions. One good thing about this night was that it managed to get me to eat a whole bunch of vegetables. Not a lot of places can say that!
The dish that held everything together was the Yang Chow fried rice ($12.50). There are times when you realise that our time on this earth is short. In this crazy world, who knows what’ll happen tomorrow, and with that in mind, we decided to opt for a serve of fried rice to eat with our main dishes, instead of the standard steamed. It was crazy, I know, but, sometimes you just have to live a little. I’m very glad I did too because this fried rice ended up becoming my favourite dish of the whole night! The fried rice here is quite simple with just the addition of herbs, spices, egg, ham and prawns. I’m not sure how much detail I can go into, but I’ll just say that this is one of my favourite fried rice’s I’ve ever had, and the entire meal benefited from it being there. I’m very much considering coming back for takeaway purely on how much I liked this fried rice.
So that was our night at the East Kitchen. A really fun night complimented by some really friendly and attentive service that I never got around to mentioning until now. As can be seen from the pictures above, the food is standard Chinese fare, and while it’s nothing you can’t get from a Chinese place at a food court, it’s done really well and I appreciate that they use real ingredients when it’s so easy to take the cheaper option. All in all, I really liked this place, and would love to come back at least for the fried rice!!
The East Kitchen
Shop 2, 28 Challis Street, Dickson
Tuesday to Friday
11:30am – 2:30pm
Tuesday to Saturday
5:00pm – 10:00pm