Restaurant Review: Electric East
By Ruth Hinds on February 13, 2012 in Food
Anyone who enjoys getting fed seems to be raving about Electric East at the minute. Previously operating as Barn Asia, the Thai, Vietnamese and Cambodian fusion restaurant was a jewel in Newcastle’s culinary crown, winning the North East’s only addition in the Times Top 100 Best Restaurant list and a Remy Martin Award for Excellence. Sadly, I’d never quite gotten round to eating at Barn Asia before it closed its doors for the last time in October, another casualty of the recession. But no sooner had it gone the distance, it was reopened as Electric East. Same staff, same management, and a bloody good excuse to have an evening out.
The thing is, I’m a bit sceptical about the whole ‘pan-Asian’ thing that so many restaurants are peddling now. Asia is a whole continent, so the thought of trying to achieve such diverse flavours and ideas without ending up doing them all a bit half-arsedly seems a challenge. In fairness though, this probably says more about my own prowess in the kitchen rather than meaning it can’t be done. If I attempt ‘pan-anything’, it’s less likely that I’ll channel cultured domestic goddess and more likely that I’ll end up a swearing and stressed out mess. Not to worry though, I hear that they’re experts here.
First off, the place is decked out beautifully. A swanky lounge for pre-dinner drinks, Vietnamese furnishings and artwork, and pretty lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Laid back but lovely.
The menu suggests that you order tapas style, with a few small plates and the odd main course. Smaller plates in the form of tempura king prawns with vindaloo mayo & chilli jam (£6) and scallops with pork & peanut caramel (£7.50) sound particularly tempting. In the end though, we decide on sharing a couple of main courses and ‘pre dinner snaggles’ of crispy breads and dips (£1.50 per person). Watch out for the salsa one. My dining partner had what can only be described as a look of absolute horror on his face after shovelling a particularly chilli-seed loaded spoonful into his gob. It’s HOT.
Next to arrive was braised Chinese one pot pork cheek with sesame pak choi and steamed rice (£13). Pork cheek seems to be having a bit of a trendy moment right now. I’m not going to go all Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and rave about nose-to-tail eating and the like, but I’m generally of a non-squeamish disposition and I’ll give most things a good go. Great choice, as I loved it. Massive, meaty chunks so tender that it fell apart on the fork , and full of rich flavour. Served with a sweet Chinese sauce, rice, pak choi and bean sprouts to balance all of the meatiness, it was absolutely perfect.
The shaking beef (£18) was in the form of strips of beef fillet sizzling with chillies, pineapple, lime juice and sugar, served with a salad of rocket, tomato and onion. I probably liked this even more than the pork cheeks. Bright and colourful, it tasted just as good as it looked. It was hot, sweet and sour and had all the characteristics of typically Asian dishes that leave you feeling lovely and healthy, rather than in need of going home and having a lie down.
The damage amounted to £55 including a bottle of wine, a few extra glasses and service. We could have probably spent a lot more had we gone for desserts and the whole tapas thing. Not the cheapest, but considering the quality, quite reasonable. They also do great value set menus during the week.
Believe the hype. Electric East is deserving of its accolades, and there’s nowhere in Newcastle doing this sort of thing to such a high standard. I’ll definitely be back, and you can’t find a much better recommendation than that.
This was a guest post for KYEO.tv by local foodie and all-round good egg Ruth Hinds. She’s usually found chewing with her mouth open over at the Eating Up North Blog.
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