Think of a restaurant that you’ve been to once, and see if you can recall ten distinctive features about it. Personally, I often find that to be a challenge. When you walk inside East is East, you are greeted by servers with Chai Tea as you wait. As you look around you will see walls that are covered with Himalayan salt bricks, decorative rugs and cushions cover the bench seats, tables and chairs that are cut from whole driftwood tree trunks, high ceilings with decorative art, and the list goes on.
Before we even got to our table, East is East already managed to create a dining experience like no other. You can easily picture yourself as a traveller in the Middle East, walking into a dazzling local eatery after your day of adventures.
I’ve always been proud as the guy that can see past the sizzle and taste the steak. But attention to detail like this goes a long way to build a lasting impression. Of course, the real test is still the food, which will determine if it will be a good, or bad unforgettable experience.
A few weeks ago, Alice from East is East graciously invited Joyce and me to sample what they have to offer. And you can tell from the photos below, we weren’t shy about ordering.
So let me tell you a bit about what we had on this lovely evening:
For drinks, we each ordered a lassi, which is a yogurt based smoothie made with typically spices and fruits. The Mango Lassi is one of the classic, a must-order at any Indian/Middle-Eastern restaurants. It was full of mango flavour without being overpowered by the yogurt. The Rangoon Rain was made with a variety of tropical fruits—peach, lychee, pineapple, banana, and coconut, giving it a more refreshing character. In the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with yogurt and fresh fruits.
When you go to East is East, I strongly urge you to try the Silk Route Feast. This is their all-you-can-eat menu. For $25, you can select dishes from a long list of choices, all with infinite refills.
As Alice’s guests, we were able to try a couple things from the Feast menu, and a few items from their regular Tapas menu.
Boulani: Although plain in appearance, boulani was my favourite dish of the night. As I’ve always mentioned, I’m a carbs guy at heart. When you take roti, which I already enjoy, and stuff it with potatoes, green onion, and herbs, it becomes flavour heaven. It’s similar to the Chinese green onion pancake but with more complex flavours.
Mango Prawns: The mango curry sauce had just the right balance between spicy and sweet, two things that go very well with prawns. The meat was cooked well, had a crisp-like freshness. This was Joyce’s favourite dish.
Mystic Soup: The best way to describe the mystic soup is green curry cream of mushroom. I did like the sharp flavours from the green curry and lemon grass, but on its own I felt it needed something to complement it, such as bread or that amazing boulani I was devouring earlier.
Lamb Kebab: Satisfying is the word that comes to mind when I think of the Lamb Kebab. The roasted lamb is so tender that it just melts away in my mouth. I’m happy to know that I will still be able to enjoy meat even after I’m old and toothless. The seasoned rice with raisins was a nice touch. Not only you get the added texture, the sweet/sour raisins actually draws attention to the richness of the lamb.
Fish Curry: Flounder is a great choice for curry. It has a very soft texture, and it loves to soak up whatever flavours you throw at it, as did the rice underneath it. It was a easy going dish that we kept going back to.
By the time we got to desserts, we were quite full, so it didn’t help that the dessert portions were huge:
Eastern Ecstasy: The perfect mix of East and West. The mild vanilla ice cream sat in a bed of rice pudding. I don’t think I ever expected how well these two items mix together. The richness of the ice cream blended into the mixture, with the texture of the rice pudding peaking through every bite. On top of that, the subtle, fragrant taste of rosewater and crunchy pistachios added another dimension to the creaminess. Sitting in the middle is a warm gulab jamun. It felt a bit out of place because it cools down quickly by surrounding itself with the cold treats so its taste got lost.
Vegan Chocolate Pudding: In comparison, the vegan chocolate pudding made less of an impression. The texture and the taste were…off. I suppose I can only blame myself for picking the vegan option. I did like the cherries as a pairing for the pudding.
For a restaurant that offers such an unique dining atmosphere (decorations + live entertainment), and the quality food to back it up, East is East has great value. The service seems to be excellent overall, but as guests of the restaurant it’s hard for us to judge fairly. If you want to try out a slice of the Middle East without getting too far out of your comfort zone, you should definitely pay them a visit.
I’ll be back for the Silk Route Feast soon.
East Is East
4413 Main Street, Vancouver