The first large food bloggers dinner of 2010, organized graciously by Sherman of Sherman's Food Adventures took place about a week ago at East is East on Broadway. There is another location on Main Street, but during the planning stages of the dinner, the Main Street location was deemed to be too cozy for the large group.
East is East features lives entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays and serves Middle-Eastern inspired cuisine that traces the silk road.
We arrived a couple minutes early and introduced ourselves to Victoria of Victoria's Food Secrets. I recognized her from her picture on her site, so it was very nice to meet her in person! We also bumped into Kevin (604foodtography), Wilson (La Petite Vancouver), Jenny (My Secret Eden) and Ricky. We had met Wilson, Kevin and Jenny previously at Brave Bull's, Alvin Garden, or the Long Table Series at the Irish Heather. While we were waiting to be seated, we were served some complimentary chai.
A couple minutes later, we were ushered out the door and to the adjoining dining area where Sherman was already waiting. Yes, in addition to the upstairs seating area where the weekend buffet is served, there is another dining area next door. Now that I look at the website, East is East seems to have divided their Kitsilano location into three separate entities: Silk n' Spice, Chai Gallery, and East is East. This would explain the three dining areas!
About the Chai... You know how you can only make one first impression? East is East does it right by serving you piping-hot, spicy chai full of ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon notes that makes a lasting impression. Being that it is complimentary is a bonus, and the potent brew is served in a justly-sized espresso cup. The shots of flavour and spice introduce you to the euphoria that is East is East.
We sat down at a wooden table and were joined shortly by Jonathan and his brother, blogger (and guest blogger!) of foodandtell.com. Let's just say that the seating at East is East is low and intimate. On one hand, that may be preferable for a romantic dinner date. On the other hand, it makes it a little awkward if you are sitting and dining at a coffee table in a larger party.
While we chatted about the Olympics (can you believe it is less than two weeks away??!) and Jonathan looked half scared, half amused when I mentioned that sleeping cots were on sale, Kim (I'm Only Here for the Food!) and Anita (Petite Foodie) arrived. Since space was at a premium, Kim snagged a spot at an adjoining table, While Anita (and her brand new Canon T1i!) joined our table.
An order was placed and food appeared at a quick pace - as we wanted to sample a little bit of everything, our entire table (save for Anita) ordered the Eastern Plate, which came with your choice of two items, as well as salad, Dhal / pea soup, roti (one stuffed with sauteed onions, one plain), Afghan and coconut rice, and a onion pickle.
The great part (for M, anyways), was that the portions of the two choice "mains" were unlimited - thus we sampled portions of the lamb kebab, chicken masala, beef kebab, afghan eggplant, alu gobi, and the mango butter squash.
Overall result? We loved it! M was particularly fond of the chicken masala and the lamb kebab. The chicken was tender and flavourful, and the lamb was flavoured with mediterranean / Moroccan herbs. As for me, I was impressed with everything, but *really* loved the Afghan eggplant, alu gobi (cauliflower & potato dish) and the beef kebab.
I was predominantly taken with the vegetable dishes that East is East prepared. The alu gobi blew me away. I think my tablemates can attest to this - I got quite quiet as I slowly savoured my portion of alu gobi! I love cauliflower and potatoes in all shapes and forms, but this stewed cauliflower potato dish not only had a smooth, buttery flavour, but also texture. In a cuisine that offers overcooked, soggy vegetables, you could tell the vegetables from each other at East is East!
The eggplant, braised with a bit of chili for heat and sundried tomatoes was enjoyed by three of us at our table, and the mushrooms stewed with the beef kebabs took center stage for that dish. As an aside, the dhal / lentil soup which accompanies each Eastern plate is delicious and rich as well. It's been a long time since I've had a tasty fiber-rich food.
The miss of the evening would have to be the mango butter squash. I'd been forewarned about the texture of this dish to be similar to baby food, but I wasn't prepared for the puree that appeared from the kitchen, nor was I prepared for the sweet / tangy / savoury flavour of it either. I don't know, maybe I just didn't get it? I thought there would be *some butternut squash chunks in there, or that the flavour would be more "rich butternut squash" instead of tangy mango. The good thing is that if you go to East is East with your grandpa or your friends with a baby, there'd be something for them on the menu. ;)
The price of this feast? A mere $20. M and I agreed that we were relieved that East is East wasn't closer - we would be quite round thanks to their $20 Eastern plate. We would return to East is East, and have already recommended the restaurant to Ms' brother has his son is a pint-sized veggie monster. Yes, you put some vegetables or fruit in front of him, it will disappear...
I'd also recommend East is East to vegans or vegetarians, or someone looking to get out of the typical Chinese / Japanese / Indian that Vancouver has to offer. East is East is decidedly Kitsilano, if anything, and their menu has lots of options for carnivores, omnivores, or herbivores alike!
After dinner some folks left, but mostly everyone stuck around for a while to chat and mingle. It was nice to see some old faces, but a lot of new faces as well! I was really excited to see Angie (Sea Salt with Food) there - her site is *full* of gorgeous photography and recipes. Surprised, as well to see B, Joyces' boyfriend there. It goes to show how small Vancouver really is, as he used to live behind my parents, and graduated with my cousin dearest. Of course, recognizing him was one of those classic Jessica "foot in mouth" moments!
It was a great meal as we'd been meaning to try East is East for a long time. Thank you to Sherman for organizing the dinner and notifying us about it. Another aside, it was sure interesting to see how small Vancouver is, even through the food blog scene. I'm sure there's a lot more connections that we'll only begin to unravel as time goes on!
3243 W Broadway
Vancouver, BC V6K
Bloggers in attendance:
Sherman : Sherman's Food Adventures : Post is up!
Joyce & Frank : Van Foodies
Tiffanie : [eating club] Vancouver
Victoria : Victoria's Food Secrets : Post is up!
Darina : Gratinee
Kim : I'm Only Here for the Food! : Post is up!
Kevin : 604Foodtography
Anita : Petite Foodie
Jenny & Ricky : My Secret Eden
Jonathan : Food & Tell
Angie : Sea Salt with Food : Post is up! (With a fantastic pineapple tart recipe and video!)
Wilson : La Petite Vancouver
Mijune : Follow Me Foodie: Post is up!
Melody : Gourmet Fury