Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Restaurant Review: Electric East, Newcastle

That scallop, pork and peanut caramel dish in full
This was a meal that had been a long time coming. I'd meant to get myself to Barn Asia for ages, having heard furtive whisperings of a dish involving scallops, pork and caramel. Then, for whatever reason the place hit the skids and closed down. Happily, it got up and running again in the same venue and largely the same staff, and I resolved to attend. That was ages back though; we just never got round to it, until a couple of weeks ago when, my parents in tow, we finally got to check it out.

I wonder if part of the reason for not going for so long is the fact that, tucked out of sight behind Dance City, Electric East is a bit on it's own and easier than some to forget when rifling through a mental list of potential dinner venues? I hope not, for their sake, because the food we had was all very good and some of it was great. We'd figured on going as my parents are more into small plates portions these days, so Electric East's Asian Tapas type offering sounded just the ticket.

The interior of the place is quite something, choc-full of Vietnamese propaganda-style posters and murals. Quiet and restrained it is not, which actually made quite a nice change from a lot of more subdued eateries. We took guidance from the Maitre D', who also, it turned out owned the place, and basically ordered a bunch of stuff that sounded good to share. There are a lot of zingy, fresh flavours going on, with lime juice and fish sauce liberally dashed over a lot of what we ate. There are also some interesting dishes, which don't seem quite at home on an Asian menu, but are no less delicious for that. For example, a souffle was done in something akin to the suissesse style, although shitake and sesame are admittedly nods in an easterly direction.

Twice baked sesame & shiitaki ragout soufflé
Also good from the small plates section were crispy fried chicken, some really delicious (and unpictured) crab cakes, and those scallops, in which the plump and perfectly cooked little buggers were paired with slices of what I took to be long-cooked pork belly before being doused in a sort of peanut/caramel dressing, to very good effect. Definitely one of the more interesting scallop dishes I've had, and probably worth the wait.

Nonya fried chicken satay sauce & peanuts
We also shared a couple of mains. Their "Legendary Shaking Beef" (their epithets, not mine) was very nicely cooked and perfectly tender although I expected a bit more poke from the advertised birds-eye chillis, and I'm dubious about the inclusion of pineapple.

Shaking Beef
The star of the show, and maybe of the meal for me was the lamb. Huge amounts of lamby flavour, more akin to hogget or even mutton, but ridiculously tender. The pairing with spiced lentils was perfect. This was a superb dish.

lamb rump, tadka dal & spiced yoghurt
Puds were a bit less spectacular, but solid enough. A banana and salted caramel cheesecake found favour among our number.

It should be noted that this is not one of Newcastle's cheaper venues, but it felt like quite good value for the level of cooking, some of which was really bang-on. Service was friendly and timely and the wine selection gave a few options by the glass.  If you've got a few people together who are happy to share and not averse to lime/ fish sauce/ palm sugar type preparations, this place will do just perfectly. We certainly had a great night. It was pretty much packed on the Friday night we were in; I hope they're doing decent business during the week too, when that out-of-the-way venue might be a bit more of a problem.

ps, apols (not least to Electric East) for these poor pics, which don't do the presentation of the food justice. Smartphone + night time does not for a good picture make)

Electric East, St James Boulevard, Waterloo Square, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 4DP
0191 221 1000

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